For you regulars to this blog, I want to remind you that this is "101," and if you absorb and practice the advice offered, it won't be long before you are good sales executives, which, generally speaking, will place you among the vast majority of average sellers. If that doesn't sound like much of a big deal, you have to start somewhere. The title of the blog site, "greatsellersgotoheaven.com" implies bigger aspirations for you. I have, and will continue to share with you my observations, garnered over a lifetime of running companies, about the characteristics, habits and values that are commonly shared by uncommon or extraordinary sales executives. To become extraordinary takes some field work as well as classroom time, and so "101" is intended to help you stay in the game long enough to get the field work in.
In our two previous "Art of Selling" posts we talked about getting and conducting the first "Tell Me" meeting, step one in the Consultative Sales approach. In a nut shell, that selling strategy has you as the interviewer seeking out what the buyer can tell you all about his business, market, competitors, resources, etc., as well as the most profound obstacles to the growth of his business. Once you have agreement on that, you and the buyer "contract" that you will ponder your notes, and try to find solutions to his hurdles. Once accomplished, the two of you will visit again for you to present your findings. (Read that: for you to sell him the solution.)
In the next visit you 1) re-state the prior agreement: "Mr. Jones, in our last meeting we agreed that the most significant hurdle to growing your business is blah blah blah;" 2) present your research findings on his "problem;" 3) offer your proposal to grasp the opportunity as well as the case histories to support your proposition and then take him through the investment and the return you believe it will provide (ROI). And then you...
If you do, one of two things will happen. First, he may swipe the contract out of your hand, sign it, grab you by the shoulders and pull you in for a big hug, and with tears of gratitude in his eyes, plant a kiss on your cheek. Or two, he may tell you one to seventeen hundred reasons why that sale will never happen. (I'd short number one.)
What you need to do next, when number "2" arrives, will not be a natural reaction. The natural reactions would be to beg or attack. The begging will ultimately humiliate you, and the attack will make you feel better for only a very short while but will subsequently take up a lot of your time at the unemployment office.
What you do next is EMPATHIZE.
Let's posit that his negative response (objection) is the cost of the program. You respond after locking your sympathetic eyes on him, "Mr. Jones, I certainly understand how concerned you are about increasing what you see as operating costs, especially now, when revenues have slowed."
"I understand," "I know how you feel," "I wish I had a dollar for every smart businessman I've met who expressed the same concern," "I would feel exactly as you do in the same circumstances," and on and on. These are all expressions of empathy.
And EMPATHY must be the first communication in response to the objection. And by the way, the fact that you are on automatic pilot in your response, does not imply that his concern (objection) is not worthy of your true empathy. After all, this guy is worried about meeting payroll and you are suggesting he spend more money.
After empathy comes COMFORT and it starts with the word "BUT." "I understand how you feel Mr. Jones. Many of my customers have faced the same situation. Business is slow, how can I risk investing? (Use that word – it moves from "cost," a purely negative thought to a word with some reason for optimism.) "But Mr. Jones, what others have found, and what I believe we must acknowledge, is that the greater risk is paralysis in a down market. That too often brings out the "For Sale" sign. The proposal I have crafted for you carefully targets your opportunity and drills home to your potential customers that you are the solution to their problem. Your risk in investment is far outweighed by the potential for success. Agreed?
SHUT UP AND WAIT FOR THE NEXT OBJECTION.
Let's posit that the next objection is along this line: "Well Bob, your thoughts certainly make some sense but I just can't bring myself to come up with that large a commitment." And you say...
"I understand how daunting that kind of a commitment can be Mr. Jones. (EMPATHY) I'm hearing you say that the investment amount, rather that the approach itself, is worrying. So let's do this. (BUT) Let's commit to a week on, week off program. I'll compress the schedule so that we'll message intensely a few days of the week, which will magnify the effect of each message, and carefully choose alternating days of the week to insure maximum reach. The effect will be 1) that you still get to tell your story to a great number of people; 2) you've lowered your investment risk by 50% and we will be able to build on the program after you see that it returns along the lines I've suggested. OK?"
You haven't asked so I'll tell you. After a trial close ("OK?" is a trial close), the adage is "first one who speaks loses." Really what you are looking for is the buyer to fully express all of his objections so that you can deal with them. If you do all the blabbing, you get to hear the wonderful sound of your voice, but you don't get the business.
Now I have an offer you can't refuse. We could go on and on about the basic art of selling techniques that will get you in the game. But I'd rather we take a shot at making you great. There are hundreds of "How To" sell books at your favorite FOX BOOKS outlet. (And these are all good for the average seller). So I'm going to do my best to get back to the basic raison d'etre of this blog and get you into heaven. But, if you email me questions about "101," and please do so without any embarrassment, I'll be happy to try to answer as quickly as I can via a personal email.
Because, that's why.
Bob Sherman has 40 years experience managing relationships between media companies and advertisers in old and new media from radio, cable and TV to the Internet, and from sales executive to chief executive and from the biggest media corporations to his own entrepreneurial companies. He is currently in partnership with Pilot Group, LLC. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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