How To Sell

Step 1 – Establish Rapport

Remember the old saying “You only have one chance to make a good first impression”? They were right! But what does this cliché mean? What is a “good impression”?

A good impression happens when rapport is established between the sales rep and the prospect. How you look, your clothes, physical appearance, how you carry yourself, and so on are important. But not as important as rapport.

Rapport is defined as a “harmonious mutual understanding” (American Heritage Dictionary). So what does this mean? Harmony is the opposite of discord. It is when a friendly, congenial relationship exists. Mutual means a two-way back and forth process between two or more people.

Understanding is defined as “a disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others; sympathy.” So in total, rapport means two or more people each appreciating the thoughts and feelings of each other and being nice. Sound like what they taught you in kindergarten? It is!

So how does one establish rapport? Forget the gimmicks and dishonest self-serving manipulations. There is only one real way – you must be sincerely interested in, and believe it to be your true mission, to serve others. To actively seek a way to help people get what they need and want (solve a business problem or improve something) as a way to get what you want (a sale). From this perspective, establishing rapport becomes a simple matter of sincerity and asking lots of questions to verify – before you say a word about you, your product, your company, or what you want – that the prospect will benefit by doing business with you.

And now for a magical, practical, sure-fire way to apply this theory. When you get to a prospective customer’s office – before you do anything else, “ask for a tour.” What is a tour? It is the prospect explaining to you, or actually showing you, his business.

Why is this magic? It sounds too simple!

It is magic because it forces you to SHUT UP AND LET THE PROSPECT TALK FIRST. This will automatically distinguish you from the 99% of sales reps who upon arrival immediately start blabbing about how great they, their product, and their company is. They start showing the prospect this or that (the demo). Then after their time is up they finally stop talking and try frantically to get an order. They never seem to find the time to listen and learn!

By asking for a tour, the customer talks. You listen. You learn what you need to learn to create win-win reasons why the prospect should do business with you.

But wait, there’s more!

It’s called the Law of Reciprocity. Humans are hard-wired to always pay back people who give us things. If I say “nice haircut” then you will probably say “I like yours too” or “I like your shirt” Something, anything to balance out the equation. Moonies use this technique when they rush up to people on the street, or at the airport, and put a flower or book in your hand “for free.” They know that if they can get you to accept the “gift” then nine out of ten times you will feel (overwhelmingly) compelled to say yes when 3 seconds later you are asked for a “contribution” to their “good cause.”

So what does this have to do with rapport?

It’s simple. Since you let the prospect talk about his favorite subject – himself and his company – then he will feel compelled to return the favor and listen patiently while you talk about your favorite subject – you, your product, and your company.

Now what you end up with is two people who just spent some time together talking about themselves – each person sharing with the other their thoughts and feelings, and being nice.

Dah dah!

Step 2 – Gather Intelligence

Guess what else you were doing while the prospect was taking you on the tour. You were discreetly steering the conversation to keep things on the business. You asked a lot of questions and listened quietly and patiently for the answers. All the while the prospect is thinking how nice you are and appreciating your sincere interest.

Contrast this process with the usual game of 20 questions, often interpreted as the rep being nosy, pushy, or trying to interview him like in the Spanish Inquisition. The prospect doesn’t know you or trust you. Why should she answer your questions or divulge sensitive, possibly proprietary information to some blabbermouth sales rep?

But when she is talking about her business, that she started and built from scratch, like a proud parent telling you about the Little League game her son won last week, the dynamic is 180 degrees opposite. You can ask pretty much anything and she will tell you what you need to know because its now relevant and in context as part of The Tour.

Step 3 – Decide If You Should Do a Presentation

Whoa! What are you talking about? I just spent 20 to 30 minutes listening and now I don’t get to talk?

Remember your mission! First decide if you can truly help the prospect – based on what you just learned. If you can’t help, then say so. Explain that based on what you have learned you feel that the prospect should: a. not buy anything, b. buy from your competitor, or c. whatever else is appropriate. But before you leave – get referrals to someone that the prospect feels CAN be helped by your product or service. And not just one, a hundred if you can get that many. This is part of your systematic campaign to never do “cold” calls – only “warm” calls – based on referrals.

And if the prospect can benefit? Then go to Step 4.

Step 4 – Presentationclose

This is not a typo. It means that a presentation and a close are not separate events. They are one event. Why? I refer you to the “Art & Science” page of this website where I talk about the Zero Defect Demo. The goal is a 100% close ratio. You probably dismissed this idea as pure nonsense and hokum. I assure you it is not. Why? Because if you refuse to do presentations for those that you don’t 100% believe will benefit by buying from you, then you have removed the number one reason for failure in sales.

The number one reason for sales failure is subliminally transmitting to the prospect subtle signals that they should not buy. How does this happen? I believe that most sales reps are good people. Good people do not want to make a living by lying and cheating. If pressured by aggressive managers or quota policies to close the deal at any cost, they will go through the motions and pretend to comply. They may even convince themselves intellectually that they actually are trying to close the prospect even though they realize that the prospect really shouldn’t buy. But the truth is you can’t fool yourself this easily. Your subconscious mind ALWAYS knows the truth. An inner conflict exists when you try to lie – unless you’re a pathological liar in the true medical sense of the word. This conflict manifests itself physically. This has been shown over and over to be a scientific fact and indeed is the basis for polygraph and voice stress analysis “lie detector” technologies. These machines detect autonomic (involuntary) physiological reactions.

These reactions are transmitted to other people as well. They may not be noticed consciously but will be picked up on subconsciously, intuitively, as a feeling that the rep cannot be trusted. And then the prospect will not trust you and the magic spell of rapport will be broken. People normally will refuse to do business with people they don’t like, if they have a choice. So unless you are the only person selling water in the desert for hundreds of miles, you need the prospect to like and trust you. The easy way to accomplish this is not to be a lying conniving unethical bastard.

Now that we are past this issue, the only thing required is that you do an amazingly effective job at telling your story – with both technical excellence and emotional impact – and ask for the order. Asking for the order is justified since you know that if the prospect says yes then EVERYBODY WINS. It is the logical conclusion of the process that was set in motion on the first contact (phone call, mail, trade show – whatever).

Why would you invest the time and energy to do a presentation and then not get paid? If you only do presentations for those who need your product then you can cut right through all the lame stalls and excuses from indecisive or deceptive prospects. You are justified to plow right through this nonsense and demand to know “why not”? “Why can’t you say yes?” And of course there shouldn’t be any reason why not. You already covered all of this in your many questions during The Tour.

As for doing a great presentation, you may have read the section about what makes a professional sales rep (see the “Evolution” page). Being an expert on your product, competitive products, and the industry is the result of a concentrated effort. If you are truly a “professional” it will be obvious to prospective customers. It will also be greatly appreciated given that many reps are lazy – they lack fundamental knowledge and are not motivated to learn. Thus they waste the prospect’s time and cannot be relied upon for guidance.

Now you should be able to appreciate how the Zero-Defect Demo operates and why you can expect to achieve a 100% close ratio after perfecting this sales process.

What To Do if Your Product is not the “Best”

To follow the process outlined above you have to be completely honest with yourself, and with your prospects. Does this mean that if your product is not the “best” that you have to say so and recommend that the prospect buy from the competition?

Maybe, Yes! Unless your product is a better “value.” Value considers price, support, warranty and other important factors and not simply the product (or service) quality and features. There are over 700 models of vehicles for sale in the U.S. There is no one “best” vehicle. If you want to drive through steep rough trails a Jeep may be perfect for you. If you want to travel in luxury and impress clients, perhaps a Mercedes is your ride. A Rolls Royce may be considered “better” than a Jaguar – but what the hey, it better be for 300 large!

But what if your product is inferior and costs the same (or more) than a competitor’s product? This is a conundrum. The best course of action, if you can’t influence management to improve the offer (product, price, etc.) to match the competition, may be to QUIT and go sell for a competitor. Sales is a hard enough job – why try to do it with one hand tied behind your back. Polish up your resume and split. You have to be responsible for you first and look out for your best interests. Your ultimate value comes from being the best and selling the best so that your customers end up on top. You have to consider yourself a free agent and self-employed because you are just that in this “new economy” reality. If this means you change “suppliers” to stay on top, then so be it!

Employers may want to keep this in mind the next time a sales rep makes a suggestion based on personal experience and real-world feedback from prospects and customers. To be, or stay, on top is never a given. It must be continuously earned.