I’ve done a lot of sales over the last 16 years. I was bad at the beginning, but step by step have learnt how to sell.
There are always 3 big questions in the mind of any buyer that you must be able to address if you are to move forward with a contract.
The 3 Big Questions in the mind of the Buyer:
Why buy Anything?
Why buy from you?
Why buy now?
Often I see salespeople and entrepreneurs have wonderful, powerful, clear answers and evidence for questions 1 and 2… but the buyer says “I agree the product is good, I agree you are a solid company… call me back in 2-3 months when we have got through this busy period…”
This response is worse than a simple No. A simple No, you close the opportunity and you move on.
PS As of last night… I’ve updated my channel graphical look. I’d welcome your thoughts on the new look Rhetorical Journey Channel page. If you’re not already a subscriber to the youtube channel… What are you waiting for? Seriously… people pay me good money to talk and here you get me for free and in your comfy home.
How to Improve your Sales Process (4 Personal Habits to Develop)
My best blog posts have always come from interactions with readers… comments, questions via email, twitter, facebook… I’d love your help to think about ideas for future videos. What questions do you have? What topics should I cover? What lessons should I share by video? I read all the comments 😉
One of the hardest parts of leadership is getting people around you to take action. It is easy to get people to agree generally that things could be better, it is a vastly different conversation to look them each in the eyes and ask that they tell you directly how they will be taking action in their areas. I have opinions on refugees, politics, border controls, the need for hard work, the ways to educate children… but I don’t often follow these opinions up with clear action.
We (that is: we socially adapted human beings) are pretty poor when it comes to asking for commitment from others. In polite society it is considered rude to hold the attention on a person after they have given a vague answer and then ask them to clarify exactly what their commitment is. If you are the friend who does this, you might find that you are invited to less barbecues.
In leadership, it is the most important thing.
Leadership requires that you both share your vision in a way that people around you see why effort is required, and then that you look them in the eyes and make it clear that you now expect clear action from them… or there will be consequences.
The commitment process is not a natural human process – we instinctively shy away from forcing the other to say that they are making a formal commitment. Unfortunately, this means many conversations end with no commitments at all.
It happens with friends – I often realise that I have assumptions about how the washing and cleaning will be shared with others when we share a holiday house… but it is I who have failed to be absolutely clear with the others about my expectations.
It happens at work – a colleague and myself discuss a new article that we can co-write over a coffee and are both excited by the project. A month later and no words have been written… I had assumed he would be structuring the first draft, and he was waiting for me to share a first attempt.
As I return from 2 months away from formal work and away from my home city, one of the reflections I have is that I have a wonderful ability to get frustrated when others don’t do things that I expected them to do… but the closer I look at my own responsibility I realise that I don’t do a great job of articulating what it is that I expect.
So, 2 aims for myself:
When I notice that a feeling of frustration is growing in me because of the behaviour of another, ask myself if I have done my best to explain why and what my expectation is. (Usual answer: No).
Stop getting frustrated at other people.
A final story that came to my mind as I finish this post…
The Inevitable Outcome of the Dog and the Rugby Ball
2 days ago I was at a barbecue hosted by my good friends Florian and Rose.
They were “babysitting” a one year old dog, a rottweiler called Nike. She was a good dog who loved being at the center of the action. Another of the guests mentioned that they loved rugby… and I happened to have a rugby ball in the back of my car.
We took out the ball and passed it back and forth… suffice to say, within 5 minutes the ball had been burst by a big bite from Nike the dog.
My first reaction was annoyance… but in less than a second the thought came to my head “what type of idiot takes a rugby ball out of his car when an excited dog with a big mouth is at the barbecue!”. If I didn’t want the ball burst, I should have left it in the car. If I wanted to be frustrated about a burst ball – then throw it around with a rottweiler chasing it.
There was no possible good end to this particular game of rugby…
How often do I get into situations where there is no good end to the “game”?
Over the last 10 years I have increasingly moved from product businesses towards a services business.
In the world of private jets we had simple rules: if the trip is not paid, the plane doesn’t leave. It was policy, not decision.
In the world of coaching leaders to build cultures of disciplined high performance, there is often a wide grey area between free discussion and paid consulting. I find it very difficult to mark that line clearly. I love talking about psychology and high performance and getting the best out of people. I am interested.
My landlord only accepts money for rent. Not good intention. So I have to do the same myself.
6 Steps to Stop Being “Free”
Be clear on the results you can help them achieve – Can you explain what success looks like in a clear, concise, specific and compelling way? in language that your target customers can really understand?
Show testimonials, examples, logos of past successes – capture testimonials and make them as specific as possilble
Find common passions or interests (liking) – build relationships that are broader than pure business
Respect yourself – know where you draw your line (Let the prospective client know that you are the most capable, dedicated and solution-oriented consultant they will find and that you normally charge X-amount for your time.)
Blog, write, speak, publish – direct your potential client there rather than give custom answers – thought leadership is free, customising the advice for a specific person and access to you should be expensive
Ask for the sale – Make yourself a product, set clear prices – and ask for the sale. “Look, I think you value my advice – lets set up a 6 month deal – two meetings per month for €XX”
More on the fine line between free and paid consulting
I teach communication skills. I help entrepreneurs deal with leadership challenges. I find it hard to effectively manage the gap between free advice and paid consulting.
“Would you listen to my speech?”
or “Can we meet for a coffee, I have an important meeting coming up?”
I find it hard to do the “American Lawyer” mode – bring a clock and start timing the conversation as soon as I talk about communications.
I like the little conversations, but I am conflicted about how to set some limits.
How do you set limits on your service?
Are you a coach – how do you distinguish between “free advice to friends” and “professional services”? How do you have the conversation when someone assumes that they should get your help for free (and you’re not so sure)?
…And The Overly Complicated Sales Cycle
The other area that I have challenges is keeping the sales process under control.
I have a Swiss client that calls me, says they need a specific date, signs the contract and pays. Minimal admin. Zero hassle.
I had a Spanish client that asked me to come back and explain my services 11 times before signing the contract. I would not have done the 2nd meeting if I had known that there were 9 more to come.
There are 3 objections that must be overcome to get somebody to buy:
1. why buy anything
2. why buy from me
3. why buy now
Why buy anything?
The first objection is showing that not taking action is not a viable option. The problem must be made explicit and brought to the full attention of the man with the money.
Why buy from me?
So, pain is clear. I want a cure. Now, I need to know that you truly understand my situation and that your motives as a salesman are about helping me, not helping yourself to the commission.
Why buy now?
My MacBook Pro has been dying for the last 2 years. It has been getting slower and slower and ssssllllllooooowwwwweeeeerrrrr… In fact I need to watch someone else use my laptop to realize how truly clunky the machine has become. In all this time I have had many moments where I knew I needed to take action… But I didn’t. Until now. My battery has less than 10 minutes of autonomy. I bought a new MacBook Pro this week.
Why did I wait so long? It is normal. We don’t act until we have to. We will not buy until we have to. As a salesman I have seen this so many times. My potential client has a problem. We have a decent relationship. We have a proposal on the table. It looks good. But no signature. “After the summer”, “when everybody gets back”, “we have an urgent priority at the moment”…
It is only when the battery dies that I replace my slowly dying computer.
Sales is not about describing your product, your process or your friends. It is about explaining to the buyer a problem that they have, and giving them a glimpse of a world where that problem has gone away.
What would it feel like to live in a world where that problem has gone away? What would it feel like to have your boss think you are a top performer? What would it feel like to have your kids proud of you? What would it feel like to see your body looking fit? What would it feel like to take your t-shirt off at the beach with pride?
What is your painful problem to solve?
By the way, you don’t get to talk to someone about their problem until you have a relationship of trust with that person. You can’t just dive in and say “we’ll make your pain go away!”. You have to begin a relationship of trust.
The best first step? Generosity. What can you give this person that they need? Often, it is your undivided, non-judgemental listening to what they have to say. Make them feel like they truly exist for you.
Rory Sutherland tells some wonderful stories about the power of framing. If you want to be persuasive, you must get good at framing the argument. Good framing shifts the argument to a playing field where you can achieve your ends and the other can feel that they have gotten a good deal.
Prices are not expensive or inexpensive in abstract, only in relative terms. If I say that “this watch costs €100” – I have allowed you to frame your perspective on expensive or cheap. If I say “other watches in this very category sell for over €1,000; this watch costs €100” – I have started to provide my own framing for the situation.
Compared to what?
Rory talks about small shifts in framing have a powerful impact. He gives the example from car sales that it is far better to give a rebate of €3000 on top of trade in valuation versus giving €3000 off the full purchase price. The framing of a trade-in price of €7000 plus €3000 is much more impactful than offering €3000 reduction on the full price of €22,000. It is the same €3000 in cash, but it is not the same €3000 from a psychological point of view.
This framing also works for selling expensive cars at plane and boat shows – context shifts way we see the price. A €300,000 car seems expensive when seen in a showroom of €50,000 cars… but it feels more reasonable when placed next to €1.2M boats or €6M private jets.
I came across this paragraph in a blog post by sales professional Grant Cardone.
“No one buys a $57,000 watch to tell time. People buy things to solve problems. The cost of the item isn’t what matters. Once the buyer is able to see the problem the product solves, their decision becomes much easier to resolve. Get to the “why” and the sale will follow.” Grant Cardone (original article at Entrepreneur magazine)
How do you get someone to buy something that they do not need?
Just as nobody really buys a $57,000 watch to solve the problem of “what time is it”, nobody does an expensive MBA just because they want to know more about business. Nobody hires an expensive consultant just because they need to finish a simple project. Nobody hires an expensive coach just because they need help with discipline.
Cheap watches tell the time. Cheap MBAs teach you about business. Cheap consultants can get projects finished. Cheap coaches can help you with discipline.
A casio watch can be bought for €2.99. It tells the time as well as the $57,000 watch. Why are they different? The casio watch has 8 functions. The $57,000 watch tells the time, and the date. The casio watch allows me to change the time. The $57,000 watch requires a trained technician to move the clock forward an hour.
Why does someone pay the $56,997.01 difference (and get less functionality)?
There is something else we are buying when we buy.
“Bread and Water. Everything else is marketing.” Tony Anagor
I did an interview with Tony Anagor, one of the coaches who works with my Leadership Communications courses at IESE Business School. Tony said “Bread and water. Everything else is marketing.”
What did he mean?
Once I have food and shelter, I can survive. I don’t need anything else to survive. I want other things, but I don’t need them.
If I say “I need friends, I would die without my friends”: it is not literally true. I want friends. They make my life worth living. They add to my life. They are not needs in the way of food and shelter. I wouldn’t value highly a lonely life, without friends.
If I say “I need an iPad. All of my friends have an iPad.”: not true. I really, really want an iPad. However, the reason that I want it is the important thing for a salesman to find. Why do I so need an iPad?
I want it because it might remove the anguish of feeling left out. I want it because it might give me a sense of importance in having an “in-demand” item. I want it because I like playing with new technology. I want it because my friends are playing some online game and I am less connected because I am not involved.