I am typing this on my brand-new MacBook Air laptop on a flight to Houston, Texas. It weighs only two pounds! I went to the Apple store to get information about backing up my information on the Cloud, sort out an email issue, and learn more about iTunes. I left with a brand-new computer!? You see, the good folks at Apple are brilliant in how they sell. It’s selling without selling. They are always glad to see you. I never have an appointment, yet rarely do I wait more than ten minutes to have some bright young person help me. First, they serve you with a smile and solve your sticky and frustrating problems with great service, education, and a positive attitude. All the while, they build one-to-one relationships. They
the competition. Oh yes, and they have really cool stuff! Let’s be honest, Apple products are sexy, fast, and unique. Like a kid giving his money to the Popsicle-truck guy, and without missing a beat, I reached in my wallet and mechanically handed over my credit card when she asked me for it to swipe with her iPhone. I was suddenly $1,500 poorer and happy about it. I never knew what hit me. Steve Jobs was a genius. Trust, Relationship, Competence, and Timing are like four legs of a chair; all four must be in place to close the business.
I have been teaching other people how to sell for over 25 years. Few things are more rewarding than when a seminar attendee emails or calls me to say they applied the principles I shared and they closed 11 out of their last 13 proposals. It happens a lot. The credit goes to the person who takes the information and runs with it. I lay out a buffet, but they have to eat. Here are ten of my favorite dishes. All are good eating. We’ll call them “The 10 Commandments of Selling.”
1. The Hour of Power
Since 1988, I have devoured sales books by hundreds of authors and experts. I start my day by reading a book in alignment with my #1 Goal. It gives me inspiration, education, and ideas to get more business. Like a pond with a stream of fresh water, ideas flow in. Our Hour of Power needs to start with a book. Read sales books for 20 minutes first thing in the morning. Next, write our sales goal at the top of a piece of paper or our journal. “How much by when?” List five reasons why we want that goal. Think. Percolate. Ponder. Mull. Conceive. Feel. Visualize. Imagine. The last 20 minutes is invested in asking: “What are the six most vital actions we must take today to move us toward our goal?” Thirty days of The Hour of Power will transform our professional effectiveness and sales results. Ninety days will change our lives forever! If we improve one percent a day for 90 days, we will become twice as effective.
Set Small, Achievable Goals Each Day
How many phone calls, emails, or letters? Pick a number. I spoke to 400 sales professionals from AFLAC in Wisconsin. I asked the number-one producer the secret of his success. He paused for a moment and replied, “I make 40 calls a day, quack loudly every day, and offer my prospects a choice of yeses.” Activity, Pride, Options. If our boss tells us to make five calls a day, we make ten! That’s 50 a week, 200 a month, and 2,400 in a year. All that activity must pay off. The discipline and consistency is the key. Sales is both an Art and Science. Activity is the Science part of the equation.
3. Ask Delighted Clients for Two Names
The best source of new business is delighted past clients. Word of mouth. Referrals. Follow up with new clients three to six months into the relationship. Say, “Just calling to see if we met or exceeded your expectations.” If the answer is “no,” right the wrong. If the answer is “yes,” ask for two names. “Who are your best buddies in your industry? Who are your favorite peers? Would you be so kind as to introduce me to them?” A personal introduction face to face is best. Next best is a phone call, and last is an email introduction. We are piggybacking on the credibility and relationship. It’s a warm call. If they are happy with our product or service, I have found three out of four people will be happy to make the introduction. We must ask! “Unassertive sales people have skinny kids!”
Qualify, Qualify, Qualify
It does not matter what industry we are in (real estate, contracting, wireless communications, distribution, manufacturing, software), how well we qualify (and DIS-Qualify) our prospects will determine our success in selling. The best advice I received from a top producer 25 years ago was, “Spend time with people who can and will buy!” Are we dealing with the person who can sign the check? Is he or she the economic buyer? The harder they are to see, the easier they are to sell. Why? Because if the person you are dealing with has skin in the game, that person usually has the budget as well. The question to ask at the end of our meeting is: “If I could…, would you?” “If I could cut your turnover in half in the next six months, would you authorize an agreement this week?” Qualifying is a visceral feeling. I always knew whether I made a sale in that first visit. It’s in the body language, tone of voice, interest in you or your product or service, and the kinds of buying questions they ask. We need to plan our questions in advance, memorize the sequence. Start with “How did you get started in this business?” After that, dominate the listening.
Dominate the Listening
In the sales seminars I have conducted over the last twenty-five years, I am astonished how few truly great active listeners exist. Listening is like math. There are different levels of skill as we master algebra, geometry, calculus, and trigonometry. Most salespeople never get past geometry. Listen actively, pause for three to five seconds, question to clarify, and paraphrase what you hear. It’s simple, but not easy. Can we get people to talk for 20 to 30 minutes without them knowing they are doing all the talking? Are we hanging on their every word or simply and transparently waiting to talk or tell our story? That’s the test of our listening skills. It’s not about you! It’s about the prospect, their issues, their challenges, and their frustrations. We need to learn how to start a conversation. Study any detective from Sherlock Holmes to Robert Goren (
Law and Order-Criminal Intent
). As they ask open-ended questions, they are ever studying their suspect. They are looking for clues. We are all detectives. Ask and Listen. A good friend of mine is fond of saying, “I never miss an opportunity to shut up!”
Know when to stop talking. It’s easy to talk too long. Why? Ego, pride, or fear. Think twice and speak once (or not at all). Leave them wanting more.
Find out what they need and then help them get it!
Remember the Platinum Rule
The Golden Rule says, “Treat others the way YOU want to be treated.” My Platinum Rule says, “Treat (and communicate) with people the way THEY like to treated.” My son’s college basketball coach has become a good friend. He is a text guy. I don’t think I have ever called him on the phone and had him answer. When I text him, I get a text back in 30 seconds. People have a preference for auditory, kinesthetic, or visual communication. Auditory people like phone calls, kinesthetic folks like texting, and visual people like Skype and GoToMeeting. Surrender to the way THEY like to talk, not the way you like to. It matters. It’s about being OTHER-Centered vs. SELF-Centered.
7. Gain an Advance
An advance is “the next step” in the selling process. It could mean a second visit (this time with the board), a tour of their facility, a survey, or some indication that we are moving forward. Sometimes the prospect must tell us what is next. We might ask, “Where do we go from here?” We might prompt them with, “What is the next step for us?” Again, their body language, tone of voice, and level of involvement will tell us their degree of readiness. Say what you see: “I get a sense you are excited as I am about the possibility of working together.” They will agree and guide you to the advance.
Put Together a Solid Proposal
An agreement is a summary, not an exploration. It’s a paraphrase of what the prospect said to us and our conversation’s main points. It’s what we discussed and determined. It’s the objectives that matter most to the economic buyer and why they want them. Moreover, it’s what it will mean to the buyer and/or the organization. Methodologies, Approaches, Timelines, and a Choice of Yeses. I prefer three options. At the end, insert relevant attributable quotes from previous clients where it makes sense, or even a list of clients. When someone else blows your horn, it travels twice as far.
Ask for the Sale
Go through the agreement, making certain all the decision makers are in the room, on the line, or in your Skype/GoToMeeting. Trial Closes are always fun. “Did you want us to do this in the morning or afternoon? Will you be using a credit card or is a check better?” Say it with confidence. Expect a yes. If we have done everything we have discussed, we are in a great position to close this new business. I teach my clients to use “The Silent Pen” close. We simply put the agreement in front of our prospect, turn to the signatory page, slide a pen across the desk, smile, lean back, and remain silent. The first one to talk...loses. But in reality, we both win. Try it. It’s fun. Moreover, it works!
Go the Extra-VALUE Mile
I reserve the right to add more time and value. I recently conducted a one-hour keynote for one of the fastest growing wireless communication companies (think pink), an amazing group of superstar business-to-business sales professionals. I was scheduled to speak from 2:50 pm to 4:00 pm. I showed up at 7:30 that morning to listen to their internal speakers, observe their breakout sessions, and enjoy a fireside chat with the CEO (John Legere). I was there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching!” It allowed me to truly tailor my talk to their culture, language, and areas of expected growth. The frosting on the cake was when I surprised the audience by handing out 200 copies of my first book,
Freedom From Fear
. I never tire of standing ovations; they are good for the soul. I signed books for an hour afterward. I was invited to bowling and cocktails. At dinner, the CEO said to me, “You did a great job. There are some other areas I think we can use your services. Your talk was spot-on. Great job. I am going to read your book tonight and send you an email on my thoughts. Thanks again.” The vice president who hired me was beaming. It was the Extra-VALUE Mile Smile. What can you do to add value? What can you offer none of your competitors do? How can you delight your customers with more than they expected?
It really is true: we can have everything we want in life, if we only help enough other people get what they want, first. Make it a great day—unless you have other plans!
I love this new Mac. It is lightning fast and cool. Thanks, Steve Jobs. May you rest in peace.