THE MOST IMPORTANT SALES BOOK YOU WILL EVER READ
This section contains practical steps to master sales.
Successful selling is a repeatable process that makes the customer feel comfortable through each step and keeps the process running smoothly throughout. If you are having problems selling then this analysis of the sales pattern may help you identify your weaknesses and strengths.
The sales pattern is how potential customers end up as current or previous customers. Understanding this pattern will help you to be aware of how each interaction can help get you to your final destination.
The stages are: Preparation, Lead Generation, Qualify Leads, Demonstrate Value, Closing, Delivering Value, and After Sales. As the salesperson, this is the map you should use to guide your process.
This seven step sales process runs concurrently with the 4 step customer journey. These are the stages that a customer must go through in order to become a customer. It starts with awareness about the product or service, then with an interest in the product or service, then to a decision about the product or service, then an action toward the product or service.
The 7 step sales process is built to make the customer’s journey through their four steps as easy and seamless and repeatable as possible. It starts before the customer is aware and it continues after the customer has purchased and it repeats itself to generate more customers and take them through the customer journey as well.
“You were born to win, but in order to be a winner you have to plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”
– Zig Ziglar
The first step of a successful sales interaction is to know your product or service totally, to know your customer as well as possible, and to know the sales process that you are enacting.
You must know the stage you are in and what is the action that you want the customer to take. Are you the one collecting the money? Do you need a signature? An appointment?
You also need to know your product or service, the technical details, how it is used and so on. But more importantly, you need to understand the problem that your product or service solves.
Why anyone would need or want what you are selling? What is the pain point that your product or service is solving? The pain point is the customers’ motivation for buying. Knowing the pain points that motivate someone to buy your product or service in general, and discovering the specific pain point for each individual customer is one of your most valuable tools as a salesperson.
What is the pain point that makes people want to buy your product or service? Who feels this pain point most strongly? Is it men? Women? Both? What age demographic? What income level? What are all the defining characteristics of your most urgent customers? What are their concerns?
What is their current solution for solving their problem? What are some of your competitors’ solutions?
How is your product, service or company different from others in the market? How is your solution better? What are the inherent weaknesses within your solution? What are the obstacles preventing your customers from buying from you already? How do you plan to overcome those obstacles?
You must be able to answer all of these questions and more if you want to be successful a successful salesperson. The more preparation you do, the better off you will be.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and see your product or service from their eyes. This preparation will help you determine who are your easiest customers and how you should market to them.
Pro tip: You might not need to change what you are selling, or how you are selling it, try changing WHO you are selling to.
If you can go straight to the group of customers who are ready and willing to buy your product you will have much more success than if you try to persuade those who are only mildly interested in your product or service.
It is better to spend extra time to identify and locate your easiest customers rather than try to sell to people who don’t really need your product or service. Many salespeople waste so much time trying to convince someone that will never buy from you. There are many customers who need your product or service, and need just a small nudge. You can identify them by understanding the problem your product or service is solving and understanding who suffers from that problem the most.
The more you can know your customer, the better. I was involved in marketing energy efficient cook stoves in rural Kenya. A great exercise that we did was to create a fictitious profile of our best customer to more easily identify them.
So for this project we imagined a woman between the ages of 33-38, we named her Margaret. Margaret has two children, she has a job in an office, she is well liked and well respected in her community, she is frugal with her money, she watches television for 1-2 hours per day, she has a small garden she tends to, and she goes to church every Sunday…
This exercise forced us to really get into the mind and experience of the people who needed our product the most, and this gave us valuable insight into how to find “Margaret” and many customers just like her. After this exercise we decide to establish connections with local churches and do product demonstrations there. We sold a lot of our products, and it all started with putting ourselves deeply in the mind and the life of our customer.
For whatever product or service you are selling, put yourself deep into the mind of your target customer. For example if you are selling solar water heaters your target may be a homeowner between the ages of 55-60 years old, we will call him Timothy, he has two kids who have moved out but occasionally come home to visit, he lives at home with his wife, he is semi-retired and he plays golf, he values quality and peace of mind over finding the lowest price, he barbeques with his friends occasionally.
Therefore it will be probably more effective to find prospects like Timothy at the golf course rather than at a beauty salon, and it would be better to communicate quality and value for money instead of communicating discounts, and if you do a god job for Timothy he will probably tell his friends at the barbecue next month so customer service should be a priority.
Try this exercise! Create a very detailed profile of your best customers, include all the details of their life that may at first seem irrelevant. How do they dress? What kind of car do they drive? What do they like to do for fun? This may provide some crucial insight to the best marketing process or the best way to overcome objections.
Create a profile of your ideal customer and narrow it all the way down to a single individual.
Ask yourself “Who is the customer that I would LOVE to serve? Who is the customer that provides the highest margins, the least resistance, the most satisfaction? Who is the customer that if I could serve that person, all the others will come easily? Who is the customer that will provide many more customers?” And start positioning yourself for that customer.
Another aspect of preparation is that you should never go into a sales situation without knowing how you’re going to close the sale.
If you don’t know where you’re going, then how will you get there?
The most common part left out of any presentation is the close. Plan for it upfront by developing the strategy and your course of action.
In my experience, if a customer agrees to purchase earlier than you anticipate, you must be prepared to accept that agreement or you can lose the customer. You should be mentally prepared to accept the money and sign the deal in almost every conversation, even if that is not likely to happen.
If the customer agrees, you need to have a process in place to complete the deal and accept the payment with a receipt or get a signature as soon as they are ready.
Many sales people have lost customers because when they reach a verbal agreement they feel like the work is done. Anything can happen in-between an agreement and actually closing the sale, so you need to have everything prepared in advance to lock in a deal when the customer is ready.
You must know who you are talking to and what’s important to them. Otherwise, you might find yourself offering a bargaining chip that has no relevance to them.
If you offer a discount to someone who was not concerned about the price, you have just shot yourself in the foot. If you talk about the speed of delivery to someone who is not in a hurry, you are unconsciously establishing distance between yourself and the customer. They will start to feel like you are not understanding their goals.
Preparation and listening to your prospect will ensure that you know who you are dealing with.
Usually a salesperson prepares what they will tell a customer, instead of what they will ask a customer. Prepare your questions, and prepare the order of your questions. Remember what we discussed in part one.
The best sales presentations are conversations or discussions between the salesperson and the customer rather than a speech or monologue.
Do not talk yourself out of a sale. Let them talk, and be prepared to close. Have the process in place and trust the process.
From the very first meeting you should be aligning yourself with the customers’ goals and intentions, sympathizing with their problems, and advising on solutions. This starts with good preparation before the interaction.
Before reaching out to a prospect, consider go to their LinkedIn page and take at least 3 minutes to find at least 3 things you have in common with them. This will help you have a better understanding of the person and start the conversation more smoothly.
Be a collaborator, not an adversary. Making targeted, meaningful relationships should be your ultimate goal, and preparing yourself will go a long way.
2. LEAD GENERATION / AWARENESS
Once you have identified your easiest customers and you have identified your strongest selling points, now you need to generate leads. You want to have a large pool of customers who can benefit from your product or service.
You need this to be constant and automated as much as possible so that you have a consistent pool of leads. It is a common mistake to ignore this step until it is too late. Many sales people look for leads when they are already desperate for a sale. Lead generation should be a process running in the background of your operation to keep you with a steady supply of leads without interfering with your service/product delivery.
You need to make your best customers aware that you have a product or service for sale. You have to have a concentrated way of reaching your easiest customers—the ones who feel your pain point the strongest.
How you do this will vary greatly for each business and industry. This can be done with marketing activities like demonstrations, email lists, website visits, networking at cocktail parties, social media, word of mouth or any other marketing activity.
It is a good idea to have a dedicated time set aside, either daily or weekly, to do your prospecting. If you don’t schedule it and hold yourself accountable, you won’t do it. Too many salespeople find themselves spending far too much doing everything else but prospecting.
Use multiple channels to prospect; use email, phone, social media, events, referrals to keep the top of your pipeline as full as possible. Face to face conversation, if possible, is better than any of other means so ideally your prospecting will allow you to get to a face to face discussion. Face to face allows you to not only communicate, but read the other side more accurately and quickly to move the deal forward and across the finish line.
You can generate more leads by staying informed of news in and around your industry: Shifts in hiring, changes in laws, changes in interest rates etc. Take some time to think about events that could help you find sources of leads.
Social media and websites have changed the game for lead generation. Creating attractive advertisements, creating great content and great funnels linking to your website, using opt-in forms and email lists are extremely powerful. If you are not taking advantage of this revolution I highly suggest you do research online and add this to your activities. Check out www.inspiredimpactconsulting.com and we can give you some great advice in this area.
Cold emailing (emailing someone you have not spoken to before) still remains one of the best methods for generating new leads.
To get more responses, write emails a third-grader would understand. Keep your email subject lines under seven words — that’s the max that’ll show up on most phones, where almost half of prospects open messages. Don’t use “Re:” in a subject line. Instead use a strong call to action, or a simple intriguing reference to your subject.
In writing a cold email, identify yourself clearly upfront in one sentence, and tell the person what you can offer in the next sentence. Verify if you’re talking to the right person, and clearly mention what you want—whether it’s a phone call, or an appointment.
Proofread it twice. Avoid typos and spelling mistakes or using the wrong names.
Don’t use funky formatting or special fonts.
Long emails are not effective. Remember that your goal is to find the right person and build a relationship before you go for the sale.
Sometimes it takes 7-10 attempts before you can reach the right person in a company. Most salespeople give up after 3-5 attempts. If you want to set up a meeting with a corporate decision maker, plan for multiple attempts before you will succeed. It takes a while to break through their busy-ness and register on their schedule, but it can be done.
Shoot high, reach out to the owner, CEO or managing director instead of the procurement officer, or department head. It is much easier for that person to refer you down to the appropriate person than it is for someone low in the organization to refer you upwards to the right person. When you start low it’s an uphill battle that is rarely won. When you start high and get referred down, you’re more likely to find the right decision maker. And that person is more willing to hear you out since you’ve been referred to them by the higher powers.
If you establish friendly relations with a secretary or personal assistant you will have a much easier time getting to the boss. So remember use every conversation as a chance to build a relationship with that person, even if that person is not directly your customer.
3. QUALIFY LEADS / INTEREST
You cannot help everyone, you cannot sell to everyone. Not everyone can benefit from what you are selling. To qualify a lead means that you make sure that this prospect is a good potential customer for you and that you have something of value for them.
To qualify leads is another very important step that is too often overlooked or mishandled.
This step of the sales process is the natural next step after step one and step two. You should know who you want to talk to (step one), and then you must talk to lots of people (step two), then you should filter out people who you cannot help (step three).
According to the 4 step customer journey, the customer is now aware of your product or service. Now you need to gauge their interest, build their interest, and identify their specific interest and needs.
This step, more than any other step, will protect your time. Time is the most valuable resource in life. When time is lost you will never get it back. Anything else in life you can get back, but not time.
You need to speak to the decision makers (speak to the parent, not the child, speak to the manager, not the employee.) You need to know if you can offer what the customer needs. You need to evaluate their seriousness.
For example if you are selling home improvement products, do not waste your time talking to someone who is not the homeowner. You can have a great and wonderful long conversation and it feels like you are making progress and then you find out this person does not make the decision for the house or for any house and you have wasted your time.
Or you may be selling car insurance to someone who does not own a car, they are just curious for the future. Or you may find customers who are lonely and like to talk, or who are too nice to tell you that they don’t need what you are offering.
You can still build a relationship with those people and be friendly and helpful, but if you have sales targets and goals you should move on quickly and amicably.
The best salespeople know that sales is a numbers game and a time game. The goal is to sort through prospects as quickly as possible to find your greatest prospects.
Top salespeople get weak prospects to weed themselves out quickly, so they can spend the time on the best prospects. Identify who your potential customers are, and identify who your potential customers are not. Make this a priority at the beginning of the conversations so that you do not waste each other’s time. Make sure it is friendly and intelligent, you do not want to be rude to people just because you cannot help them today. And you don’t want to be making assumptions about your customers.
Create an easy, reliable and friendly way to distinguish from your potential customers and those people who are not potential customers. A short questionnaire or checklist works well. Start by identifying their needs. Ask questions and listen to their answers. They will tell you exactly what they are looking for if you listen carefully. Be direct. Don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to tell them if they don’t qualify or if you cannot help them.
Pro tip: You should use the tips I have already enumerated throughout the qualification process: “Are you the homeowner? Wow that’s great, I can’t wait till I own a home myself, congratulations. Is there anyone else on the title deed? We need to make sure that all the decision makers will be available… Is there anyone else who will help you make this decision? I’m sorry, if they won’t be available it seems like you don’t qualify for this offer.”
“Do you own a car? Oh cool… What kind of car is it? That’s awesome, I love those cars. What color is it? That’s great, I like that color too… Have you ever thought that you are paying too much for car insurance? Great, then it seems like I can help you today…”
Tell the customer “I need to find out if you qualify for this special offer…” and then go into your qualifying questions. By creating this dynamic of asking questions and withholding the offer for certain qualifications you can create a sense of urgency, competition, and stronger interest. By asking questions and with them answering you are creating a sub-conscious commitment, a sub conscious investment on their part and they are more likely to follow through. Be creative! Find more resources and information online.
If you cannot help them then don’t waste both of your time. If you can help them, listen carefully to what they are saying because this is the point where each customer becomes a unique individual. You have to now speak directly to their particular psyche, so LISTEN!
For most people, peace of mind is a major concern although they probably won’t say that directly. Listen carefully and you may start to hear it implied in what they are saying. Price might be a major concern for some, while for others price is not their deciding factor – although almost no one will say this directly because everyone wants to feel like they have gotten a good deal.
Listen very carefully and ask questions and pay attention to what your customer says and does and how they say things. Apply all of the tips and skills discussed so far in this book.
4. DEMONSTRATE VALUE / DECISION
Now that you have identified a potential customer, and you have listened to their problems and concerns, and you are sure you can help them, now it’s time to demonstrate value for them.
You want to create urgency in the mind of your customer so that they are ready to make a decision.
Sales is about identifying a problem, and solving that problem. You are not selling a product, you are selling a solution. Do not try to sell your product by describing the product, sell the product by describing how the customers’ problems are solved with this product. Help them to visualize what their life will be like with your solution.
Respond directly to their needs and wants that you have uncovered.
A common saying among salesmen is “You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.” You are not selling the parameters, the specifications or the measurements of your solution. You are selling the energy, the pizazz, and the emotions that come with your solution.
Pro tip: You are probably selling “peace of mind” whether you know it or not. Put an emphasis on the uncertainty the customer may face without your product or with an inferior product. Put an emphasis on the peace of mind that comes with your product.
Find a way to put an emphasis on the good judgement, wisdom, and social status and respect that will come with your product. Put a (gentle) emphasis on the foolishness of being without your product.
Sell the problem and solution, not the product. Buyers don’t care about your product’s bells and whistles — instead, highlight how those bells and whistles translate into real value or real enjoyment.
Remind them of their pain point, use descriptive language to help them really feel the pain all over again, then tell them how your product or service solves that pain.
Don’t describe the warranty, describe the peace of mind that the warranty brings. Don’t describe the material of the mattress, describe the peaceful sleep that the material brings.
Don’t describe the measurements of the knife, describe the feeling of cooking great food in a wonderful kitchen for appreciative guests and slicing through vegetables easily with your knife.
The more you can speak directly to the customer’s needs and avoid irrelevant information, the better off you will be. Go straight to their problem and do not deviate. Prepare in advance some of the simple calculations that will help your customer see the value.
Have confidence in your product or service and stick to the strongest points. Make sure you can explain your solution very simply.
5. CLOSING / ACTION
The transition from demonstrating value should be quite seamless. There shouldn’t be an announcement or a noticeable shift in your demeanor or tone.
At this point you are dealing with a customer who needs what you are selling, you have identified their needs and demonstrated how you can fill those needs. But the exchange of money is the most difficult part of the sales process. This is the part of the sales process where the most problems occur.
After you have demonstrated value go straight for the close. Don’t wait for objections. Just go for the close. Make it simple. Don’t be anxious to fill the silence in the closing process. Be confident enough to state your position and wait for a response.
This is where your customer will start to feel hesitant. It is normal, don’t feel like you have done something wrong. They will start to bring up problems that they did not mention before.
In general, the customer will start to feel preemptive buyer’s remorse. Now they are actually imagining the money leave their hands and it scares them. They think of all the things they can do with this money and they know that most likely when it is out of their hands it is not coming back.
They will bring up many objections, and in many cases their words are masking the real problem, not revealing it. They will tell themselves that their problem is not important, or their need is not as urgent as previously thought.
If you have followed the preceding steps well and have demonstrated value well, you will be in the best position to close the sale. That is why it is so important to follow all the steps and complete each stage very well: because by completing each step thoroughly and solidly you are making the next step easier.
Ask for the close early and often. Confidence is key. Ask for the money without fear or embarrassment. State the price with confidence. Believe in your value.
Don’t accept a prospect’s refusal to buy until they have rejected you seven times. It is amazing how many sales people accept a rejection after hearing it once or twice. Unsuccessful sales people rarely follow up enough to hear a rejection three times.
This doesn’t mean that you are pushy, it just means that you are aware of human psychology. Customers rarely agree right away and it doesn’t mean that they cannot benefit from your product or service. It simply means you have not alleviated all of their fears.
Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t bully or pressure people. Ask questions to uncover the real cause of the objection.
When you are willing to politely and respectfully follow up with a prospect to the point where you have heard “no” seven times you can say you are close to joining the ranks of top producers. A lot of the success of top producers is due to the fact that they asked for the sale more frequently than an unsuccessful sales person, even after numerous rejections. You aren’t even in the game until you get 5 “no’s”.
To be a good salesperson through this process you need to be able to hear the real objection beyond the surface. Very rarely will the customer tell you exactly what is on their mind.
You must continue to demonstrate the value and continue to create a vision of peace of mind for the customer in spite of the first few No’s. It is very important that you do not appear as needy or greedy. You must be willing to lose the customer. This will give you power over the conversation. If you appear desperate you will lose every time. So do your best to appear calm, confident and in control.
In fact you should not enter a sales discussion that you are not willing to lose. Desperation reeks of—and attracts—failure.
Never get in the game of trying to compete with others for the lowest price. If your only competitive advantage is price, as soon as someone goes lower than you, you have lost your competitive advantage. There will almost always be a competitor who is cheaper and sells an inferior product or an inferior service. Do not attempt to be the lowest price. Instead you should sell to value. If there is a competitor who has a lower price remind the customer that “you get what you pay for”, that they may have problems in a short time, that there is no peace of mind trying to save a few dollars and sacrificing quality or customer service.
It helps if you have prepared for the likely objections your customer may have.
Every sale has to overcome five obstacles:
· no need
· no money
· no hurry
· no desire
· no trust.
Listen to their objections and try to identify which of the five obstacles they are really talking about. Once you identify which of the five obstacles they are expressing you can tailor your response accordingly.
If they are telling you they have no need you should talk about how their life will be better with your product or service. Remind them of their ‘pain point’. Remind them of the extra costs of not purchasing your solution. Remind them of the annoyance and difficulty of not having your solution. Tell a story that reminds them of other people who felt the same way but something happened to open their eyes to the beauty of your solution, and after they purchased your solution they were very happy and felt very good about their purchase.
If they are telling you they have no money you should talk about the value of your product or service. Use stories to illustrate the long term savings, or to illustrate the cost of NOT purchasing your product or service. Talk like Warren Buffet. Gently talk about how foolish it is to waste money on a problem that has a simple solution (your solution). Help them see that a simple investment in your solution
If they are telling you they have no hurry, let them know this is a limited time offer, while supplies last. Let them know this offer may not be available at another time. Help them understand why today is the best day to make the purchase. A good line is “I’d hate to see you miss out on this…” If you have something to sweeten the deal for them, this is a good time to use it. Even if it is small and almost insignificant. Tell them if they sign up today, you will do your best to push the delivery one day sooner.
Ask questions to uncover their real reasons for delaying the purchase, because often this objection is a mask to cover their real objections. Listen between the lines of their response. Maybe there is another decision maker, maybe there is a birthday or holiday or death in the family… There must be a reason why they don’t want to purchase today, and if you don’t uncover that reason you are banging your head against a brick wall. This is also a good time to ask them questions: “What would it take to get this done today?” “What would I need to do to get this done for you today?”
If they have no desire you have to paint the picture for them of their life with your product or service. This means you either did not qualify them well in step 3, or you did not demonstrate value well in step 4. If they have no desire to purchase you are still in step 4 (demonstrating value), you are not ready to take the leap to step 5. Talk about peace of mind and happiness, talk about security and confidence. And talk about their pain point again. Re-read step 4 and do a better job of demonstrating value.
If they have no trust by this point you may have a problem, you should have been establishing trust and credibility from the very first encounter by demonstrating expertise, by following through with your commitments like scheduled appointments and phone calls and other means. You can tell the customer about the large numbers of happy people who made the decision to purchase. You can remind the customer of your experience and expertise and your licenses and credentials. Testimonials from previous customers will be helpful, especially if you have a mutual friend or mutual connection who can vouch for your product or service.
Throughout your sales process you should be starting your sentences with words like “great” and “awesome”. You want to build small agreements throughout the conversation. You do not want to be butting heads with your prospect in your conversation, for example which sports team to support, which color looks best, or which route in town has the least traffic. Don’t argue, build agreements. Whenever they answer one of your questions you can say “Great” before you go on to the next statement. “Great, now what about…” or “That’s awesome, and have you ever thought about…” You don’t want to be correcting your prospect like a child, or establishing distance between you two by disagreeing about matters of taste or opinion. That is for later in the relationship when trust has been established, friendship has been established and there is a firm foundation for a difference of opinion.
Throughout the conversation get lots of little “Yes” commitments by asking them questions that require them to affirm the value on a smaller points. Ask if they like the color, if it will match their other items they already own. Ask if they can imagine the compliments they will receive from friends, neighbors, colleagues and family. Ask if they can see the benefit of a certain feature of your product or service. Doing this will get them comfortable saying YES in regards to the value of the product or service as a whole. Getting a positive response on smaller questions makes it more likely that the prospect will say YES on bigger questions – including YES to the sale. It is very easy to ask questions like this to get a positive response and simultaneously confirm the value of what you are offering.
If you are selling non-stick pans ask the prospect if they have ever been frustrated with eggs or meat sticking to old pans… they will say yes. If you are selling a new television cable service ask if they would appreciate your customer support, can they imagine a time when it would be useful or would have been useful if they had that feature previously? As you describe some features ask the customer if they see why that feature is impressive. This will also help you identify which feature is the most exciting to the prospect. After agreeing to the value of two or three features the customer should be close to agreeing to the sale.
If they are still hesitant, a good strategy is to get the prospect to compare their reasons for buying with their reasons for not buying. The prospect is already doing this internally on their own, but when you get them to verbalize what they are thinking you get the opportunity to sway their decisions or handle objections.
If they really like the product or service they will often convince themselves as well. This will also get them to tell you exactly what is preventing them from buying today.
One of the greatest attributes of any top achiever is they expect a positive outcome and believe they will get it. Assuming the close is a great way to overcome uncertainty. Go in with the expectation that you will close.
Don’t ask “Can I have an appointment?” instead say something like “I’d like to show you what we can do for you, is Wednesday afternoon good for you or is Thursday morning better for you?”
Don’t ask “Do you want to buy this?” instead say something like “Great, I just need you to sign here and here, we ask for a deposit of 50% and we can get started.”
Pro tip: Ask for the close then go silent. The person who talks first loses. “Is Wednesday good or is Thursday better for you?” THEN SILENCE. Wait for their response. Do not get uncomfortable after this and start talking before the customer responds to your question.
“Most people choose the starter pack and that works out great. Would you like the starter pack, or do you think the professional package is better for you?”
“Our system can be set up in about a week – and the sooner you give us the O.K., the sooner it’ll be working for you. Would you like to get started with this today?”
“How would you like to pay for this today?”
Very often, the person who breaks the silence loses.
Try making your offer and then asking “Does that sound fair to you?” By appealing to fairness you are appealing to a deep value that all humans hold dear. It is a subconscious value that makes sense to almost everyone, everywhere. Even children understand the appeal of fairness—you often hear children complain “That’s not fair”. This is a great opportunity for your prospect to say what’s on their mind and revealing the obstacles holding up the deal.
If you’ve done your job and properly qualified your prospect and demonstrated value, then chances are that they actually want to buy from you. So make it easy on them by asking for the sales at least five times. Remember, the magic happens around the seventh close.
“You said you want to get this done by [a certain time]; let’s look at our calendars and figure out what we need to do today to make that happen.”
Using a checklist can help with the close as well. “It looks like we’ve answered all the questions. Shall we move forward with this?”
When you’ve received multiple green lights signaling that the customer is ready to buy try “Let’s move forward on this.”
If the customer really refuses to make a decision today and there is nothing else you can do, give them some more time to make the decision. This should only be on option after a minimum of 7 refusals. It should be done with a “takeaway” in the statement.
“I know this is probably an important decision for you and I don’t want to feel rushed. But I’d hate to see you miss out on this offer. Let’s schedule a call for tomorrow so we can still get you in. Is 10:00 or 2:00 better?”
Most salespeople ask for the close way too late. They’re all waiting for the perfect moment, for a moment when they have a guaranteed “yes.” We do this because we want to avoid rejection.
A lot of salespeople keep providing their prospects with more information and reasons to buy, assuming that eventually the customer will close themselves, when in fact all they do is talk the customer out of a sale. They overwhelm their prospects to the point where they can no longer make a comfortable decision. Too much information—too many choices is lethal to an agreement. Keep it simple.
People that are afraid of rejection are the ones that attract it often. Those are the people that are the most affected by rejection. They take it personally.
You know who doesn’t care about rejection? People that are winning. People that are closing deals. Stare rejection in the face.
When you embrace rejection and take a no with smile, it communicates that you’re successful. Don’t work your way around rejection. Stare it in the face. Learn to love it. Make “no” a part of the process. Ask for the close early. Embrace the no.
“Hey, it seems like you guys are a great fit. I’ve showed you how we’re going to solve your problems effectively. Let’s move forward with this?”
And let them respond.
The first no is your friend. Be okay with it.
Then ask them,
“What’s the process we need to go through in order to get you ready to buy?”
Using this question will let you find out what the road to the close looks like and what it will take to get there.
Say, “Let’s get you ready. What do we need to do?”
Desperate sales people don’t stand firm on their offer and they give all the control to the prospect. What could have been a great deal turns into a steaming pile of turd. It’s because you were so obsessed with closing the deal that you forgot what really matters—building a mutually beneficial relationship with your customer that will nurture the growth of both your goals.
You have to be willing to walk away from the deal.
It seems counterintuitive, but sometimes you have to step back and take the deal away in order to close—it’s one of the most powerful tools in your sales arsenal. You have to be decisive, and risk the deal in order to make it happen.
You must know what you can offer and what you cannot offer. This means knowing the value of your product. It means knowing when a good deal isn’t a good deal anymore, and where to draw a line in the sand.
Emphasize to the buyer that by making the deal, they are not just investing in a product, but a relationship that will continue in the future, that’s why you need to protect yourself in order to deliver the highest value. Lowering the price is often the path to a poor service delivery. You as the salesperson will blame the customer for negotiating the price below what you should have accepted, and the customer will blame you for accepting the low price and promising to deliver all of the value you were preaching.
I had to make this mistake many times in my own business before I learned the lesson. I let the customer negotiate inch by inch and take away all of my profit and, ultimately, my ability to provide the value they are looking for. A good sale is mutually beneficial, and if it is not mutually beneficial it is better to tell the customer that this deal is not possible.
As a business owner you have to know that there is always a number that you cannot go beyond, including the deposit. For example, I might require 80% deposit so I can finish the work then I collect 20% payment when the work is completed. If I accept 50% deposit I am putting the integrity of the work in jeopardy and both myself and the customer will not be happy. It is better to walk away from such a deal.
The salesperson-client relationship is a two-way street — it requires mutual trust. In order for your product or service to succeed, you need a buyer who believes you have their best interests at heart.
By refusing to lower the price of your product, you implicitly take a stance on the value of your product. Don’t be afraid to say “That won’t be possible for us.”
After a certain point, talking through a buyer’s concerns will only get you so far. Don’t keep banging your head against a brick wall—bust through it by taking the deal away.
The buyer’s leverage lies in your desire to close the deal, and many customers will sense this desperation and manipulate you as far as they can. If you demonstrate that you’re willing to let the deal fall through, you turn the tables.
Your time is valuable, and every moment you waste trying to iron out an impossible deal could be spent closing other prospects. Point to the demand for your product, and all the other prospects you have who are ready to move forwards.
Desperation undermines the value of your product. It’s good to be hungry—hustle hard, fight for the sale—but don’t be desperate.
Taking the deal away is more than just a sales tactic. It’s about the value of the product and the value of your time. Risking a big deal is scary and difficult, but a willingness to do so is the most powerful way to demonstrate your belief in the product. It’s this belief that ultimately closes deals.
You must make this closing process as simple and painless as possible, or else you will find your customers will be buying from your competitors. Be prepared if they want to pay by cash or check or any other method, you should know how to respond.
Have the necessary documents ready. Don’t make the customer wait.
Getting a deposit, or commitment or signature can help make sure that the customer doesn’t lose interest after you leave.
It’s also great to have a “post-close” process. This is to reduce the chance of the customer changing their mind. The post close eases their mind, it makes them feel comfortable with their purchase decision. It sets their expectations for the product or service delivery and solidifies the relationship beyond the sale.
Tell them exactly what to expect. Give them the timelines step by step to ease their mind.
It can be as simple as “Thank you, here is your product. Give us a call if you have any problems or need anything else. You can return within 30 days with the receipt so take care of that, and have a great day!” Or “Thank you, your product will be delivered by Friday, here is our contact information in case you have any problems or questions. Feel free to call us.”
Or, for more complex deals:
“Great. What you can expect from here is that as soon as your check clears we will send a team to do a survey on Monday or Tuesday. After that we will make an itemized list and prepare our items, then we will contact you next week to agree on the best time and day to do the installation. The installation will take 2-3 business days. After that we will give you 72 hours to test the system so that you can feel comfortable with it. Feel free to give us a call with any questions or concerns. If there is anything wrong we will help you get through it. After that we will ask for the balance, and then you’ve still got a three year warranty so we will always be here to help you. Do you have any questions or concerns for me?”
Pro-Tip: ALWAYS end by asking “do you have any questions or concerns for me at this time?” This ensures that the customer does not leave with any silent objections that could kill the deal.
Can you see how that goes through the close and into the after sales relationship? Can you see how that calms the customer down after the tensions and energy of the close?
Upselling is offering an additional product or service just as they are making the initial purchase. This can be in the form of an insurance policy or extended warranty, or an entirely new product or service. Keep in mind that upselling is one of the best ways to increase sales.
Right when they make the purchase have an offer ready that is less than the price of the purchase they are making. Tell them it is a special offer for people who make that initial purchase.
You should not push this very hard, the offer itself should do the work. The key is in the timing and the presentation of the offer. It should be when the first offer is completed and is no longer in jeopardy, just let them know about the offer that is available. If they refuse the upsell, just continue with the original order, don’t’ worry about 7 no’s at this point.
IF THERE’S NO SALE…
If you don’t close at first, that’s ok, you can revisit them later. If you are doing sales without following up that is like trying to fill a bath tub without the stopper in the drain. Are lost customers ‘dead’ to you? They shouldn’t be. You would be surprised how much business you can get from someone who said no.
If you’re trying to reengage a prospect who’s gone dark, don’t guilt-trip them. You’ve probably noticed that your “just checking in” or “just following up” emails don’t get responses, so include a reason you’re reaching out and a clear call-to-action.
“Hi Mary, I’m just following up on our discussion from last week. You said you weren’t happy with your current car insurance. Has anything changed?”
But you can’t force a sale from someone who isn’t ready, so if they are avoiding you, it may be time to move on. Keep the relationship alive! Remember I said that before you make a sale you have to make a friend, and if you don’t make a friend you are not likely to make a sale. Preserve the friendship so that they feel comfortable working with you in the future or referring a friend to you.
This is the step where the customer receives the product or service that they have paid for. It should be in accordance with the sales agreement and expectations of the customer.
You should aim to over deliver the value during this step because this step of the sales process is the best marketing tool you have. It is several times cheaper to keep customers compared to finding new ones. A happy and satisfied customer is your best advertisement. You can get repeat business from them and you can also get great referrals from them, so never take this step lightly.
If you were skillful in the previous steps you should have under promised so that you can over deliver. If you can give a small personalized gift that shows you were listening throughout the process you will do well.
This is the part of the sales pattern where you can generate the most positive energy for yourself and your business. Over delivering the value will generate a ton of positive energy that will vibrate and resonate with your customer, your future customers and beyond and you will find yourself in a much better position to be successful.
It is a great idea to keep a relationship with existing and previous customers. Give them a call sometimes if it’s appropriate, send an email or Christmas card or Happy New Year message. If there are any problems, do your best to solve them. Show genuine interest and compassion. Think of previous customers as friends and your business will succeed.
Ask the customer for referrals for friends or family who may need your service.
Make sure you are giving your previous customers a chance to purchase form you again. Remind them that you are still in business. Contact them on their birthday, or tell them happy holidays or happy new year. Alert them to new products or special events. Especially if you were able to build a relationship and over deliver value in step 6, these people will likely be willing to help you with another purchase or a referral, so it is good to stay in touch.
The best way to do this is through an email list like a newsletter. If you can build a strong email list of people who have done business with you in the past or people who have expressed interest in your product or service, you have created a great asset for your business.
· Successful selling is a repeatable process that makes the customer feel comfortable through each step and keeps the process running smoothly throughout
· Preparation: you should know you product and your value proposition, know your customer and their pain point.
· Lead Generation: you need a way of reaching a lot of people who could potentially use your product or service.
· Qualify Leads: You need to eliminate the people you cannot help or who are not interested in your product or service.
· Demonstrate Value: You need to show the prospect how you can solve their problems, and why they should choose you over other solutions.
· Closing: You need to ask for the sale early and often, and with confidence. Don’t be afraid of rejection. It is better to leave a deal that is not mutually beneficial.
· Delivering Value: Over deliver what you have promised them.
· After Sales: Continue the relationship, ask for referrals, ask your upsells.
Now that you have some basic skills and you have an understanding of the sales process you need some specific tactics to help you. This section has 8 specific sales hacks that can take your sales and communication to the next level.
If you were looking for quick sales hacks, this is the section for you.
The words you use can have a very big impact on how your message is understood, despite being technically correct. A good salesperson understands the difference between the definition of a word and the connotation. Almost every word has associated feelings or images. This is especially true if you are using descriptive language. You should be very careful to use the words that have the association that you want to draw.
Synonyms are two words that mean the same thing, but they are not always interchangeable.
For example, if I invite you to my “chateau in the forest” it sounds beautiful, calm and peaceful. But if I invite you to my “cabin in the woods” you may be wondering if you will come back alive!
Connotations and mental associations are a very powerful technique that you can use because you can associate yourself with almost anything you want. You can leave a magnanimous, noble, heroic impression in your customer’s mind.
Have you ever wondered why many products that are red or pink say that the color is ‘rose’? Or that a purple product may be described as ‘royal purple’? Or that you are more likely to see a color named ‘champagne’ instead of ‘cement’? It is to evoke the romantic sensations and associations with roses and champagne and royalty, and to avoid the dull, heavy connotations of cement.
Metaphor is a very powerful tool of communication. Experts say we use metaphor once every 16 words on average. Words like: loaded, reaching, unearthing… all of these are metaphors, because our words are not really loaded, we are not physically reaching with our arms, and we are not digging in the ground to unearth anything.
These metaphors are used to lead people toward certain perceptions, or away from certain perceptions.
Studies have shown that changing nothing more than the metaphor makes a huge difference in people’s decisions about investment in a company, making a purchase and much more.
Use beautiful words that evoke beautiful images of happy people, family, friendship, happiness, love, or sunshine to attract people.
Use disgusting words to evoke disgusting images like vermin, monsters, disease, and sickness to repel people.
Think about these metaphors and how they make you feel about what is being named:
A Financial storm – makes it seem like an act of nature, something inevitable.
Tax relief – that taxes are a burden that we need relief from, not something useful.
…From the bowels… –that it came from a disgusting place and has disgusting qualities.
In one study participants were asked to read the same paragraph about crime and answer questions that follow. However one word was changed in the paragraph and given to different groups. One group was given a paragraph that described crime as a ‘beast’ and another group that described crime as a ‘virus’. That one word was the only difference. The result was that when crime was described as a ‘beast’ the respondents were more likely to recommend harsher punishments, and more law enforcement to solve the problem. When crime was described as a ‘virus’ the respondents were more likely to recommend social interventions aimed at solving the cause of crime as the solution.
One word can make a lot of difference.
How about a ‘stalling economy’ or an ‘ailing economy’? Which is the positive connotation and which is the negative one?
‘Stalling economy’ makes it sound as if the economy is an engine that has stalled, it will be fixed soon and all will be will.
‘Ailing economy’ makes it sound as if the economy is sick, requiring medicine or doctors, perhaps evoking the mental image of a hospital or a patient, not necessarily a positive outlook.
You can learn to use this technique.
Don’t say something is cheap, say it is inexpensive, affordable or a good value.
When talking about the customer’s pain point use words like “disaster” and “traumatic”. When talking about your solution use words like “peace of mind” “confidence” and “value”.
Replace “Sorry” with “Thank you”. For example don’t say “I’m sorry I am late” say “Thank you for waiting for me”.
Replace “but” with “and” to sound like you’re agreeing with your prospect when you’re actually offering a counter idea. ‘But’ sounds contradictory and confrontational. Most of the time using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ does not change the meaning of the sentence but it sounds better.
Now read the same sentence with ‘and’:
Most of the time using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ does not change the meaning of the sentence and it sounds better.
Did the last sentence sound more positive and agreeable?
The difference is subtle, and you might think it doesn’t make a difference. But if 3 out of ten people notice the difference and it impacts the conversation positively, and you talk to 1000 people, that is 300 people who noticed and reacted agreeably.
Just by referencing something admirable you can create that admirable association in the listener’s mind.
Even if I say: “I am not Steve Jobs, I am not Warren Buffet, but I do work hard to be the best in my industry.” I have just created an association between myself and Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet. Even though I said clearly that I AM NOT those people.
“My name is Nick Lusson, I am not Tony Robbins, I am not Robin Sharma, but I do hope to impact lives as they have.”
Practice this one as well.
Create associations with positive people, positive events, and positive emotions just by mentioning them skillfully.
Avoid associations with negative people, negative events, and negative emotions.
See the section “THE ART OF SUBTLETY” for more clear concepts that you can use this technique to align yourself with
Pro-Tip: People have different perceptions about many people and events. Try to avoid controversial topics because it will backfire on you if the person you are talking to views those things negatively. Be especially careful if you are talking to someone of a different generation, gender or culture, you may be very surprised to learn they have different views than you. Stick with clichés, stick with the obvious, and most popular references. Avoid controversy.
If you are very skillful, you can listen carefully to what they talk positively about and you can use a specific reference based on what that person has told you.
They may love baseball, specifically the Yankees and you can associate yourself with a famous Yankees legend by referencing them.
They may love cooking and you can reference a famous chef.
Have fun with this tool and get creative. Refer to Mount Everest for size or greatness… refer to sports champions for heart, or hustle or overcoming adversity… refer to successful people, gold medal winners and positive events… use positive and happy and successful imagery to associate your brand, your product or your service with those qualities.
But be careful of your word choice. In our call center we were not allowed to use the word “Free” at all, in any context, because we were setting appointments (free appointments) but the appointments were to provide information about products that were not free. Many customers would hear “free appointment” and think the products were free. So the entire word was banned.
Stop saying that you ‘think so’, or that you will ‘try’… Those are indecisive words that do not communicate confidence. Those words foster uncertainty. They communicate that you are unsure of yourself, that you are not reliable. People hate uncertainty. Uncertainty is toxic to sales. Most people say “I think so” when the answer is really “yes”. Or they say “probably” or “probably not” when they mean “yes” or “no”. So stop using those extra words.
In fact, stop using extra words in general. Learn how to communicate clearly and simply. Stop talking so much and you will notice that your words have more power, more weight. This will also force you to be very clear about what you are saying which is another benefit. You will also be displaying great confidence. People who talk too much convey insecurity, neediness and untrustworthiness.
Be clear and direct: When pitching do not use complicated jargon. Pride yourself instead on being able to explain the concept as quickly, clearly and simply as possible. This is important because one of the biggest problem in sales is client confusion. Confusion does not lead to a “Yes”. Simplify your language, simplify your words, and you can learn to consciously choose when to use more words instead of falling into the trap of talking too much.
The longer your presentation lasts, the less impact you have
Using fewer words also this reduces the chances of misunderstandings. Salespeople can get into a lot of trouble because of simple misunderstandings.
Silence gives prospects a chance to process information and makes interactions feel more like conversations than sales pitch, so don’t rush to fill it. It also gives the prospect the chance to do more of the talking, which is a good thing.
Any experienced salesperson can probably tell you stories where they talked themselves out of a sale because of their inexperience.
If the customer agrees to make the purchase… SHUT UP! Let them purchase! If you reach your goal then there is nothing else you can do except ruin your own success. As soon as the customer agrees to what you want them to agree to, move to the next step. Give them the proper documentation, start the paperwork, or whatever it is that you are doing. Stop talking about your offer if they have already agreed, there is nothing more you can say.
Of course you don’t become rude, but do not lose sight of your goal.
“Because” is a very powerful word in the English language. In a sentence, the word ‘because’ triggers the listener’s brain to say, ‘Oh, the thing I’m going to hear after this word will be a justification for the thing I heard before it.’ Using this properly can help your sales dramatically.
Studies have shown that simply stating “because…” will increase agreements significantly.
Imagine this scenario: you are near the front of a line in to use a copy machine and someone comes up to you in a hurry and out of breath and asks you:
“Can I cut in front of you?”
The studies show this request gets a low acceptance rate. But, if you change the request slightly to:
“Can I cut in front of you because I am late for work…”
The studies show this gets a significantly higher acceptance rate.
What is interesting is that it makes little difference if your justification makes any sense at all… simply using “Because…” increases the acceptance.
Even if what follows the because makes no sense at all! Even if you say “Can I cut in front of you? My dog didn’t have breakfast this morning.” That is still more effective than a statement without “because”.
That’s how powerful because is.
“Can I show you this feature?” OR “Can I show you this feature because once you see it you will know why we are the number one service provider…”
Some great buzz words to use in your communication are: value, power, victory, hope, amazing, brave, fearless, success, amazing, enormous, opportunity, fun, effortless, imagine, touch, feel, smell… do you see what they all have in common? They are positive words, descriptive words, words that sound like they have power and weight behind them…
Some words to avoid are: cost, cheap, failure, weak, free, worse, terrible, horrible, no good, problem, don’t, obviously, honestly, try, maybe…
Say “Should we…” or “Why don’t we…” to make a leading suggestion instead of making commands.
Speaking in threes can give added weight, added clarity, and added power to your message (Do you see what I did there? Three times “added”)
Here it is again:
Speaking in threes can give added weight (ONE), added clarity (TWO), and added power (THREE) to your message.
It makes your argument more compelling, more convincing, and more credible. (I did it again.) Three is the magic number in communication and rhetoric. Use three adjectives in a row for better communication.
Using three breathless sentences in a row can make your communication more compelling. This mimics the sound of fear and emotion. This is great for describing with emotion the pain point or the problems of missing out on your offer. For example:
Broken homes… failing schools… broken healthcare…
A world at war, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a generation…
If you miss this offer you will have more bills to pay… more burdens on your mind… more stress in your life.
See if you can come up with three compelling, breathless sentences for your product or service.
Think about three sentences in which the opening clause is repeated. This is great for conveying passion and emotion. It sweeps people away.
I love Italy, I love the beaches, and I love the pasta…
We have the best quality, we have the best offer, and we have the best customer service.
I’m not asking for $20, I’m not asking for $15, I’m not even asking for $12…
Try to come up with three descriptive, passionate sentences with a repeating opening clause, it will add some serious passion to your message.
If a statement sounds like it is balanced, our brain is tuned to think the logic is balance. Even if that logic is imagined.
We are looking to the future, not the past.
We are working together, not against one another.
We are thinking about what we can do, not what we can’t do.
Try to come up with some balanced statements throughout your sales pitch to convey sound logic and reasoning.
Believe it or not, studies have shown that statements that rhyme they are more easily believed and remembered than if the statements don’t rhyme. This has to do with the basics of our neurology and brain chemistry. If something rhymes it is much more easily “digestible” to our brains.
A statement with big, complicated words is more like a tough piece of meat that is hard to chew and swallow. A simple statement that rhymes is the language equivalent of yoghurt, easy to swallow and digest.
Consider these rhymes that are not necessarily true, but have influenced thousands of people over the years.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away…
If it doesn’t fit you must acquit…
You’ve got to speculate to accumulate…
If you can come up with some clever rhymes about your product or service, and you can deliver them at the right time you will show your customer that you are fun and witty and you can deliver a memorable nugget of information to differentiate you from your competition.
Here are three factors that have been proven to be powerful factors in determining someone’s influence on another person.
People are far more likely to trust someone who they consider to be credible and knowledgeable. This is one of the reasons doctors and lawyers hang their degrees on the walls, and why it is a good idea to put your awards and accomplishments on display as well.
People are persuaded by authority and credibility. The presence of authority implies the absence of uncertainty and doubt-both of which naturally repel people.
You should let others know what makes you a credible and knowledgeable authority before you make your proposal. A great way to demonstrate credibility is to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable by referencing different aspects of what you are selling. But less is more, using too much technical jargon will have the opposite effect. Just let the customer know that you are knowledgeable.
Fun facts can build instant credibility. Try to learn everything about your customer and your product or service and collect ‘fun facts’ that could be used to build your credibility.
Don’t ever lie. As a salesperson, truth is your greatest asset, because it builds trust. If you are proven right, that is instant trust and credibility. If you are proven wrong that is a broken relationship that will be very hard to mend.
Uniforms, diplomas and awards are a good way to signal authority and credibility.
When you are introducing yourself in a sales context you can try to mention your own expertise and awards, but use emotional intelligence and practice this technique so that you don’t sound arrogant or boastful. Mention your years’ of experience, or your accomplishments or accreditations to signal your expertise. For example:
“Hi my name is Nick, I am a solar energy expert, what can I do for you?”
But it is not always possible to introduce yourself in such a way. What is much better and smoother is to have someone else help you with an introduction like this. If you are introducing a customer to another member of your sales team, make sure you include information about their expertise in the introduction. For example:
“This is Jessie, he has been in the solar energy industry for five years, he has done countless installations and I am sure he can help you find what you need.”
Ask your sales team or anyone to introduce you this way and you will instantly boost your credibility.
Whenever possible I have the people I work with introduce me like this or similarly and it works!
“Let me introduce you to Nick, he is a solar energy expert, he has more than ten years’ experience with solar energy, I’m very sure he can help you find what you need.”
Boom! Instant Credibility.
To be a good sales person you should know a bit of psychology and you should be able to position yourself in positive and beneficial ways. Humans are social animals, we are herd animals, and you should be aware of this instinct.
Due to the social nature of our lives we have a subconscious value for reciprocity. This means that if someone does something nice for you, you will likely have an urge in the back of your head to do something nice for them in return. That doesn’t mean that everyone will always repay favors, but it is a real and deep part of our psychology.
If you invite someone to your birthday party it is more likely they will at least think about inviting you to their birthday party. If you hold a door for someone and there is a chance for them to hold a door for you, they will likely do it.
The way to use this in the sales context is to give your customer a small, personalized, and unexpected gift. It can be something very small and insignificant, because the magic is in how you give the gift, not the value of the gift. In face it is better to give small personalized gifts than to give larger ones, which often make it to apparent that you are trying to buy their loyalty.
You could give gum or candy or a pen, but you should make the person feel like you had a genuine spontaneous impulse to give it to them, and that you don’t give the gift to everyone. Use their name as you are giving it to make it more personal.
This will implant a subconscious instinct to return the favor, which—when used in conjunction with the successful sales process and the communication tips in this book—can lead to more sales for you.
The inverse of this rule is also true. If you do a small favor for someone, you are more likely to like that person and feel a part of their success. Benjamin Franklin famously posited this rule. If there is someone who you feel tension with, ask to borrow a pen from them and then return it. You will notice the tension decrease as that person subconsciously lowers their walls, as you confirm their self-opinion that they are generous, and benevolent.
Safety in numbers
Another way you can use our social instincts in sales is to talk about ‘consensus numbers’. This refers to the fact that we feel more comfortable with a decision if we know that many people have made this same decision.
People often look to the actions and behaviors of others to influence their decisions, especially when they are uncertain. And many people are not consciously aware that this influences their decisions. But it does.
Let people know that many people similar to them have made this decision and were happy. This is a much more effective appeal than other methods.
Tell them “Millions of people just like you have done this and it worked for them”. “You will be joining thousands of people with this solution…”
Let people know how many customers you have served, or your company has served to ease their uncertainty.
If you can somehow create the impression that others desire you or your work, you will pull people into your current without having to say a word or impose yourself.
3. THE ART OF SUBLETY
It is the pinnacle of skill for a salesperson when the customers come to the desired conclusions without being pressured or instructed.
If the salesperson can paint an incomplete picture step by step, and lead the customer to connect the dots and fill in the gaps by themselves and it leads to a sale, there is a much less likely chance that the customer will change their mind.
In sales and in life, the strongest closes are the ones where the customer finishes the deal themselves—or at least they think they finished the deal themselves.
Normally, when we meet resistance to our ideas we try to change their minds by arguing, or lecturing them which only makes them more defensive.
Great salespeople know that it is no use to fight with a stubborn person. The way to succeed is to use their stubbornness against them.
Instead, you need to think in terms of their self-opinions that need to be validated.
By validating three key points that are universal to our self-opinions you can help your customer see that your point of view is correct.
The three key parts of a person’s self-opinion that must be validated in order to influence them are: free will, intelligence, and goodness.
If you can subtly confirm your prospect’s self-opinion, you will be fulfilling one of our greatest emotional needs. We imagine that were are intelligent, decent and independent, but only other people can truly confirm this for us. We are all prone to self-doubt, and we all unconsciously seek this external validation. Creating this sense of validation is like a golden key that will unlock people’s defenses, and it is a key to influence and persuasion.
When creating this validation you must be as sincere as possible or you risk offending them with false praise. What often gives people away is the nonverbal cues—stiff body language or darting eyes belie your disdain as you are speaking praise, and it is noticeably false.
Therefore, a part of your task is to search for their admirable qualities and praise them and bring them out more and more. If you can actually feel some of the positive emotions you are expressing it will be more authentic.
You must always make it seem like people are agreeing with you from their own free will. You can never change someone’s opinion or point of view with force or aggression.
In fact, one of the key psychological factors in all of us is that we resist any suggestion or feeling that we have been manipulated, coerced, or forced. We have to convince ourselves that we are always acting on our own free will. We cannot stand to think that we have been tricked or influenced. If we join a group or believe something or make a purchase, we convince ourselves that it is because we have freely chosen to do so. We rarely admit we have been influenced or succumbed to peer pressure.
Give the prospect the impression that what you are offering is new, exotic, and rare. Perhaps give the impression that you are telling them things that you shouldn’t—revealing secrets that should not be shared, or giving an offer that is too good.
Let the customers sell themselves. Pushy salespeople try to convince the customer to buy, buy, buy. But the best salespeople know that the most persuasive person is the customer themselves. The salespersons job, therefore, is to ask the right questions and lead the customers to see the value, and to convince themselves they want the product.
You should use all the tips discussed in this book: you ask questions about their pain point… If you are selling a car: “So your car broke down? Oh my gosh, that must have been so tough on you… How did you get to work on time? Do you think it may break down again? What will you do if it breaks down for even longer?” etc.
Instead of telling them “You need a new car” you guide the conversation to lead them to the conclusion that they need a new car.
This is great because now half your job is done, and the remaining job is only to convince them that you are the right person to purchase the car from, and today is the right day to make that purchase. And you can do that with more questions in the same manner described above, in combination with the skills described in this book.
Prepare. Understand the likely questions and objections your customer has, and you can ask them questions that takes them on the mental journey from interest to action.
Take some time and think about how to get the customer to talk themselves into purchasing, rather than you pressuring them.
Some great questions to ask are:
Have you ever thought of getting a new…?
When were you planning of getting a new…?
When’s the last time you experienced a new…”
Is this something you have considered?
A new _______ would solve that problem for you, wouldn’t it?
What stopped your from doing this sooner?
So if I can do XYZ for you, is this something you’d like to do today?
Creating pressure is an art: Creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) in your client’s mind about not purchasing can be a good thing because it will lead to serious consideration of your concept. This is also known as urgency. You need to create FOMO in your customer (Fear Of Missing Out). The trick is to mention this subtly and to NOT rub it in, which is likely to anger them. No one is angered into saying Yes. You have to help them reach your conclusions on their own.
Let’s pretend I am a passenger in your car and I feel you are driving too fast. A command would be “Slow down!.”
A foreground suggestion would be “You know the speed limit is forty five miles per hour and police ticket a lot of speeders here.”
A background suggestion would be “A speeder was in a horrible accident last week in this exact spot.” While the background suggestion may be more subtle in its delivery, it can trigger a more profound reaction.
Let them know that many people are buying this offer. Highlight missed opportunities whenever possible, such as previous sales or previous shipments. Showing stock levels can help as the customer might see that the stock is limited.
Framing your offer as something pleasurable, a rare opportunity, and something that is desired and in demand is highly effective.
This is a limited time offer…
I’m not sure if I can hold that offer until next week…
Think it over tonight and I will call you at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.
I’ll talk with my boss and if he Okays the terms, could we have the purchase order by month end?
Our implementation team will be fully booked starting in September, so to complete your project by year end, we’ll need to have the contract signed in the next couple of weeks
Everyone likes to think of themselves as smart and intelligent. Even if they admit they are not smart in the conventional way, they will claim “street-smarts” or special knowledge that makes them cleverer than others.
The true spirit of conversation consists more in bringing out the cleverness of others than in showing a great deal of it yourself; he who goes away pleased with himself and his own wit is also greatly pleased with you. Most men… seek less to be instructed, and even to be amused, than to be praised and applauded.
–Jean de La Bruyere
When you argue with someone and disagree openly, you are implying that you know better, that you are smarter or that you have thought things out more rationally than they have. When challenged in this way the natural reaction is for that person to become more entrenched in their position and to defend their intelligence, their logic and their rationale.
You can avoid this by assuming a neutral position: as if your idea is something you are entertaining and it could possibly be wrong. Also assume neutrality towards their conflicting assertion, and see if you can together work toward the correct solution.
A skillful way to validate their intelligence is to allow them to change your opinion on something. If you allow them to change your mind, you will be assuring them that they are intelligent and smart, and you will be giving them the validation they so desperately crave. Allow your opinion to be changed on something trivial and irrelevant to your sales goal and you will have lowered their defenses for your influence.
You can also ask for some advice or request for help on something. The implication is that you respect their intelligence and wisdom. This will flatter them greatly and build rapport while giving you some room to gently alter their opinion towards your offer.
The third key aspect of our universal self-opinion is that we feel the need to assure and comfort ourselves that we are “good” and “decent” people. We do this by assuring ourselves that we care about the important things in life, we support the right causes. In general, we do not like to see ourselves as selfish. And we have a subconscious need to be seen by others in this light.
You should be careful not to cast doubt on this saintly self-opinon, or be prepared for a reaction.
To use this positively for influence, tie your offer to a larger cause that they can participate in. Tie your offer to the environment, or to the benefit of the local community or the nation.
An even more advanced technique would be to make a harmless mistake and ask for their forgiveness. In this way you would be confirming their moral superiority and their self-opinion.
Using subtlety is not always possible, but if you can use this skill to let the customer sell themselves you will have a lot of success. There are definitely benefits to increasing pressure directly in some circumstances, for example if you only get very few opportunities to talk to this customer. Perhaps the sales cycle for the products you sell involves only one or two customer interactions.
However many customers don’t respond well to pressure. Some may agree with you and then change their minds the moment you are gone and the pressure is off.
You can also use subtlety to build rapport with the customer. Practice mimicking the customer’s body language, their gestures, and their tone of voice and speed at which they are talking. This is one of the strongest ways to build rapport unconsciously.
Let other people do the talking; let them feel like the star of the show. Put the focus on others. Lett them do the talking. Let them be the stars of the show. Their opinions and values are worth emulating. The causes they support are the noblest. Such attention is so rare in this world, and people are so hungry for it, that giving them such validation will lower their defenses and open their minds to whatever ideas you want to insinuate. Make it subtle. Ask for their advice. People are dying to impart their wisdom and experience.
Mimic the speed the customer speaks with. Pick up on one or two words they use frequently and use it back.
Don’t do this mockingly, do this subtly and you will see yourself building stronger relationships more quickly.
4. LEARN HOW TO SAY “I DON’T KNOW”
An important skill that is underappreciated is the ability to say—skillfully—“I don’t know.” Most people think that to admit not knowing something is to admit defeat. They think it is a sign of weakness or something to be embarrassed about. Consequently, they fumble it and say it submissively or defeatedly. Or they avoid admitting it and look foolish.
All good salespeople know that having the confidence and skill to say “I don’t know” can work in your favor.
First of all you should be very well prepared so that you actually DO know most of the most relevant information that your customer may ask. If you don’t know what you are talking about you won’t have a lot of success. You should have anticipated their questions and have relevant data or examples to answer them.
It is the fact that you DO know a lot about your product and industry and your customer that allows you to say “I don’t know” with confidence. Having the confidence to say “I don’t know” affirms the value of what you DO know, and affirms your confidence as an expert in that area.
Some great ways to say “I don’t know” are:
“That is a great question, I will have to check on that”
“I work in the sales department, that is a great question for our engineers.”
“I’m not sure about that, and I don’t want to give you wrong information.”
Often customers try to push back on salespeople and challenge them. A lot of customers have a cursory knowledge of the product or service and think they are experts, they may try to demonstrate their knowledge and try to confuse the salesperson.
Don’t let anyone make you feel embarrassed. You should have done enough preparation that you are confident. If you get to the limit of your knowledge there is no shame or embarrassment in saying “I don’t know.” Say it confidently while looking in their eyes to show that you are still confident in your knowledge and skills to help them find the solution they need.
Your knowledge will also help you understand how relevant the customer’s question is. Sometimes they may be misunderstanding the product or service and they are asking a question that you don’t know because it is not relevant. And you can help them understand that their question does not match their concerns, sometimes they ask questions that don’t make any sense or are not relevant to their pain point. For example, customers in the solar industry often confuse Watts and Volts and Amperes, or solar panel size with battery life. I usually gently give them some technical information just to show them I understand their questions and show credibility, and then I help them get back to the issues that are relevant to them.
5. GET BEYOND THE SALE, PRIORITIZE ALIGNMENT
If you’re only going after money, people can feel it and smell it. Be committed to the big vision. Shed the high-pressure, ‘always-be-closing’ mindset and instead prioritize alignment. Infuse your sales approach with relationship building.
If you really want to build rapport and establish alignment, then you should task yourself with instilling in people a feeling of inner security. Show them that you like and respect them. Mirror their values. Ask questions and confirm their intelligence and nobility. When you are able to give them a sense of inner security and confirm their self-opinion you will find it easier to align yourself with your prospect and gain more agreements.
Take some time to get to know the person you are talking to. If you’re listening carefully you may find out they have a child or children… ask if it’s a boy or a girl, or ask how old they are… Then smile and tell them that’s great… Tell them that’s the same age as your cousin /brother/niece. Share what you have in common and continue the sales process.
Inserting questions like this is key to building a relationship. It shows you care about more than just taking their money.
A lot of people think this is irrelevant. “Why should I care about their kids? I’m trying to sell web design services? Or cars… or cell phone plans…” It’s because you want your customer to feel at ease, and to feel a connection with you. This will make it more likely that they will spend money, but it also makes it more likely you are able to brighten their day a little bit. You want to make it clear that you are in alignment with their goals for this purchase and beyond.
If a customer is telling you about their problem, avoid trying to solve the problem right way. The customer wants to vent and be heard. Let them tell their story, don’t rush them too much. Connect with them and connect with the people in their story, listen to how their problem affected their day, empathize, and then use your knowledge and experience to present your best solution to their problems.
Starting a sentence with “My father used to say…” is very powerful communication for several reasons.
Studies have shown that people will listen more closely to the words that follow this statement. Using these words gives extra weight to the statement that follows People will unconsciously pay more attention than if you did not mention your father.
Additionally this is a great way to build the relationship with your customer. You instantly become more relatable as a person instead of just a salesperson. And this connects to the story-telling aspect of good sales communication, as well as breaking the monotony and pressure and seriousness of a sales situation.
You can use a witty statement or some humor or just good advice in this context and it immediately makes you seem personable, humorous and wise:
Here are some examples:
“My father used to tell me you should always buy a plunger before you need it, or you’ll have a mess on your hands”
“My father used to tell me if you have four hours to chop down a tree, spend three hours sharpening the axe”
“My father used to tell me you can tell a lot about a person by the watch they have / shoes they have on / their cologne”
“My father used to tell me that haste makes waste but a good pace will win the race.”
Don’t use this excessively, just use your best judgement. Have fun. Follow it up with something relevant to the conversation and something relevant to your sales process for the best results.
If you can have your prospect take an active part in the sales process it will feel more like a collaboration than an attack. One of the best ways to get the customer involved is to ask them to grab a pen and paper.
If you are on the phone, you can ask:
“Do you have a pen and paper nearby?” If they say no, simply say “Ok, I’ll wait”. Chances are that person will grab a pen and paper.
If you are in person ask them if they have a pen and paper, and be ready to provide one for them.
If your prospect is willing to grab a pen and paper, that is a huge psychological victory in the sales process. It shows that they are taking this interaction seriously and they are more than just a passive spectator. It helps them move closer to the sale.
Once they have the pen and paper ask them to write down some of the key points. For example the terms of the warranty: “Write down 3 year guarantee…” Or the date and time of the appointment or next meeting.
One of the favorite lines from my call center days was “Write down the words ‘no pressure, no obligation.’”
Special discount codes have been shown to increase the likelihood of the desired actions. Ask your prospect to write down your name so they know who they spoke to. This builds trust and confidence.
Studies have shown that doctor’s offices that use this trick can reduce their missed appointments dramatically. By simply having the patient write down the time and date for their next appointment they are many times more likely to show up rather than if the doctor’s office prints the date and time for them.
So try this in your next sales encounter. As you get nearer to the close and you are overcoming objections, ask them to write down some key information and watch your success increase.
This simple trick is an easy and effective way to craft a story that will help your prospect understand your point of view. It is called Feel, Felt Found and it works like this:
I understand how you FEEL…
I FELT the same way before / I know someone who FELT that way before
I / They FOUND a solution, and that is to purchase my product or service.
This is great because it gives you a chance to show the customer that you have been listening to them and you understand what they are going through. Then you validate their experience by letting them know that they are not alone. Lastly you help them visualize a change by telling them the solution.
They should easily identify with this story arc because it is based on their experience, they should be comforted knowing that you understand what they are saying, and comforted that they are not alone and other people have found a solution.
An example is if a customer says “I don’t want this cell phone, I heard this brand has poor battery life.” You could say
“I know how you FEEL, battery life is very important.
I also FELT that this brand has poor battery, I had heard the same things…
But that was before I tried this cell phone. And I FOUND that actually has the same battery life as the iPhone X. It just depends how you use the phone..
I can show some tips that helps me keep my battery life high, It works really well for me.”
If the customer says “I don’t think life insurance is right for me at this time.”
“I understand how you FEEL, life insurance seems like a waste right now.
My uncle FELT the same way, he thought he would never need it. But he decided to sign up anyway. And he was lucky that he did because he FOUND when he got sick his medical insurance only covered 50% of his bills. Luckily he signed up for our coverage plus plan which allowed him to withdraw some of the money he had accrued with his plan to cover these expenses and it probably saved his life.”
Try this in role playing games until it is seamless for you.
Pro-Tip: Keep the stories positive as much as possible. I have found that creating positive energy in the discussion is usually a good strategy. It is true that fear is a strong motivator in sales discussions, but they should be used sparingly. Positive energy is generally better.
· Use FEEL, FELT, FOUND to create a simple story arc to help overcome objections and change minds.
· Say “I don’t know” with confidence when needed.
· Lead the conversation away from the sale, and then back to the sale to create rapport.
· Use “My father used to say…” for a colorful addition to your conversation that will carry added weight and more character.
· Get the customer actively involved by asking them to get a pen and paper and having them write down some key points.
· Use subtlety and nuance to lead the customer to your conclusions, rather than using brute force and blunt commands.
· Use the language of leadership to associate your product or service with lofty images and ideals. Use the rules of three to improve your rhetoric and make your statements memorable and easily digestible.
· Use social cues to show that you are credible, knowledgeable, and to appeal to our social instinct.
Negotiation is a skill that most of us use on a daily basis, and it is a basic part of business.
The old anecdote is true: “You only get what you negotiate”.
Don’t view pricing negotiations as a battle of wills. Good negotiations are a bonding experience between two individuals and can be used to strengthen their relationship.
View negotiation as finding the right price that mutually benefits both parties. If you’ve aligned yourself with the prospect as a collaborator and set their expectations as to the value of your product or service, then this should be painless process.
During financial negotiations—as with the entire sales process—it is critical you ask a lot of questions and seek to understand the other party before seeking to be understood. The purpose is to dig to the core of their position so you’ll understand their motivations and be able to craft a win-win outcome.
Good negotiation skills can make or break a small business. In any B2B transaction there are often incentives, perks or additions that are available beyond the listed price. This could be a better deal, more products, reduced price, future cooperation, a free pen… it doesn’t matter.
Here are the nine top rules for negotiation.
I know this definitely seems like a cheat, that the first rule of negotiation is “Don’t negotiate.” But it is true. Don’t negotiate if you don’t have to.
If you are selling: Identify the customer’s problem, solve the problem then ask for the money. If there is no need for negotiation then don’t negotiate. Don’t enter with a soft offer that isn’t serious. Get the value proposition identified, and sell to the value.
If you are buying: Identify what the value is to you, tell the supplier how much you want to spend. That’s it, let them make their own decision.
This rule goes hand in hand with the first rule. Don’t negotiate yourself off of your calculated price. Don’t lose confidence before you have begun.
Lead with the offer that you have calculated and lead with confidence. If you have done your preparation and your calculations, then your lead price should be reasonable, and competitive for the value.
Don’t round down. Don’t try to be the cheapest offer available, calculate your value and stick to it. Enter with your number and see what they say.
The person who puts forth the first price is at a disadvantage. Avoid this whenever you can.
The person who is hearing the first offer gets to react, and the pull will begin in their favor.
Whenever possible, do your best to get the other person to put the price first. However if you are the salesperson and you have a listed price lead with the listed price with confidence.
There is always something that can be done to make the deal sweeter. If the other party has an interest in getting the deal done, there is something they can do.
There is always a better offer… not necessarily more money or less money, but a better offer can be made. It might be better delivery terms, better payment terms like credit or down payment.
Always ask “Is this the best you can do?”
A good salesperson should have a few small incentives that won’t kill the profits, ready to offer the customer. If you were skillful in preparing the customer’s expectations than you should have these items planned ahead. Maybe you can rush the delivery, maybe you can promise to send your best installer, or other similar small concessions to build rapport.
This is a good rule in life as well as in negotiation. Ask questions and listen, let the other person talk.
The more you say the more likely you are to say something stupid. Don’t leak information. Don’t break the rules of negotiation.
Listen well and let the other person do more of the talking.
In life, as well as in negotiation, nothing is free. If they want something they must work for it or pay for it.
This may seem harsh and if you are on friendly terms with the other party you may be tempted to offer free incentives, but there are very practical reasons why you shouldn’t.
If you give someone a free gift that they haven’t worked for or paid for, it loses all value, and that new offer will be their new expectation. Any further negotiation will start at this discounted rate.
Furthermore, they will negotiate for additional gifts and discounts as well. So the free gift you gave away for a friend has left you in a worse position today, and a terrible position tomorrow.
Even if it’s just information or cooperation, don’t give free gifts. Let them offer something in return, even if it’s friendly or playful. If they are asking for something feel free to ask for referrals!
Be very careful not to give away your whole deal slice by slice.
Just like a log of salami that loses thin slices one at a time and ends up with nothing, you can do this to your deal if you are not careful.
Especially if you itemize your costs in too great detail for the other party. They will start to remove key components of the deal piece by piece, they will tell you this part is too expensive and that part is not necessary and what you are left with is an unattractive deal you may have trouble refusing.
Try to keep your itemized costs to yourself to avoid this, and don’t break this rule.
This is another rule that is good for life in general as well as negotiating.
Everyone walks away from a deal wondering if they could have or should have done better. When you second guess yourself and put unnecessary shame, blame and pressure on yourself. It can poison a deal, it can poison your whole day or week or month.
To avoid this, you have to be sure that you have done the required preparations and calculations diligently. Trust the process.
In negotiation you should be aware of three key things that will help you avoid regret:
a) Know all the details. What is your product or service worth? If you are about to make a concession, what is it going to cost you?
b) What is this product or service worth to the other person?
c) If you know A &B, what do you want in return for the exchange? Preferably of equal cost to them and equal value to you.
This will take patience and preparation and confidence.
To avoid rookie’s regret you have to ensure you are well prepared. You have to ensure you have followed the proper steps to the best of your ability. You have to be sure you know what your goals are, what your minimum is, what is beneficial, what is acceptable and what is not.
In short, you have to trust the process. If you have done your best, then you should be able to live with the results. Real regret comes in when you know you could have done better and you missed opportunities. But if you have done your best, in negotiation or in life, then you can have peace of mind and live with the results. No regret, only improvement.
You should be very suspicious if the other party changes the tempo of negotiation and wants to seal the deal unusually fast. This may seem like a very good thing, but it may mean they have noticed something you have overlooked. Take your time, double check and be careful.
After the deal, you may have the opportunity to be friendly with the other party… maybe over drinks or meals. No matter what, never reveal what your bottom line was. Never tell them how far you could have been pushed. Never tell them what you held back or what the true business value you have received.
Revealing this information puts you at a disadvantage for future deals. Furthermore, it can spoil the entire perception of the deal. Anything that you held back and successfully negotiated for is a loss for the other person, and it can change their attitude and your relationship. Keep your lips sealed.