Excerpted from the book on mindful business management, Business Black Belt.
What if your customers already want to buy?
Your job then, as a good salesperson, is to engineer the deal.
Sales techniques we learned in the past are appalling and ineffective, yet many are still in use — let’s revisit the sales process to make it less painful for everyone.
When focusing on breaking a board in martial arts, we’re taught not to focus on the surface of the board, but to focus on a point about six inches beyond it. That way, we’re sure to punch through the board and effectively break it without breaking our hand.
Similarly in sales, you must think beyond the point of closing the sale (the board). Focus on working with your customer when your product is already installed or your service is being performed (beyond the board). This is more than just an optimistic visualization of closing the deal. You must focus beyond the point of sale.
De-emphasize the close
Most sales anxiety exists around closing the sale. That is the magic moment when all you can hear in the room is your customer’s pen scratching across your purchase contract. It’s the moment every salesperson longs for and the moment most customers want to put off until they are absolutely certain. Your customer has all of his or her senses on red alert and any fear, anxiety, doubt, or bad energy oozing from a salesperson will be detected at this moment. That’s why it’s crucial that your energy, vibe, aura, urgency, strategy, heart. mind, spirit, body, etc., span the entire sales spectrum to bridge the moment of completing the sales transaction. A successful salesperson will emphasize everything else, and reduce the emphasis on the close. In marketing we talk about “creating the space where a sale can occur,” so much of the sale is actually customer-driven and you are here to give them what they want.
The Sales Cycle
The entire spectrum of selling includes finding a prospect, analyzing what they need / want, working with them to purchase your product or service, then working with your customer to enjoy your product or service. The “close” can be reduced to a thin sliver of activity in the middle that can be bridged easily if you spread your energy over the entire spectrum – enabling you to take the spotlight (and heat) off of the closing point of the sale.
Closing the sale is simply a formality of paperwork to list everything purchased and to record the method of payment.
Close the deal?
Before we go any farther, we need to address something that has been nagging me for years. “Closing” the sale is an asinine term (IMHO). You’re not opening or closing a sale. When you complete the sale, do the paperwork, and sign the contract, you are actually confirming the terms for the business you are doing together. That’s hardly closing a deal. Subliminally, the salesperson would take the money and run if the relationship was closed. Actually, now the customer expects more attention than ever. There is much to establishing a relationship with a customer or client to the point where they’ll trust you with their money, their project or your word on your product. You must build enough inertia in your selling that it carries you easily over the golden threshold of completing the sale. I believe that customers can tell if you are a “closer” (meaning: you’re done…) vs. interested in their satisfaction as an important component of your relationship. You’ll know when people are buying from you and referring their friends to you. Closing, in this case, is a word that I feel is fatally misapplied to the selling process and is unhealthy to all parties involved in the sale.
We may not be able to change the words used in selling to new terminology that will transform sales throughout the world, but at least we can be aware of the potential unspoken fear that may prevent our customers from doing business with us. Focus on making your customer happy. Relax. A sale can happen, but business is more than just about the sale itself.
If you have a deal hanging…
Most people who have a deal hanging are doing the deal for the money. But what are you providing the customer for the money they’re spending with you? Customers seem to subconsciously react to salespeople who need to make a deal and are motivated primarily by money. A commission is a great way to reward a salesperson for their effort, but the best salespeople become absorbed in the benefits their customer will enjoy from their product or service. Much like the best musicians who get lost in their music, the best martial artists flow with their opponents and let go of the mechanics of what they’re doing. When you’re absorbed in your deal from your customer’s perspective and doing everything you can to solve their problems, you’ll be tremendously effective, appreciated, and eventually rewarded. You call them up and say what you need to complete the deal, because it’s in the best interest of your customer.
My friend Jill had a deal with a phone company worth $300,000 that had stalled. She kept calling to ask “Where are we on the deal?” Her contact wasn’t returning her calls. I advised her, “What you need to do is think of reasons why this person is buying from you. What benefits are they getting from this? Get off the money you’re going to make and go back to what the customer is going to get by placing their order.” The customer needed to get software installed for their users to work with. They needed to have their word processing and spreadsheet software updated so everybody used the latest stuff. She needed to concentrate on those issues, get on the side of the buyer, and work with the buyer on the buyer’s problem.
This idea alone can get a stalled deal going again. This can make a difference between getting a deal or losing it to a competitor. Nothing can help you if your competitor is coming from this “place” and you’re not.
Most purchases are not single transactions like going to the grocery store. Many things happen along the way, many details need to be followed up and questions answered. You need to prove that you can do the job. Credibility must be built. Your customer must feel that you really understand their problems and interests. Whatever you’re selling them must easily solve their problem and save them money.
I think a salesperson often goes into a sales meeting or an initial sales call with a customer and listens to how they’re going to solve the customer’s problem. The prospect of selling something that really solves an important problem is very exciting. But in the process of making the sale and as months go by — the sales cycle on some of these items takes a long time — you (the salesperson) can lose sight of your original enthusiasm. Always go back to what it is that you’re doing for the customer and keep that in mind. Keep thinking of ways to work with your customer. Put your commission second, and your customer is going to be interested in doing business with you.
Jill acknowledged that this was the single biggest factor in her deal going through. By the way, she cleared $20,000 in net profit for herself.
I see it all the time. I can tell when a salesperson only wants to make money. When he or she is not really interested in the sale for my well-being, I get nervous. I have now put my finger on this as the fundamental flaw in most people’s sales presentations. I feel that they’re there to make a sale and my best interests are secondary to them. Some people say they never do that. If that’s true, then your sales must be skyrocketing. If your sales are not coming easily and they’re stalled, then I suggest that you revisit the solutions to your customer’s problem.
Engineer the deal
I was visiting a friend in Colorado who really wanted to buy a new BMW 325i. She was ready to trade in her old car, she had the money, good credit—everything. So I suggested that we go look at the cars. The BMW dealer had the perfect car—red, convertible, and loaded. The salesman was very nice, gave us the keys, and told us to enjoy ourselves. After driving around for a while, she obviously didn’t need to be convinced that this was the right car for her. The salesman ran the numbers, checked her credit, and then, over the next two hours, tried to come up with the paperwork to put this deal together.
What went wrong? That car dealer could not engineer a transaction and generate one document that incorporated all the terms we agreed upon! A spreadsheet showed the lease vs. purchase comparison and included the desired down payment along with the number of months to get the desired monthly payment. There was a problem with the leasing document. My friend knew she wanted the car, she didn’t need an extra sales pitch for lease. All she needed was a single document to incorporate her personal information, the car’s identification, places to fill in the price, some options, taxes, financing calculations, subtract the allowance for the car she was trading in and calculate her drive-off payment (if any). And it all should have squirted out of a laser printer in one good-looking document with the particulars in bold print. The sale should have gone like this:
Ma’am, here are the keys to your new BMW, and here’s the purchase order complete with all the numbers we agreed to. We’re giving you $x for your trade-in. All we need is a check for the down payment, your signature here, and the keys to your old car… and you’re ready to go.
Even if she had a few doubts and was slightly fearful of completing the deal, while her emotions were hot and with a little coaxing, she could easily write her name a couple of times and drive off in the gorgeous, brand new car of her dreams! It didn’t happen that way. They couldn’t get the paperwork in order while we were hot. We left without buying the car.
An airplane as an impulse buy!
Here’s a different story. I’ve fantasized about owning an airplane almost all my life. But they’re expensive, I had no practical reason to own one, I should have spent my money on more practical things, blah, blah, blah. Nevertheless, I had learned to fly, went to airshows, and looked at all the Trade-a-Plane ads. One day I saw a good-looking plane for sale at a nearby airport, so I called the broker, went to see him (just to check it out), and a couple of days later he took me for a demo flight. It was great; I was in love (with the airplane)!
We went back to his office to talk more about it. He wanted to know what I liked and what I didn’t like. He told me it needed a few things, I wanted him to add a few things, and he agreed to take care of them. I asked about financing, so he brought up a screen on his computer. He filled in my name and the specifics of the airplane including some financing options. While he was at it, he filled in the things he would do to fix it and the things I wanted added. I knew I wanted a mechanic to look it over, so he typed in a provision for that. When he printed it out, the entire deal was spelled out on a single page! With a nice place for my signature next to my name typed out. I knew the price was right, the details were in order, I had an out if the mechanic found problems, if I couldn’t get a loan or I couldn’t find a tie-down space… so I signed it. I haven’t had a minute of remorse since and I’m still excited about my airplane (a 1980 V-Tail Beech Bonanza V35B). Despite the fact that I still needed a tie-down space at my local airport, insurance, special training, and a loan, the entire transaction, including flying the plane for an hour, talking about airplanes, and telling war stories, took less than three hours. The fact that the broker could produce a single, comprehensive document made an otherwise monumental sale go down like it was an impulse buy. I still dread shopping my next car.
In both cases, the customer wanted the product. The car salespeople couldn’t get out of their own way – their “systems” prevented the sale. An airplane purchase is a very complex proposition, but the broker made it easy for the customer to have what he already wanted. Look to see if your customer is already sold, then your job is to engineer the deal. Say this, “As the salesperson in this deal, do I need to convince you to buy, or would I be more helpful engineering how you can go ahead and have it now?”
Business Black Belt Notes
- Envision beyond the sale—to a time when you have established an ongoing, working relationship with your customer and your product or service is successfully installed and operating.
- Simplify the paperwork, engineer the deal, and make it ridiculously easy for your customer to commit to the purchase.
- Tape yourself making (or losing) a sale—review it as if you were the customer.