Jeff Shore, an in-demand sales keynote speaker, author and consultant for over three decades, Jeff has a unique ability to connect with audiences on a personal level and transform the way they look at what they do, inspiring meaningful and lasting change. This blog provides practical, real-world sales strategies, sales techniques and sales tips to help you win the sale.
(Author’s note: This is part five of a series on how to talk to your customers. For parts one through four, click here.)
How much has fear cost you in your life?
We cannot accurately answer that question, but I think we can agree that the degree to which fear impacts our lives is probably quite high.
Your customer is no different. Fear is real, and fear has a way of undermining goals and dreams…unless you do something about it.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Should you talk to your customers about fear?
You should. In fact, you must. The fear is present, whether you discuss it or not.
The important task for the sales professional is to determine what they’ve based their fear upon. Is the fear legitimate? Is there a logical underpinning, or is it an emotional issue?
Great salespeople don’t just sell a product; they offer something far more valuable to their prospects: they offer confidence.
Confidence is the opposite of fear, so let’s figure out how to build that for our customers.
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.” Unknown
1. Keep it Honest
Fear is the ever-present elephant in the room. We all know it’s there; we just don’t want to talk about it.
Why does your customer not want to talk about fear? Simple – they do not believe they have permission to do so.
The brave sales professional acts in a counseling role and encourages that discussion. Look, your prospects are carrying the fear whether you know it or not. Is there some advantage to you NOT knowing what concerns your customer? I certainly can’t think of any.
Offer the honest invitation to discuss the topic.
“Tell me what concerns you. Tell me about the fear in moving forward. It’s really helpful just to talk that out.”
2. Keep it Logical
Well…keep it logical to the extent possible.
You don’t want your customer to get wrapped around their own emotional axle. Have a fear conversation that is much more matter-of-fact in its tone.
One trick here is to give the fear a name. Fear resides in the customer’s emotional realm, and in that space there is no language, only feeling. When we name the fear, we engage the logical side of the brain (where language resides).
An unspoken emotional fear can feel to the customer like a horrific potential catastrophe(!). But when we recast it as a “concern about the payments” we lessen the emotional impact.
3. Keep it Positive
It is possible – necessary, even – to talk about fear in a positive manner.
Pay attention to your emotional tone. Empathizing with a customer’s fear does not mean you have to go into a dark place with them.
One way to do that is to constantly restate the fear with a positive and reassuring tone. I’m not suggesting you are giggling while you do this. Only that your demeanor is pleasant when you are discussing the issue.
Good news – you can practice all this outside of the sales realm. Have a fear discovery conversation with your spouse or significant other (better yet with your children).
This is not just a good sales skill; it’s a good life skill.
Addressing the fear is how you change someone’s world.
My husband is amazing in so many ways. He is smart, talented, driven and caring.
His career has primarily been in homebuilding, but during his “finding himself” years and while considering pursuing medicine as a career path, he worked briefly at a hospital in Washington DC for a transplant consortium.
Simply put, he was the person who went in to speak with a family while their loved one was dying or had recently passed to discuss organ donation. Tough job. Emotional job. Rewarding job.
And, while he would shiver at me calling it this – it was also a sales job.
He doesn’t discuss his time in that role much because I think the emotional impact of those conversations still runs deep for him.
What he does say it that it was fulfilling to help others look past their own devastating pain, even for a brief moment, and find some happiness in helping others.
To find some happiness in the midst of sales adversity is a true gift. And that’s what true selling is all about – helping others better their lives and achieve deeper levels of true happiness.
Finding the Good In Sales Adversity
While organ donation from a recently lost loved one is an extreme example of adversity in our life, we all face adversity almost daily — especially in sales.
You might face problems with a co-worker, dealing with a demanding or difficult client, or dealing with a deeper, more emotional personal issue. Sales adversity is everywhere and, while you can’t avoid it, you can control what you do with it.
Find the good in every situation. Learn and grow. Adapt where necessary.
Ask yourself in every difficult situation: What can I learn from this going forward? How will this change me for the better? How can I help others from this experience?
Look for the lessons and the sales adversity becomes a learning milestone not a barrier to your success and happiness.
Finding Happiness Through Helping Others
When you feel bad or are facing adversity in your own life, instead of focusing on yourself, help others as a way to move through and past the difficult time.
It may seem odd to suggest that the best way for you to feel better is to make others happy, but evidence shows that this approach is the best way to bring yourself more joy.
In a study done by Harvard University and The University of British Columbia, researchers asked participants to remember a time when they bought something for themselves and then remember a time when they bought something for another person.
Researchers took measurements after each recall and it was clear that participants were much happier when recalling a time when they did something for another person.
The second part of the study uncovered an even more interesting discovery.
The same participants were given a small amount of money and told they could anonymously spend it on themselves or someone else. They told participants to choose the one that would make them happier.
The happier the participants felt about their past generosity, the more likely they were to spend the money on someone else, thus producing a type of “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness.
Simply said – kindness and happiness encourages each other. Engaging in a kind deed makes you happy and then more likely to continue your altruistic behavior. Make sense?
The lesson for all of us in sales is this: Life is tough. Your buyers’ lives are tough. Find any and all opportunities to move through the sales adversity and participate in acts of kindness towards yourself and others.
It will not only make you happier but you also might just change someone’s world.
In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:
Jeff C West, author of The Unexpected Tour Guide, talks with Jeff about the importance of persistence. When a sales professional first starts in this business of sales, there are lots of things you don’t know. Learning how to connect with your customer’s emotions is one of the more important lessons. It doesn’t happen overnight but once you learn this skill, you’ll be on the road to sales success.
[4;07] Sales Tip of the Day – Paint a picture of the future
[6;21] Meet Jeff C West
[8:45] Fusion Points explained
[12:36] The true value proposition
[18:56] Rely on stories of customers
[21:26] The Unexpected Tour Guide
[25:05] The hot seat
[29:40] Motivational Summary
More about our guest Jeff C West:
Jeff C. West is the author of the heartwarming sales parable, The Unexpected Tour Guide, winner of the Axiom Business Book Awards Bronze Award in the Business Fable Category and the recipient of kind endorsements from bestselling authors such as Bob Burg, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins and Susan Solovic, THE Small Business Expert as seen of Fox Business Network.
Jeff has been a quoted source for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, the National Federation of Independent Business and Peak Sales Recruiting.
After over three decades in sales, sales leadership and business ownership, (including 20 years in field sales management with the Fortune 500 Insurance Company – Aflac) Jeff now travels the USA as a keynote speaker, as well as a sales and organizational leadership trainer.
(Author’s note: This is part four of a series on how to talk to your customers. For parts one, two and three, click here.)
How deeply do you feel like diving into your customer’s emotional core? Well, the answer might just be linked to how much you want the sale.
One of the significant issues that salespeople face is questioning just how much they need to connect with their customer’s hopes and dreams. It’s one thing to get a general understanding of what the prospect is looking for; it is an entirely different experience to truly connect with what that really means to a customer on an emotional level.
Many salespeople are awkward and uncomfortable when it comes to getting into the emotional weeds. That’s a problem, because it is at this level that customers make their most significant decisions. We are driven by our dreams; we just don’t typically about them with salespeople.
You might find it uncomfortable at times, but this is where the magic happens.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brené Brown
Three things to think about if you want to get down to the core of your customer’s emotional journey:
1. Be Curious
You must want to know. It’s not enough to be curious about their needs; you must be curious about their soul.
Curiosity is one of the most under appreciated aspects of a great salesperson. The problem is that we often do not allow our curiosity to penetrate to the emotional level. The “How do you feel about that?” types of questions get left off.
That’s a big mistake – because at that emotional level, magic happens.
Be brave, my friends. Ask the deeper questions.
2. Be Empathetic
Empathy is not about understanding what a customer is going through (that would be called sympathy). It’s about actually feeling what a customer is going through.
Empathy is a cooperative thing. I am side-by-side with my customer, feeling both their joy and their pain.
Ask about dreams with the purpose of deeply connecting. Do not judge. Take your own views and opinions out of the conversation. Step into the customer’s future life.
3. Be an Advocate
You must give your customer permission to share their own emotional future. You must help them to connect with their own future emotions.
Let your prospect know that this is a healthy exercise.
“Sometimes it is helpful to evaluate how you will feel once you have accomplished this goal; once you own this ________. Take me there. What would it feel like if everything turned out the way you want it to?”
This is where the title of sales counselor comes into play. This is where you do your finest work.
So what is stopping you from connecting with your customer’s dreams? Typically, it is your own fear.
Get yourself out of the equation. This is not about you. It’s about serving at the deepest emotional level – the level where the customer will make the decision anyway.
Of course, there is a flip side of dreams: it’s called fear. I’ll address that in the final post of this series.
Every one of us, at some point in time, has been a part of that awkward moment called, “The first kiss.”
You know what I am talking about.
At the end of a first date, you found yourself at the front door saying goodnight wondering if that magical first kiss will happen.
It is certainly an awkward moment, right?
Women across the country have shared with me in seminars that if a guy waits too long during that awkward moment, the kiss doesn’t happen and the man is banished into the category of “he’s just a good friend.”
For reference here, watch the movie Hitch with Will Smith.
A similar pattern, more or less, appears in the sales process as well (Minus the kiss part).
Think about it.
You invest time with customers, creating a relationship with them.
You uncover their needs and show them how your product or service will solve their problems, which is often the goal of dating.
Then, at the end of your presentation, there is a small voice that tells you to ask for the sale.
I believe it is the same voice that tells us to go for the first kiss.
For sales people all across the country, this is the moment where they either create a customer or decrease their conversion ratio.
I have studied this moment at length.
In the last several years, I have observed over 1,000 sales presentations and have uncovered an interesting pattern.
Here’s the beauty of patterns; once you identify a pattern it enables you to predict it and then change it if desired.
Here is the pattern.
At the moment when the voice tells you to “ask for the sale” that awkward pause more often than not, rears its’ ugly head.
Both you and the customer feel the pause.
If you wait too long, customers will distract the sales professional with a question.
• Can I get your business card?
• Do you have a packet or brochure?
• What are your days off?
• Can you tell me more about ________ (your product or the terms)?
• What time do you close?
Do you recognize any of these?
If you do, there is a good chance you are falling victim to the closing pause.
Here are three ways you can avoid the closing pause.
1. Have a “Go To” Close
If I were to ask you to give me your “go to” close, would you have it at the ready? Or do you have to think about it?
If you have to think about it, you’re toast.
I recommend having it down.
Even if it is as simple as, “Are you ready to make this yours?”
I get that you may alter your close depending on the customer, but you should still have a fall back, “go to” close.
When I say practice, I don’t just mean memorize your close.
According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning, simulating the real experience is the best way to learn outside of doing the real thing.
Get a co-worker or friend to practice avoiding the pause with your “go to” close.
Practice it until it becomes an auto-response.
3. Use The Law of Continuity
I can sum up part of the reason why we pause in the first place in just one word; uncertainty.
If that’s true, then it makes sense to create a sense of certainty.
You do that using the Law of Continuity.
The law states that when people say ‘yes’, they will continue to say ‘yes’.
In other words, when customers agree with you on multiple smaller decisions throughout your presentation, the pressure is taken off of the final close.
This will help eliminate uncertainty for both you and your customers.
When you eliminate the closing pause you give your customers the best chance to enjoy your product or service.
You also give yourself the best chance to change their world!
In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:
Doug and Jeff talk about the importance of respect in the purchase decision. As a salesperson, we know that likeability leads to trust (from Robert Cialdini) but respect can lead you to long term relationships which can increase your sales over time. How do you earn that respect? Learn all about it from Doug and his book – How Clients Buy.
Doug Fletcher currently splits his time between speaking/writing/coaching on the topic of business development in consulting and professional services and teaching at the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Beacon Group, a growth strategy consulting firm headquartered in Portland, Maine. Prior to that, he was co-founder and CEO of North Star Consulting Group, a technology-enabled consulting firm that specialized in global web-survey projects. Earlier in his professional life, Doug served as a consultant with the management consultancy, A.T. Kearney, and was trained at General Electric in its leadership development program. He is a graduate of Clemson University and has an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration.
Author’s note: This is part three of a series on how to talk to your customers. Click here for parts one and two.
Fair warning: A confused mind says…NO!
That is a bit of truth that will help you convert more sales…or drive your customer away. Great sales performers find a way to constantly simplify things for their customers. If they don’t, confusion sets in. And a confused mind says no.
Imagine putting together an IKEA product with no instructions. Imagine planning a wedding without using a to-do list. Imagine setting up your own living trust using nothing but government forms (ugh!).
This is precisely what it feels like for a customer who wants to buy something but has no idea how the purchase process works. I can only wonder how many prospects have not purchased simply because the process itself scared them off.
If you want to lessen your prospect’s brain strain during the buying process, you can do so by providing a mental road map that shows them just how easy it to complete the purchase. You must give your customer a clear vision in order to clear the path to the sale.
“It is a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” Steve Maraboll
Follow these simple guidelines:
1. Easy = Right
The more your customer perceives complexity in the process the more confused your customer will become. You need to explain the purchase process in a way that sounds simple and exciting.
Take a “this is no big deal at all” kind of approach as you script out your overview. Your calm confidence will go a long, long way towards easing your customer’s concerns.
2. Chunk It Up
If you can explain the entire process in just three steps (a technique called “chunking”) you will provide a tremendous sense of mental ease for your prospect.
Think about explaining the purchase process by starting with this phrase: “Should you decide to purchase today there are really just three steps in the process.”
Of course, the process might be far more complex, but the three high level points will provide a framework for everything else.
3. One Step at a Time
If you’ve given a general framework, proceed to focus in on just the current task. When your customer begins to think three steps ahead they get confused and overwhelmed.
Remind your customer that the process is normal, and that the reward at the end will make it all worth it.
Now time to get to work.
Simplify your presentation
Explain it in three steps
Keep your customer focused
If you make the process clear in your customer’s mind, you can free up mental space to do what they really want to do: DREAM!
Are you familiar with the old adage: people don’t quit companies, they quit people? This seems rather harsh, but often it is 100% spot on.
While I know that there will always be practices within your organization that are out of your control, there are certain aspects of why you are losing good salespeople that are totally within your sphere of influence.
Want to build a top performing sales team and actually retain the talent you’ve spent blood, sweat and tears hiring and training?
Here are four areas that are causing your sales people to hand in their notices:
1. They Feel Overworked and Under Appreciated
One of the top reasons why sales people bolt to find employment elsewhere is that they feel overworked and under appreciated.
Ever notice that our typical approach to sales is: What is enough? Just a bit more!
Companies always want more sales and as a result we push our sales people (and often our top sales people) to work harder and work longer with little or no thanks.
In a refreshing departure from this approach of working sales people into the ground, a company that I’m working with, in an effort to attract and retain top sales talent, just reduced the number of selling hours each sales person must work each week and they make sure that their reps get a full weekend off every month. This is highly unusual for this particular industry!
The result? Elated sales people who stay happy, stay on and keep performing!
2. They Are Given Inadequate Tools To Do Their Job
Sales people often complain to me that their job is over complicated due to a lack of resources, malfunctioning technology, poor systems and/or a depletion or absence of training resources.
I assure you that sales people want to sell! And they want to sell a lot, often.
But even sales people with the best attitudes become frustrated and are often driven to the brink of calling it quits when they feel they are not given the support they need to perform at their optimum level.
Now, I understand that everything can’t be perfect all the time, and some attention must be given to the cost of the tools provided. But, whenever possible, it is crucial to make sure that all of your sales people are well equipped to perform at their best.
3. They Are Underpaid
This is a simple one. Pay your salespeople well. Period.
It is a false economy to think that you are going gain a bit more margin by lowering sales people’s’ commission rates while still retaining top sales talent. Top performers know they have a valuable skill and they expect to be paid for it or they’ll seek other employment.
4. They Do Not Feel Empowered
Salespeople thrive on being empowered – empowered to make some of their own business decisions, empowered to handle customers in the best way they see fit and empowered to voice their opinions or concerns to upper management without fear of repercussion.
A salesperson without any sense of control over how they are allowed to sell feels stifled at best and this type of stifling kills any joy or creatively that comes along with the most gifted sales people.
Let’s face it. No one likes it when their employees quit on them. At some level it always feels personal, and maybe it is personal. Maybe you have to get real with yourself and ask if you are driving your sales people into the waiting hands of the competition by committing some of these mistakes.
Facing facts and setting things right will go a long way towards creating a successful, stable sales team that performs. And really, don’t we all just want our sales people to be happy, perform up to their potential and help us win more than our fair share of the sales?
Yes we do! Now get to work and change your salespeople’s world!
If you want to take your sales team to the next level, and learn more about how to build a top selling sales team, then join me in July for the Jeff Shore Sales Leadership Summit. While hanging out in sunny San Diego, we will challenge your mindsets, elevate your strategies and equip you with hard-working, real-world best practices. Learn more about my Sales Leadership Summit here.
In This Episode of The Buyer’s Mind with Jeff Shore:
Dr. Art Markman and Jeff talk about what it means to be smart. How do you continue to get smarter? Your brain is wired to be efficient by relying on shortcuts/habits, it takes effort to become smarter by breaking those habits. Are you relying on habits with your customers, or as a sales professional are you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to try something new?
[20:11] We buy based on emotion which has no words
[26:07] The need to be diligent and grow our brain
[31:56] Motivational Summary
More about our guest Art Markman:
Art Markman is the Anabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions or Organizations. The HDO program uses the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences to teach people in business about people. Art has written over 150 papers on topics including reasoning, decision making, and motivation. He brings insights from cognitive science to a broader audience through his blogs at Psychology Today and Fast Company as well as his radio show and podcast Two Guys on Your Head produced by NPR affiliate KUT. Art is also the author of several books including Smart Thinking, Smart Change, and Brain Briefs. When Art isn’t working or spending time with his family, he can be found playing saxophone in a ska band.
Can you even have that conversation? You can, and you should.
Your very dedication to this subject eases the concerns of a customer. The fact that you take this seriously and that you acknowledge your responsibility to earn the customer’s trust can go a long way towards establishing a bond with your prospect.
Of course, you must be able to back it up – we’ll get to that.
“The glue that holds all relationships together–including the relationship between the leader and the led–is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” –Brian Tracy
Do it. Talk about trust. Here are three mental frameworks to help you with that conversation.
1. The Trust Promise
I believe it is in your best interest to make a unilateral and unconditional promise to your customer early on in the process. It shouldn’t be a heavy and dramatic scene, but it must be be delivered from the heart. It might sound something like this:
“I will serve you best when you trust me the most. But I understand that your trust is something that I must earn. I just want you to know that I will work diligently to do just that.”
That simple statement can go a long, long way to calming the nerves of even the most discriminating customer.
2. The Trust Proof
You can back up the trust promise with the assurance that you take this seriously with every single customer, and that your past and present customers are living proof.
“I would invite you to talk to any of my current or past customers if it helps you to know that I will deliver on what I promise.”
Your customer gains a tremendous peace of mind when they know that this isn’t just lip service, but that you can back up what you say.
3. The Trust Performance
Now you need to stand by your words. Here’s the cool thing: in making the trust promise you are putting yourself out there. You are putting an appropriate pressure on yourself to perform. That’s a good thing. It will keep you on your toes. It will keep you honest.
This is not rocket science, but it is a vitally important aspect of your service.
A couple of application points to think about:
· Determine the most important aspects of trust to your customer. What does trustworthy mean to them? How do they determine whether you can be trusted?
· Do a weekly trust check-up: “Am I continuing to deliver on my promises?”
· Trust yourself. You are a pro. You take care of people and you do what you say you’re going to do – that’s just how you roll!
Final thought: If you want to develop trust, you have to have trust in your own process. We’ll talk about that in our next installment.