Old sales techniques die-hard

This past summer I was shopping for a new car. The sales rep we had was friendly helpful and treated us with respect, until after the test drive.

Here is how the conversation went:

Salesman: You know, that’s a really popular car you are looking at. I sold 50 of them last year.

This steel grey one you like is hot. I have two green ones in the back but I know you don’t like green. I can guarantee that if you don’t put a deposit on this last grey one today. This car won’t be here Monday.

Francis: Excuse me, are you using the “impending doom close” on me? (I was so shocked at what he was doing I couldn’t resist this comeback).

Salesman: Excuse me?

Francis: You know, the “impending doom close”. It’s the closing tactic where you tell me that if I don’t take action today, there is a risk that the opportunity it will not be available tomorrow. Tell me, is the factory never going to make a grey car again?

Why didn’t we buy from this salesman? Because the sales techniques he used were so old I fell off my dinosaur (to quote my year-old niece) and they liked tricks. We were not at the dealership eager to be manipulated or forced into buying.

As a general rule, I find that if you are using a sales technique with a cute, or fancy name, or any technique that has been prominently featured in movies such as Tin Men, Tommy Boy, Glengarry Glenross or the Boiler Room you need to stop using it immediately. Do you actually think at these movies are modeled after good sales behavior? What would be the fun in that? Chances are your prospect has seen these tricks before, may have used them themselves, and most likely has an effective process for countering them all.

Here are some of the more common sales techniques:

  • The Ben Franklin Close;
  • The puppy dog close;
  • The impending doom close;
  • The wimpy burger;
  • The negative reverse;
  • The silent treatment;
  • Good cop, bad cop;
  • The four doors; and

The assumptive sandwich.

What can we do instead? Remember decision-makers buys from people they like and trust. Let’s revisit the four principles of building high trust relationships. If we understand and use these principles, we won’t have to rely on closing ticks at the end of the sales cycle to manipulate our customers into buying.

You can’t sell to everyone

Your customers are more interested in you then they are in your products and services.

What you do and say in the first minute of interaction will determine whether prospects will trust you. Decision-makers will buy what they need from sales people who understand what they want.

You can’t sell to everyone. It’s a simple fact, and often overlooked. In every market there will be at least one suspect who will not, for some reason want to buy from you. Statistically speaking, 70 per cent of all prospects won’t buy from you – giving average sales a 30 per cent closing ratio. Take this thought into every sale with your customer. Be up front with them, let them know that you are not there to waste their time, or sell them something they don’t want. You need to communicate that its OK for them to choose not to proceed. Truth is, the more chances you given them to say no, the more often they will say yes. This refreshing and honest approach will help to breakdown the artificial barriers your prospect puts up to protect themselves from the traditional sales person.

The result will be that you will, be able to have an open, honest sales dialogue and exchange of ideas. Remember that sales are a conversation between two people in which you discuss how to make decisions that are in both of your best interest.

Your customers are more interested in you then they are in the products and services you are selling. Your prospects are looking for people they trust to advise and influence them on important decisions. They are not looking for “sales people”. Influence happens when your prospect trusts you enough to believe your idea or buy your product, because they want to, not because they were forced, tricked, or manipulated. There is no influence without trust. You can position yourself uniquely in this trusted influencer role if pay attention to the rapport you are building with your prospect. Ask yourself this question each time you interact you’re your prospect: Is what I am doing right now enhancing or eroding rapport?

Here are five was to improve your rapport and build trust with your clients:

First, keep yourself in check by making sure that your body language, words, and tone all match. Someone recently said to me, “”I’m so sorry, you’ll be much happier with this solution,”” and it made me even more upset. How could that be? Shouldn’t I be happy that this person was trying to solve my problem? Not in this case, because her words were out of sync with her body language. As she was telling me that she would have the problem fixed, she was standing with her arms tightly crossed against her chest, her hip sticking out sharply to the right, and her eyes rolling. So what I really heard was, “”what a huge pain in the butt you are, I can’t believe you’re making me go out of my way to find you something new.”” How effective do you think she was at influencing me towards her new solution?

Capture the atmosphere and spirit of the conversation, and match the other person’s posture. Stand, walk, or sit like them. Pay attention to how they move or remain still. Then gradually adapt your positions so that they match or mirror theirs.

Match their tone of voice. Vocal tone is comprised of pitch (high or low), speed (fast or slow), and volume (loud or soft). If those around you are speaking in quieter or more boisterous tones, do the same.

Check your attitude problems at the door. Use your positive body language list to reposition your attitude until your mood improves.

Send thank-you cards to everyone you meet everyone who takes the time to talk to you about themselves or their business, and everyone who helps you with something. Make sure these cards are handwritten on good stationary, usually the simpler the better, and don’t use them for advertising or self-promotion. I’ve found that, for every six of these notes I send out, I get two inquiries about my business, and one new customer. Why does it work? Rapport. When you give something to someone, they respond in kind. In the case of a thank-you note, I give them my genuine interest in them or their business, and they respond by giving me their time or commitment.

What you do and say in the first minute of interaction will influence whether a person trusts you or not. There has been much research in their area. What else can we say that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Get it right the first time. The biggest mistake we see in the field these days is sales people are trying to build rapport the old fashioned way – by picking something in the prospect’s office to bond on. This is dangerous. Don’t ask about the kids in the picture, the painting of the boat, the hockey trophy or the photo’s of the family – especially on the first visit to their office. This is getting too personal too soon. Sure, these comments might be harmless however the risk of getting it wrong is fatal. One of two terrible things could happen: you waste your entire meeting talking about their love of sailing and never get to the business or you mistake their little girls for little boys.

How do I know? Email me and I will tell you both horrible stories (I’ve told you before that I have made lots of sales mistakes).

Decision-makers will buy what they need from sales people who understand what they want. Even if we can’t provide a solution for what they want, if we show we understand what they want, and recognize it as valuable, our prospects will trust us and be more than likely to buy from us. How do we find out what they want? Ask questions that get beyond their needs. For example try some of the following:

  • What is it about X that is valuable to you?
  • What have you tried before?
  • How did that work out?
  • Why is this problem so important for you to fix?
  • What if you do nothing?
  • What happens if this problem continues?
  • What have you tried so far?

To continue building rapport, try using the words from their statements in your comments or questions. This will signal to your prospect that you understand them, encouraging them to trust you more.

If it seams that I am a bit fanatical about the dangerous of using traditional selling techniques. I am. Many have called me a non-conformist, or a contrarian in the area of sales. I consider that a compliment. Why? Over the last 30 years our prospects have evolved to become smarter and savvier. Why can’t we?

Colleen Francis is a certified sales professional advisor. You can catch her on the Web at www.engageselling.com.

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