Sales is a funny thing.
It is funny because some people love it and some people hate it.
I guess digging deeper, the reason it is funny is that at the end of the day… sales is really just communication.
The better you communicate, the more deals you close. Think about this… when you are talking to your spouse or a friend about going out to dinner you probably negotiate which place you want and then convince them your choices is best, right? So it might play out like this…
Spouse/Friend: I’m hungry.
You: Yeah, me too. Do you want to grab some food?
Spouse/Friend: Yeah, that would be great. Let’s do it.
You: What do you feel like… Italian, Sushi, Chinese, Greek?
Spouse/Friend: Uhm… I think Burgers or Sushi sound best to me. What do you think?
You: Oh yeah, Burgers sounds good and you know what, I recently had a meeting at Brewed and their burgers are AWESOME! I think we should go there. Sound good?
Spouse/Friend: You bet! Let’s do it.
You: Great. I’ll drive.
Yes, this sounds like a typical everyday conversation, but in this dialogue, you closed the deal, you negotiated, and you got someone else to buy into your ideas.
This was a sales conversation. You HELPED someone else come to a conclusion and decide to change their behaviors based on your conversation.
B2B (business to business) complex sales (or any kind of sales really) are no different. Well, except for one thing… your spouse or your friend, already trusts you. A new prospect does not because they do not have the history and background with you. Think about your spouse though. When you first met them would they have instantly trusted you if you were recommending something outrageous? Skydiving on the first date perhaps? Unless you and your date met in a skydiving group, chances are skydiving is not the best first date for most.
The same is true for business sales. If we use the dating analogy a bit more, your prospect is like a first date. You need to get to know each other and establish rapport before you can jump to… “hey, would you marry me?“. People are just not ready to move that quickly.
The way to build trust is through meetings and engagement over time, or a recommendation from a trusted person in their inner circle can instantly shortcircuit or leapfrog you into a potential to close much quicker.
The problem with most business owners is… they do not want to be salespeople, and so they never get good at sales or work to understand sales. This causes weak revenue and sometimes desperation. Desperation happens when salespeople don’t have enough people to talk to or leads in the pipeline. In this state of desperation, they want to close a deal as soon as they see any opportunity at all.
Let me give you an example.
Yesterday I was in an accountability group meeting. I’ve been in this group for a few months now. There is someone who attends and never shares or asks any questions. In the meeting yesterday someone mentioned… “I feel like I need help marketing my company“. This person who never engages, quickly jumped in saying… “Hi, Sally (not the real name). I would love to help you with your marketing. I am going through XYZ marketing course where I am learning SEO and other marketing tactics. I think I could really help you.”
You see if you connect this to the dating analogy this is what happened. Someone said… “Boy, I am tired of being alone. I look forward to being in a supportive loving relationship.” And what this person HEARD was… “I am in need of someone to marry.“. And what they THOUGHT to themselves was… “hey I am available and I want to be married too.” So what did they do once they think this? They blurt out… “Hey, I want to get married too. I have been watching TLC programming on relationships and dating shows, you know like Sister Wives, 17 Kids and Counting, and The Bachelor. Would you like to get married?” What happens? The person gets scared is a bit freaked out, feels threatened, and then throws up their defenses and a big wall to block everything the salesperson says.
The problem is, what inexperienced salespeople do is… listen for “buzz words” related to their area of expertise and then they pounce and try to start closing the deal. In the sales training world, this is what we call “Happy Ears”. Happy Ears means you get excited and flip a switch to go into sales mode as soon as you hear your “buzz words” or “trigger words” to start selling.
This is not a back and forth communication, is it? No, of course not.
A better approach would be finding a way to connect with this person, passively and in a non-salesy way.
Again, the reason people hate salespeople is that they are very self-focused and aggressive at closing the deal.
How could this have gone down different and in a more natural, friendly, communication style? What if the person said… “Hey Sally, I don’t speak up much in the group, but I was wondering what kind of marketing problems are you having?” Notice how this is a qualifying question? You see just because she has a marketing problem and you are a marketer, does not mean you can help her. She may need marketing help in areas you are not an expert. This question is also an open-ended question. Why is this important? Well, because now you are inviting her into a conversation about HER, not about YOU. This makes it easy for her to talk about herself and her problems.
Through a friendly conversation, you can continue to learn more about her problem and evaluate if you CAN HELP her.
Instead of selling what you do and your resume or background, you can give advice to build rapport. If her problems align with areas you excel, you could say… “Sally, you mentioned you were having problems getting enough clients, what kind of website do you have? Do you have a blog? Has anyone showed you how to optimize your website for search engines? What I mean is has anyone ever shown you how to do some basic things to help your website rank in Google so people can find your website?” Keep in mind you need to let her respond and you need to take your time instead of firing off multiple questions back-to-back as in this example.
By going into the sales call with a mindset of disqualifying people first you do not waste your time or theirs.
By starting a conversation based on giving advice or tips with no expectation of anything or closing the deal you come across as knowledgeable and helpful. These are characteristics that are very appealing to people and you instantly went from being unknown to a trusted advisor without ever having this person put up a wall of fear of you being a crazy stalker trying to sell you something with no relationship.
This seems like it would take longer to get business deals, but to be honest if you are scaring too many people away with your heavyhanded sales approach, this strategy could be faster than you think. The other thing is instead of you thinking you have to become a “salesperson” or go into “sale mode” you get to just be you and have fun friendly conversations. Doesn’t that feel better for everyone?
Now, this takes some practice and it doesn’t happen overnight because you already have a lifetime of bad habits that set you up with Happy Ears. You need to work on catching yourself when you get happy ears and then try to edit behaviors. This takes time to work on and you will make plenty of mistakes, however, if you are serious about growing your business, sales is the key to bringing on new customers.
Here is another article that other readers enjoyed – You Know You’re Good At Sales When…
Get out there and start having some friendly conversations to build your reputation as someone that is helpful, unselfish, and a thought leader in your area of expertise. The sales will come.
“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziggler