Otherwise known as, How to have more masterful sales conversations

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Only one in nine people is a natural salesperson. The rest of us hate selling. 

Because, when it doesn’t work, it feels a lot like rejection. And rejection brings emotional pain.

So let’s equip ourselves with better selling tools – especially in the age of COVID-19, when panic is everywhere, times are tough, friends are not few but hiding at home, and no-one needs more emotional pain.

Seens and unseens

Every sales conversation has two areas: the seens and the unseens. The seens are the things that actually happen; the unseens are the filters, viewpoints, and values that colour an experience of the sales interaction. 

Now I believe that the goal of all sales conversations should be this: giving the prospect clarity. And you can let the prospect know that the goal is clarity, by setting an informal agenda at the start of the conversation, like this:

Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. In the next five minutes, I hope to learn… Based on our chat I’ll… And by the end, my intention is… How does that sound?

“Sales feels yucky.”

Indeed. But it helps to think of sales like this: Sales isn’t something you do to someone; it’s something you do for someone. This is a hard one for me. I used to feel a weird guilt about selling my services and asking for money… like I was taking. Never like I was giving. But if you think about selling as serving, you can’t be mercenary. Because you want the prospect to win. 

Here’s what I like to do, since I feel awkward about persistence. I like to show the value I can add, by giving something for nothing. A tip. Free advice. I find that it keeps me top of mind without forcing me to ask for the Yes. Til later.

Specifically, I give away my intellectual property in the form of a first free consultation, newsletters, complimentary cheat-sheets and downloadable goodies, and this is how I serve without giving away what must be paid for.

To have a masterful sales conversation, it’s important to work hard to develop both comfort and authenticity. If you’re uncomfortable asking for money, requesting a commitment, or handling objections… practise like crazy. 

Persist, but don’t stalk.

“I’ll think about it” usually means “No”. Remember that, unlike in relationships (I feel I must make this clear), a No in business doesn’t mean “No forever”. It means, “Persuade me”, or “I’m not ready”, or “I’m not comfortable enough”. 

You’re going to get a lot of “I’ll think about it” at the moment, because flight-or-fright mode isn’t conducive to quick decision-making. That’s okay. Expect it.

It usually takes up to seven* exposures before most people will try something new: product, service, or person.

That’s six Nos from the same person, before they may – no guarantees here – eventually feel safe enough to say Yes; before their inherent scepticism can be overcome. Most of the time, it’s not you. It’s them. So be optimistic. Keep trying. But please don’t stalk. 

* I’m not sure the magic number is literally seven. It may be six. Or, in our current corona-nundrum, 12. But don’t give up after the first or fifth No.

Ask better questions.

When you talk too much, you leave the buyer with the impression that you don’t understand their business, their industry, or their needs. Listen first. Then talk. Ensure that you’re answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” 

Tell and show and reiterate the value that your prospect can get from your offer, product, service, etc. You need to find out what the prospect needs, to establish the proper connections and synergies.

I sometimes use a short questionnaire for this, but I’m careful not to grill the buyer with too many questions, making them feel like they’re being interrogated. It’s really important that you take turns speaking.

It’s important to flip the agenda from yours to theirs. To harness their aspirations, getting your prospect to share hopes, desires, and even fears. Why? Because their reasons to buy or not to buy are inside them, not inside you. Ask, “What is it about this thing that’s making you consider it?” 

Here’s another helpful question: “What challenge are you currently facing?” In other words, in what way/s can I reduce your ‘pain’? This motivates the prospect to hear a solution (containing both benefits and features) later on. 

Remember, however, that the prospect’s ego will be threatened by your proffered solution, and it will create objections. Unravel these, using clarity. 

Use strong language.

All words are not created equal. High-performing salespeople swear by these: 

  • Imagine
  • Successful
  • Decisive language, like “Definitely,” “Certainly,” and “We can do that” 
  • Risk-reversal language, like “We offer a 30-day free trial.”
  • The prospect’s name

It’s in the timing.

Don’t schedule a first meeting for a Friday. In The Invisible Influence, Kevin Hogan teaches that Fridays are the worst possible time to sell. People tend to buy on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays around 9am, 10am and 2pm. 

Use Fridays to make appointments. For Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays. 

Good luck, and let me know how you go.

A version of this article originally appeared in Tiffany Markman’s MarkLives column, #WritersBlock.

Tiffany Markman gives good advice on freelancing. Want access to it?

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


One Response

  1. Hi Tiffany, I really found this helpfull. I am really lousy at self-promotion, but I realise now that it is not about the selling, but about the offering of a solution to someone. Thanks for sharing this.


    JJ Harmse

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