Thumbing your nose at ignorance

In the beginning was the close, and the close was good because the buyer was ignorant of the close. Then, buyers saw the close for what it was and many began to hiss at it and gnash their teeth.

But, woe were we as the close begat consultants, and the consultants begat trainers, and the trainers begat training VPs, and the world became dark. The Old Ways have been fighting the truth ever since.

Consider the religion of the Old Ways. It's based (in part) on these unfortunate directives: 

1. ABC - Always Be Closing. A perfect example. What that means is, do everything possible to keep the buyer from saying No.

2. Selling Is A Numbers Game. Another perfect example. It inspires you to fly through an endless list of "ups" to find the few who are receptive.

3. Sell Benefits, not Features. This advice is asinine unless you've already elicited what that prospect wants. The only features that are relevant are those that match what he/she is looking for.

4. Keep It Simple Stupid. But not so simple that it's stupid advice.

Where did the Old Ways come from? Remember the Industrial Revolution?  Inexpensive products were turned out quickly, and they needed buyers. Remember the various wars? Populations were “liberated” and needed products. Yep. It’s is possible that the sales training you got (or are getting) is based on 18th century thinking. Why else would it be so numbers driven?

The problems come when the same approach used for selling a tea kettle is also used to sell a financial product. The two worlds do not coexist in comfort. 

What is the better way?  It's not what I say. It is what the research and the results say. It's what Harvard Business Review and other credible publications report. Simply, the better way to sell is a process based on effective psychology.

Funny thing, the people who are most successful at developing loyal clients, who then serve as advocates, tend to be the most sophisticated sellers. They study their craft and improve their skills. They understand this:

  1. It’s not about closing. It’s about helping.
  2. It’s not a numbers game. If anything, it’s a game of relevance and connection.
  3. It’s not about benefits. It’s based on the prospect’s values.
  4. Selling NOT simple.

Rock Star?

Across the world, families are playing with digital games (Rock Star, Guitar Hero). Those games give them a taste of what it feels like to play in a band. Similarly, across the world, people are delivering their very first sales presentation. Both sets of people quickly discover that it’s not as easy as it first appeared.

Playing a musical instrument requires you to master complex motor skills and then apply them simultaneously with mental skills and intense focus. And, that’s just to hack out “Stairway to Haven” in your basement!  I’ve played music professionally for many decades, so I’m intimately familiar with this process. It ain’t easy, but when it comes together, it’s magic.

Hitting a golf ball, so it goes where you want it to go, is far more difficult than it looks. Again, you have to master motor skills. Then, apply them under compete control – even on a tee shot. 

Riding a motorcycle – ditto. In this case, though, if you don’t learn and master the motor skills, you risk propelling yourself into an immovable object. The object always wins. The stakes are a bit high. 

Selling, again, is similar. To orchestrate a sales conversation, requires the mastery of many different skills. Then, you have to apply them in a process, while paying attention to what someone else is saying. It is an art. And, it is not simple. So, why would anyone step into the sales arena unprepared. Two reasons: 

First, it’s in hopes that mere luck or innate talent will win out. Is it any wonder that the attrition rate in this industry is embarrassing?  

Second, many rookie sellers get terrible advice, evidenced by the four points listed above. Selling is hard enough without bad advice. When that bad advice comes from your employer, it is a recipe for failure. Over the decades, I’ve observed what I think of as “Truths.”  Here are some that might provide better advice:

  1. Sales techniques that worked for one person, will not necessarily work for someone else who has different skills and talents. For example, a hard driving sales person will sell in a very different way from anyone else. Take what you can from whomever has the best advice, then adapt it to your own style.
  2. Technology forces us to adjust our sales messages. The people who came into the business prior to the emergence of social media are often stuck in history and unable to use the new media effectively. It’s like driving a Dodge Dart when everyone else is driving BMWs.
  3. Unless you can read your prospect, you stand a 75% chance of failure with him/her. We teach all our coaching clients a simple technique for reading people. It is the key to doubling your production with very little effort. Unless you can read your prospect, you deliver the same logic to everyone. How could that be successful?
  4. Prospects generally are highly resistant to replacing their current advisor. Relationships are like big, powerful magnets. Even when the current advisor is providing underwhelming service or performance, the client is still reluctant to replacing him/her. So, offer a second opinion or a comparison.
  5. Prospects often have the wrong idea of what you do. They don’t understand the difference between an agent, an advisor, a financial planner, banker, underwriter, etc. To consumers, those are all the same.
  6. Prospects typically do not understand financial products beyond a very rudimentary level. So, a reference to a technical term is totally lost on them, worse, it confuses them, and a confused mind always says No.
  7. People have pre-existing opinions about your industry, your company, your products and you – they might not be positive opinions. See the Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows the financial industry is not trusted. So, do not make the mistake of assuming your prospect really want to hear from you.

The Old Ways sometimes work. But, is that the kind of odds you want?  Do you want to gamble your career on “sometimes?”  Selling is not a job. It’s a career. Like any career, it demands continual learning. If you are selling in the same way you did ten years ago, you’re probably long overdue to a review and adjustment. My advice is to find someone who can help you sell in your own natural style, rather than someone else’s.

Your Reward

These “tips” are just a tiny part of the good advice that’s available. For the past ten years, we’ve been collecting effective sales tips and will soon release an eBook titled: Selling for Intelligent People – the 80 Best Sales Tips. But, if you’d like a peek, just let me know and I’ll send you “20 Terrific Sales Tips.”  Just copy this paragraph and email it to me (michael@aboutpeople.com) with your contact information.



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