If you want to be successful in life you need to know how to
sell. Some of you want to sell your ‘stuff’ and others want to sell their ideas
in order to influence others.
No matter what you’re selling nobody is buying until they
believe that it is something they want or perceive they need. And, the fastest
way (I’d say the only way) to bring those needs and wants out into the open is
to ask questions.
The greatest value you bring to a prospect or customer interaction is knowing what questions to ask.
Please remember that the next time you’re tempted to start
telling instead of asking.
My friend Stephen is a little – well – different. He's had something like a dozen or more near death experiences starting when he was four-years-old. We met about nine years ago when I called his tree service and landscaping company. I picked him out of the phone book as I was new to the area and was in a hurry to find someone. Truth is I called three companies of which two showed up to give me a proposal. Stephen wasn't the cheapest but I had a feeling he would be the best. The rest is history. I became his client and later he became mine. Along the way we became good friends.
Since he's had so many near death experiences Stephen seems to have lost all fear of things like what might happen if you go swimming in a lake in a thunder storm. He's already been struck by lightning twice (not in the lake) but he actually does swim in his own lake during storms. He's invited me to join him as he says it is quite invigorating. Sadly, I always had a root canal scheduled during the same time as his invitations.
As you probably know, I enjoy playing with video. So, about once a month I visit Stephen at his absolutely beautiful 37 acre farm about 20 minutes away and I shoot some video of him for posting on YouTube. A few years back he decided to write a book about his past experiences. He now has two books out and he does quite a bit of speaking. He has a beautiful message once you strip out some of the fringe science. At least that's my opinion.
Last week he asked me if I could video him outdoors at dusk when it was pretty dark in order to use the dark woods behind as a metaphor for the darkness than can affect our lives. I said, "Why not give it a try."
I arrived about 7:30pm and set up a camera and tripod outdoors in front of some trees. While I was setting up Stephen started telling me about an idea he had to include a live baby squirrel in the video. He's been into wanting to use props lately.
Stephen's company removes hundreds of large dead trees a year. And, very often they find a nest of squirrels with babies in the tree. I doubt too many tree surgeons bring home baby squirrels who have to be fed every two hours 24×7 for weeks by hand but that's what my friends do. Or, I should say that is what Stephen's wife, Kathy does. It seems like she always has a house full of baby animals that need care and she takes them all in. And, right at this moment they have a litter that Kathy has been nursing along for weeks.
Stephen told me thought it would be a great idea to put the squirrel in the front pocket of his cargo shorts and then at the end of the video he'd reach in, pull out the squirrel and make some point about the mystery of life. He asked me what I thought about the idea. My first response was the title of this post. But, I know better than to try and dissuade him from anything he's set on doing. And, honestly, there was a bad little devil sitting on my shoulder saying, "Oh this is going to be too good to miss! Let him go"
Right after this discussion, Kathy showed up on her way out to a meeting. She stopped and asked me if I had been told about the live squirrel prop yet. We both were grinning madly at each other as we contemplated the possibilities of what could go wrong. Kathy said she had already warned Stephen that the squirrels were getting quite large and almost ready to be released and that they were not the tamest at this point. In fact, I think she said they were getting nasty. You'd think that would be enough to stop most people but not someone who has been struck by lightning twice.
Kathy waved goodbye and Stephen headed off to change into his cargo shorts and put the squirrel into his pants.
Meanwhile, I waited and talked to Stephen's youngest son. We discussed the squirrel idea and he was smiling from ear-to-ear. He definitely wanted to be there for the video. A few minutes after Stephen had gone into what he calls his shack to change, his oldest son pulled into the farm and saw me talking to his brother. After saying hello he asked if we knew where his dad was at the moment.
"He's in the shack putting a squirrel in the pocket of his cargo shorts." I said. He didn't even raise an eyebrow. Instead he headed for the shack. About 3 minutes later out same the oldest son and he was carrying a cage like you'd use to transport a cat to the vet. Or, a squirrel back to the house.
"What's up?" we asked. "Dad got bit by the squirrel – twice." came the reply. My first thought was I hope he's okay. But, my second thought was "I can't believe I missed videoing it." I know. Not nice. But, you would have thought the same thing.
Then his other son asked, "Where did he get bit?" The possibilities were frightening when you think about putting a squirrel in your pants.
Turns out the little critter nailed him twice on his hand as he was trying to insert him into his pants. When Stephen reappeared, he actually seemed saddened by the fact he wasn't able to get it in his pocket. I think I managed to stifle myself as he described what happened.
Now, I tell you this story for a couple of reasons.
One, I hope it puts a smile on your face.
And, two, Kathy called me today as she and Stephen were in the car. We talked about the squirrel adventure and she ended the conversation with a statement that is worth repeating and remembering.
She said, "I've always told my children you can learn things one of two ways. The first way is to learn from other people who know what they are doing.
The other way is the hard way – which is how your father likes to learn."
And, then we both giggled as I heard Stephen laughing in the background.
Here's how a new rock singer is using a team that thinks outside the box to create her marketing. Using hand-drawn, animated, video from the brain of Martin Whitmore, Megan Elizabeth Morris, and Paul Durban is one way how Emii is capturing minds eyes, ears and minds.
All these creative people know that it's getting more and more difficult to get the attention you want. You have to educate and entertain your prospects – your audience – in order to engage them and get their permission to come back with more.
The doorbell rang around 10 o'clock this morning. I wasn't expecting anyone so I was surprised to see a young man wearing a tie and dressed for success.
I opened the door and he said hello and immediately told me his name is Ryan and the name of his company. I was gobsmacked as my friend Tim might say. Not only because he was engaging in cold calling by knocking on doors but because of what he was selling.
He was trying to sell investment services door to door!
Ryan's company is a nationally branded, full-service, financial investment firm. I checked them out on the web after he left. He was very polite and tried to establish some kind of rapport in the first 15 seconds by asking me questions about myself and mentioning he grew up in the area. Then he pulled out a flier, pointed to 4 types of services and asked me which ones I'm concerned with today. As you might guess, the interview didn't last too long.
It was obvious that he is new to sales and is probably in some kind of training program. I hope he didn't pay for his training because whoever told him to go door-knock to sell financial services is doing the young man a great disservice. There are at least a dozen other things he could and should be doing instead of cold calling. And, since his rate of rejection is going to be sky-high using this technique he might give up and think he's not cut out to do this job.
That's not the case. In the few minutes I spent with Ryan, I was impressed with the young man. I also saw myself 35 years ago being taught how to do the same style of sales. However, in 1995 Amazon was created and e-commerce took off. People now have all the choices in the world of what they buy and from whom they buy. And they don't choose their financial advisers from strangers who knock at their doors.
What worked 15, 25 and 35 years ago in sales does not work anymore. I heard Ryan go to a neighbor's house and begin the exact same pitch when they came to the door. I ran upstairs to my office and grabbed a copy of Listen First – Sell Later. When I came outside to look for him I heard him three doors away. I waited while he finished his spiel and the door was closed and then I called to him and gave him the book.
You can give a copy to anyone you know who could use some help in sales. It's free to download. It might save someone you know from all that cold calling rejection.
Walt knows how to run a bar and restaurant and he knows how to deliver extraordinary customer service. He also knows it is a lot easier and less costly to keep the customers you have than it is to find new ones. He makes it a practice to give his customers a drink on the house on a regular basis. They appreciate it and they keep coming back. They also tell their friends about Walt's Place.
What about you and your customers? Do you make it a habit it give them one on the house to let them know you appreciate them and their business? Or, do you nickle and dime them for everything you can get?
People want to feel like they are appreciated.
People prefer to buy from people and not companies when possible.
Lots of people have made the decision to become self-employed. Some even decided it themselves without an ex-employer helping. I have the opportunity to talk with people in this group everyday about their challenges and the number one seems to be selling. By selling, I mean fear of selling, don’t know how to sell, and wish they didn’t have to sell.
As a group they are extremely bright, educated, and talented. Many of them awe me with their abilities and passion. However, almost all of them tell me they need help in selling. Some say they need marketing help but they can get a lot of marketing help from these days without looking too far. So even those people are usually referring to sales.
Why is it so hard for them? Selling means actually asking for money because unless you’re bartering poultry or beans you’re going to need money to stay in business. And, asking strangers for money is fearful and often starts a process in our head which in turn causes some or all of the following.
Our mouths freeze up while weird sounds emanate from our throat
We begin babbling and talking incessantly about ourselves and our products and what we can do for the customer.
We wonder what ever possessed to think that our services or products are worth that kind of money.
If the customer questions the price, we blurt out “I can make you a better offer.”
We have no idea what to say when someone says, “I’ll get back to you and let you know after I discuss it with my spouse, accountant or Reiki master.
Here are five-steps that if you follow should help you increase your number of sales with much less stress. In fact, you might even start enjoying the process.
Connect – it starts with the relationship. People buy from people. And, they more they trust and like you the more likely is that they will do business with you. If you don’t take the time to establish the trust and for them to genuinely like you, then you are already at Failure Level Three with Level Five being “Forgedaboudit”
Focus – You want to focus on what is important to your customer. And, guess what, it isn’t you, your company, your products, services, or the size of your office. It’s not about you. It’s about the customer. Put your focus on them and what they need and want. What problems do they have that need solved? What’s keeping them awake at night? What value and meaning can you provide? And, guess what? It might not be what you’re selling. Maybe what they need is to be connected to someone who can solve their problem. Maybe that isn’t you – this time. But, if you focus on them and not on yourself then you will find yourself making just the right recommendations. Now the trust level really goes up and you’re not a vendor. You’ve just become a trusted adviser.
Ask – This may seem like common sense but it isn’t that common. By ask I mean you will want to ask questions that will elicit the type of information you need in order to provide the kind of value and meaning for the client. These are almost always open-ended questions that begin with who, what, when, where, how, and why. Pretend you’re a journalist and you’re searching for answers.
Listen – Goes hand in hand with asking but you must really listen with your entire being. Don’t listen with one ear while your brain is thinking about how you can sell something. Listen and ask more questions. You should be listening at least 80% of the time which is about 100% different from what most of you usually do.
Reassure – Even when someone trusts you and believes that the solution you’ve recommended adds value or solves their problem they almost always need a little reassurance that they are doing the right thing. This is where you need to be a storyteller. And, if you’re a good teller of stories you will seldom have to worry about the dreaded “Let me check with…and I’ll get back to you.” Tell them a story about someone just like them who had the same need or problem to solve. Tell them how you solved it or how it was solved. Reassure them you will make sure they get what they need and want. Guarantee it. Hold their hand. Take care of the details for them. Ask them if you can do business together. And, make sure you do the next step.
Follow-up – I wrote yesterday about having the courage to handle the truth. You must follow-up and ask if the customer did indeed get what they paid for. In fact, you want them to feel like they got more than what they paid for because then they will buy again from you. And, they will be willing to tell others about you and help you build your business. They will become part of your sales force.
I could write a book about all of this – actually I did. And, I often spend 3-5 intensive days with people who want to become more proficient in selling. But, I think if you take the time focus on these six-steps you’ll find the process easier and more profitable.
And, as always, feel free to ask questions in the comments or in a direct email to me at [email protected]
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Seth Godin again today to discuss one of our favorite topics – The Role of the Story in Sales and Marketing. After we finished, I realized that stories and storytelling have a role in our entire lives. It is part of our DNA
I hope you enjoy our discussion and our story about stories. The podcast is about 30 minutes long.
When I first started in sales working for someone other than myself, it was with 3M Company and I started out by selling copiers in an impoverished county in Western PA. Most of the industry in the county, which was comprised of steel making and all of the supporting companies, had shut down or were almost closed when I moved there. It was not considered to be a prime territory. Nobody wanted it or had worked it for a good while.
I was determined to work for a large company since I had just spent 7 years working for myself and I wanted to see how a Fortune 500 company operated. I didn’t know what was the right way to do anything so I listened to my sales manager and did exactly what he said. I knew what I didn’t know and I set a goal to learn all I could. And, then I could use my creativity.
My manager gave me a stack of D&B cards on all the local businesses and told me to start at ‘A’ and start setting appointments to tell them about our latest copier. One of the first persons I called was the president of a large local company that was involved in construction, strip mining, and few other things not all of which were necessarily kosher. His first name was Carmen.
When I told my manager I had an appointment and had actually talked to this man he started laughing and asked me to tell him how that phone call went. I told him I asked for Carmen and I got put through to him. Carmen didn’t quite know the company I was with until I used 3M’s full name of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing. Upon later review I think he thought I wanted to talk mining.
My manager and I both went on – this – my first appointment. About 15 minutes into the meeting, Carmen realized I wasn’t talking mining and instead wanted to talk about selling them copiers. At that point he said I needed to really see Joe his office manager who made all those decisions. So, I did just as my manager had taught me and asked Carmen if he’d mind introducing me to Joe. Carmen laughed and said, “No, c’mon with me.”
We went to Joe’s office where Carmen said, “Joe, I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Bob Poole. He wants to sell us some copiers. Take good care of him.” Joe bought a copier that day and several more for other locations over the next few months. He also referred me to other friends that did business with Carmen and they all bought copiers.
Over the next couple of years I broke all the sales records for the company. I made what was pretty good money and I won some great contests including my first trip to Las Vegas and another to the Winter Olympics.
Here’s what I’d like you to take away from this story.
Sales creates a lot of cognitive dissonance for many people. For many it is so far outside their area of comfort that just the idea of selling leaves them cold and wanting to do anything else but sell. Often they turn to marketing ideas hoping they don’t ever have to actually sell. They think (wrongly) that marketing will eliminate the need for sales.
I was successful at 3M because I first listened to someone who had experience and wanted me to succeed. Then after learning his way, I learned what I personally could and couldn’t do. I couldn’t use manipulation which lots of sales books still teach. They won’t call it manipulation but they teach techniques which feel that way. And, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – you get the idea.
I read books with titles like 101 Ways to Close the Sale and found it all a bunch of BS. Selling is like dating. Sometimes you hit it off right away and go on to have a wonderful relationship. Other times you know that no matter what you do it isn’t going to work. Those two things happen about 10% of the time for each one. That means that most selling takes place in the big gray 80% area in the middle. Just like dating.
Many daters give up after having unsuccessful experiences. (If it weren’t for the human sex drive I’m sure more would.) One of the primary reasons they give up is because of the fear of rejection. “If I never ask – they can’t say no to me.” It’s the exact same fear that causes a lot of the bad gut reaction you have to selling.
When you don’t know what you’re doing and you want to be successful at that particular thing I suggest you find someone who has already been there and done it SUCCESSFULLY and then listen to them. Look for someone who can and will tell you exactly how to do it. If you’re not selling as well as you’d like (or maybe you’re actually starving and thinking of giving up and going back to work doing what you hate) then find a mentor, coach or author who will give you actual “How To” advice. You need to start with step one and work your way through a process.
And, here’s the most important part for you to remember. If the process, the tactics, the system conflicts with your values – you will fail. You won’t do it. Or, if you try, you’ll end up so stressed you’ll still fail and then you’ll convince yourself selling is something you’ll never do again.
So, if your gut says ‘no’ listen to it and find another teacher or book. And, don’t hesitate to ask me for help. I want you to succeed.
Learn How to Recognize and Sell to the Four Personality Types