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The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Closing

I remember when I was young and single I would go out with friends and see pretty girls, but rarely had the gumption to go up and talk to them. The reason was fear of rejection. Nobody likes that feeling so we do what we can to avoid that possible self-inflicted wound.

In the same way I was afraid to talk to a pretty girl, salespeople are reluctant to ask for the sale for fear of rejection. It’s safer for the ego to let the prospect “think it over and get back to you.” In their uncertainty, prospects do one of two things: 1) take the safe route and don’t change anything, or 2) go with the salesperson who fearlessly asked them if they could start on the paperwork.

The number one question salespeople ask during The Principles of Persuasion Workshop® is, “What’s the best way to close?” My standard response is, “The best way to close starts the moment you meet prospects for the first time, look them in the eye and shake their hand.” From that point forward how easy or difficult closing is depends on what you do. I believe closing the sale should just be a natural part of the ongoing conversation with a prospect. The best compliment a salesperson can hear from a client is, “I never felt like I was being sold.”

Early on in this series I quoted Jeffrey Gitomer, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” Tapping into liking early and often will make a big difference by the time you ask for the business. Always start your contact with a prospect on a social level bonding over things you have in common and looking for opportunities to offer genuine compliments.

The more you’ve done for the prospect and the more you’ve gone out of your way on their behalf, the more likely they are to look for some way to give back to you. If you’re unable to close the deal for some reason you might still leverage all you’ve done as a way to get some referrals because of reciprocity.

People want to know they’re doing business with an expert because it gives them more confidence in their decision. As you make your way through the sales process, show yourself to be professional and someone your prospects can rely on for answers when they need them. In short, tap into authority.

I believe consistency is the most important principle to tap into during the closing. Reminding people of what they said is a powerful motivator of behavior! This is where the upfront close comes in handy early in the sales cycle. At some point during the initial meeting or qualification stage you need to find out exactly what it will take for you to earn the right to do business with the prospect. If you know you can’t meet their requirements, cut your losses and move on. But, if you believe you can meet the requirements you might want to say something like this: “Shirley, from what you’ve shared it sounds like if we can meet your specifications at the agreed upon price by the delivery date you mentioned, we’ll be doing business, correct?”

You want the prospect to come back with: “Correct. Meet those specs at that price by the delivery date we discussed and you have a deal.”

This is also the time to confirm there are no other hidden reasons that might crop up to kill the deal: “Just to be very clear Shirley, are there any other reasons I’m unaware of that could get in the way of us doing business?”

Again, you want her to confirm what you’re asking. When it comes time to close you only need to refer back to what you’ve already agreed on: “Shirley, great news. We can meet the specs at the price we discussed and can even deliver a little earlier than you requested. Can we go ahead and start the paperwork so we can get everything in motion?”

It would be very hard for Shirley to come back and say no at this point after you’ve done everything she asked for. Will there be times when someone backs out? Sure. But, using consistency in an approach like this will have more people saying yes and will make it much easier and natural for you to seal the deal.

Last, but not least, is scarcity. Pointing out what someone might save or gain by going with your proposal will not be as persuasive as honestly sharing what they stand to lose by not taking the step you recommend. For example, if you are in financial services, talking about how much more someone might be able to save for retirement by setting aside an extra percent of their income will not be as motivating as sharing what they will lose if they don’t save a little extra.

Ineffective – “Ed, if we can find a way to set aside just 1% more you’re going to have more than $100,000 extra in the bank by the time you retire.”

Effective – “Ed, if we can’t find a way to set aside just 1% more you’re going to lose out on more than $100,000 by the time you retire.”

Hopefully these examples of weaving the principles of influence into the sales process will take some of the fear out of closing. There’s one more post in this series – asking for referrals. Next week we’ll look at ways to make that happen as naturally as the close, by effectively working the principles of influence into your sales cycle.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Initial Meeting

Congratulations! Your prospecting efforts have paid off and you’ve set up your first meeting with the prospective client. Now comes the fun part because you’re going to start building relationships, selling and enjoying success.

First impressions matter and your initial contact will determine whether or not you go any further for several reasons:

  • Judging the book by its cover. Growing up we were told never to judge a book by its cover, but we do. Sometimes we do it consciously and sometimes it’s subconscious, but we all do it. Your prospect will do it too so leave nothing to chance. How you dress, act and prepare can make all the difference for that initial impression which happens in less than 30 seconds.
  • Do they want to do business? As you talk, beyond the initial judgment we just touched on, the prospect will be assessing many things as he/she decides whether or not to go forward.
  • Do you want to do business? The prospect isn’t the only one making a decision. Not every prospect is a potential fit for you and you should be assessing whether or not this is an individual or company you can, or want, to do business with.

There are two chief aims of this meeting: build rapport and ask enough questions to assess whether or not you can, or even want to, do business with this potential client.

Sales trainer and author Jeffrey Gitomer is fond of saying, “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still prefer to do business with their friends.” This goes to the heart of the principle of liking, which says people prefer to say, “Yes” to those they know and like.

Here’s a great example – ladies’ home parties. Whenever I ask an audience how many ladies have been to Tupperware, Mary Kay or Pampered Chef parties, nearly every female’s hand goes up. I can also tell by their reactions they don’t particularly want to go to those parties so I ask why they go. Inevitably they say, “Because a friend invited me.” They’d have no problem saying “No” to a stranger but when it’s a friend it’s hard to say “No.”

The more you put someone at ease, the more you offer genuine compliments and the more you connect over what you have in common, the more the other person will come to like you. But wait, there’s more! As you employ this strategy you will come to like them too and when they sense you really like them everything changes!

Another way to build rapport is to engage the principle of reciprocity. The reason this builds rapport is twofold. People feel positively towards those who give to them. Secondly, if what you give or share benefits them in some way they feel more positive towards and more indebted to return the favor. That’s effective use of this powerful principle of influence.

Here’s an example. Someone who went through one of my Principles of Persuasion Workshops gave his copy of Influence Science and Practice to a client’s son who was just starting out in business. He was amazed at the look on both of their faces and knew what he’d just done was appreciated and would make a difference in their relationship going forward.

Knowing what to give and what you can connect on or compliment requires some up front leg work. Doing a little research online and talking with people who know the prospect shouldn’t take much time and might be a goldmine of ideas on how to leverage both liking and reciprocity. Again, one major goal of the meeting is to have the opportunity to go to the next step in the sales process so building rapport is a must.

Next time we’ll look at the qualification process where you really begin to understand the prospect, his/her business and needs. Two principles of influence are especially helpful in this phase of the sales cycle.

Don’t take it Personal. It’s Just Business.

“Taken” is a movie that tells the story of a
young girl who goes to Europe with a friend and is kidnapped. She’s sold into
the sex slave trade but fortunately for her, and unfortunately for the bad guys,
her father, played by Liam Neeson, is a badass ex-CIA type who is used to
solving problems in a ruthless way.

I’ll never forget Jane and I watching “Taken”
in the theater just days before we were about to put Abigail on an airplane to
see her Aunt Eva in New York City. Not the most comforting feeling to know there are
sick people out there ready to prey on the innocent and unsuspecting as you’re
about to send your 13-year-old daughter on her first solo trip!
As Neeson closes in on finding his daughter,
he finds himself at the party of a very rich businessman. The businessman has a
secret; despite being a father he is running a sex slave trade where people are
paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for young women. Neeson learns that his
daughter is at this house and is about to rid the world of this thug and just
before he does so there is a brief exchange:
Bad Guy – “Please understand it was all
business. It wasn’t personal.” [Hoping to be spared]
Liam Neeson – “It was all personal to me.”
[Shoots him]
For those of us in business, while not enduring
the kind of situation Neeson found himself in, we’ve probably heard something
similar countless times from much nicer people – “Don’t take it personal, it’s
just business.”

But the reality is this; we do take it personally.
Think about how people describe themselves so often:I’m a fireman.

I’m a salesman.
I’m a nurse.
I’m a …
Much of our being is wrapped up in what we do,
“I am.” That’s only natural because from about age 20 through 65, many people
will work upwards of 100,000 hours! We spend more of our lives at work than
with our loved ones so how can we not heavily associate our identity with what
we do? If that’s the case then it’s almost impossible not to take it personally.
So how do we avoid taking it personally? By
building relationships that are so strong they can trump almost all other
reasons to do business with us. Jeffrey Gitomer, a well-known author and sales
trainer puts it this way: “All things being equal, people want to do business
with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do
business with their friends.”
Gitomer’s philosophy goes to what Robert
Cialdini calls the liking principle. This principle of influence reminds us that
people prefer to say, “Yes” to those they know and like. It’s a very powerful
tool when it comes to influence.
I’m a realist and know friendship won’t trump
everything. There’s a certain price for which people will switch. How big that
difference is depends on a lot. However, I bet many of you reading this can
think of times you’ve chosen to do business with someone despite their pricing
being higher because of the friendship you have.
Here’s some proof in case you’re a skeptic. A
study was done with students from Stanford University and Northwestern. The
students were given the task of negotiating a deal. Half of the students were
told to “keep it strictly business” while the other half were encouraged to get
to know their negotiating partner; exchange pictures, emails, etc.
Did getting personal make a difference? It
most certainly did! Five times more “strictly business” students got deadlocked
in their negotiations as compared to the “get to know your partner group.” That’s
right, five times more (30% vs. 6%). Would it be beneficial for your business
if you could seal the deal significantly more than you’re currently
doing…without having to spend more money? All it takes is a bit of effort and
conversation to do these two things:
  1. Take time to find similarities with people you
    do business with. Talking about what you have in common is an easy way to bond
    with another person.
  2. Look for things about the other person you can
    genuinely compliment and then compliment them. They’ll feel good about you and
    you’ll convince yourself they’re a pretty good person in the process.
Fortunately we don’t have to try solving our
business problems like Liam Neeson had to. Give these two simple ideas a try
and you’ll build better relationships — the kind that will make, “Don’t take
it personal, it’s just business,” a thing of the past.

Brian, CMCT®
influencepeople 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cialdini’s Principles of Influence Applied to Social Media

I just finished Jeffery Gitomer’s latest book, Social Boom. I’m a Gitomer fan and although the book was very basic I thought it was still pretty good nonetheless. It’s not a “how to” book on detailed things you can do with different social media sites. There are plenty of “how to” books out there to help you in those areas. Gitomer’s focus is more about the strategic use of different social media tools to build your brand and business. The best book I’ve read to date on social media was Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. I liked the book because the authors tap into many different principles of influence as ways to build your networks. That makes sense because social media is about people reaching out and connecting with one another and whenever people are involved an understanding of human psychology is helpful. Because I know many of you who check in on my blog regularly don’t enjoy reading as much as I do it’s a safe bet the vast majority of you won’t be running out to by a copy Trust Agents or Social Boom anytime soon. However, I know many of you enjoy learning tips that can help you get more out of your social media experience. So here are a few basics ways you can use the principles of influence to get more bang for your buck. Liking is the principle that tells us people prefer to say “Yes” to those they know and like. To engage liking in social media, here are two simple things to focus on – similarities and compliments. When you try to connect with someone it can be as simple as putting a personal message that highlights something you have in common in a Facebook friend request. I have many Facebook friends around the world because of this principle. I got those friends because I reached out to many of Dr. Cialdini’s Facebook friends and when I did so I included a personal message to let them know I knew him and was a one of his trainers. He was our connection or similarity if you will. Compliments are easy to use also. If you’re trying to connect on LinkedIn a personal message is the preferable way to go, also, rather than the standard, “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” In your message include something that you admire or appreciate about that person, letting them know that’s part of the reason you’re reaching out, and the odds they’ll accept your request will go way up. Reciprocity is the principle that describes the reality that we feel obligated to give back the same form of behavior first given to us. For example, on Twitter quite often simply choosing to follow someone will lead them to follow you in return. That’s why most people’s “Following” and “Followers” numbers are so close. I don’t advocate following everyone just because they followed you first but the vast majority of following happens that way. One other way to engage this principle is to reach out to others to help them. Whatever you have in terms of time, talent or expertise, look for ways to give some of that away because those who avail themselves will naturally want to help you when you need it. Consensus lets us know people feel comfortable following the crowd because generally there’s safety in numbers. When we see someone has thousands, or tens of thousands, of Twitter followers, or 500+ LinkedIn connections that sets in the minds of many that those are people worth following. If that wasn’t the case then why would so many others connect with them? Regularly working whatever networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Cinch, etc.) you’re on will eventually pay dividends because the more people who are connected to you the more others want to be connected too. Be patient because it can be like a snowball rolling down a hill. It takes time to see the snowball grow but once it gets going watch out! Authority highlights the reality that people like to follow the advice of experts. What is your expertise? Do you highlight it somehow on your social media networks? If you aren’t then you need to start because it gives people a reason to want to connect with you. Until a several years ago I was like many other sales trainers but my passion for influence and persuasion led me to go deeper in that particular area. Now that I’ve started blogging, people in more than 160 countries have taken time to read what I write. When that fact is shared it’s amazing the instant credibility with others. Consistency is the principle of persuasion that tells us people feel psychological pressure to behave consistently with what they’ve previously said or done. The key to tapping into this principle is either knowing what someone has said or done in the past or getting them to commit to you in some way. Getting them to commit to you is easy to do because all it takes is asking questions. Sometimes the person will say no to your request but when they say yes the odds that they’ll follow through go up significantly. So if you need help, ask people. You’ll be surprised at the number that will do so because social media is about connecting, helping and growing. Scarcity describes the reality that people want what they can’t have or what they perceive to be rare. For me something that I can highlight to tap into scarcity is the fact that only about two dozen people in the world are certified to teach influence and persuasion on behalf of Dr. Cialdini. When people learn that fact it makes them more curious and they naturally to want to engage me. What do you have that makes you rare, unique or different? Get that out there and it will make more people want to connect with you. This is a very brief overview of how you can use the psychology of persuasion to make your time and effort in social media more worthwhile. Hopefully you’ll find the tips useful. If you’ve seen how you’ve successfully used some of the principles in your social media circles please leave a comment so we can learn from you.Brian, CMCT
influencepeople
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Quit Trying to be Interesting and Get Interested

Dale Carnegie noticed six easy things any of us can do to get people to like us. Before we dive in, let me start by saying, it’s not so much about us getting others to like us as much as it’s about us coming to like them. For example, if I interact with you, I can do things to try to make you like me and you’ll probably see right through it. You’ll feel as though I’m using a cheesy sales technique. Or I can go into a situation with the mindset that I want to make friends and enjoy the people I interact with. Now I might do the very same things but people see the sincerity of someone who really wants to like them and that makes all the difference.

So the first thing we’ll look at is the advice to become genuinely interested in other people. In other words, quit trying to be interesting and get interested.

A few weeks ago I mentioned everyone’s favorite radio station WIIFM, call letters for “What’s In It For Me.” This is the preoccupation of most people’s thoughts. Reality check – people are more concerned about themselves than they are about you. If you want to come to know them, like them and perhaps have them like you then don’t fight it. Carnegie said we could make more friends in two months than we could in two years by becoming interested in others rather than trying to be interesting.

Sounds easy enough but what’s that look like, being interested in others? First thing I’d say would be give them your full attention. If you’re meeting with them in person that means maintaining eye contact and displaying body language that indicates you’re open to them and what they’re sharing. Don’t sit back, arms folded, legs crossed with a blank expression. All it takes is a smile, head nod to indicate agreement and perhaps a slight lean forward. I bet you can do each of those things.

If you happen to be on the phone stop everything you’re doing…including looking at your computer. Ask yourself, “If the person was sitting in front of me would I be doing what I’m doing right now?” If the answer is no then stop whatever you’re doing so you can pay full attention. Take notes if for no other reason than to focus on the other person and what they’re saying.

How about this; don’t listen to respond, instead, listen to understand. That means you’re not jumping in each time they take a breath so you can share your thoughts
or your stories. The more natural thing would be to ask questions to learn more about them or what they happen to be talking about.

Here’s an idea — you can take the initiative and talk about something you know is important to the other person. Perhaps you’ve heard they are into gardening. If you’re like me that may be something you have no interest in but you can still ask them about it because it’s important to them. How do people feel when they talk about something or someone they love? How do they feel when they talk about causes they’re passionate about? What about fond memories? You’re probably thinking, “Of course they feel good when they recall such things and talk about them.” Bingo!

When people talk about what they love or what they’re passionate about they feel energized and good. Eventually they come to associate those positive feelings with you. Think back to a time when someone said or did something that hurt you. If they did it repeatedly you probably tried to avoid that person. On the flip side, when you had good, positive interactions with people you began to associate good feelings with them and wanted to be around them. It’s the same deal here, only this time you’re making a more strategic decision to engage the other person on their terms in hopes of engaging the liking principle.

This strategic decision is an important one. When I interview people I typically ask for a strength of theirs and most often I hear something like, “I have great relationships with my agents and CSRs.” So people are aware relationships are important but they usually fall flat when I follow up with this question, “Suppose you get this job and you’re going to visit your assigned agents for the first time. What will you do to connect with them as quickly as possible so you can build a strong working relationship quickly?” This is where people stutter and hesitate. It’s easy for them to sense when someone likes them but they’re not always sure why that’s occurred.

Understanding a simple concept like becoming genuinely interested in others and making it a focus of your interaction will help you become a more likable person. Never underestimate the power of liking. Jeffrey Gitomer put it best when he said, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things not being so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” Being a good friend will get you the benefit of the doubt every time, whether professionally or personally.

If you’ve had success making friends with a strategy like this, or some other way, leave a comment below to let me know about it.

Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

People Like to do Business with People They Like

You’ve probably heard this one before, “People like to do business with people they like.” Sales trainer/author Jeffrey Gitomer puts it this way in the Sales Bible, “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with people they like. All things being not so equal, people still prefer to do business with people they like.” Both of those describe the psychological principle of persuasion known as “liking.”

But liking doesn’t just apply to business, it extends to pretty much everything. Think back to the last time you did something with other people. Did you think, “Hmm, who to I like least? I think I’ll call them to go to the movies (or dinner or golf, etc.).” Of course you didn’t, you called someone you enjoyed being around.

When we like people it’s natural to pick up the phone to call them for social or business reasons. So being likable can help you in lots of ways. I’m not talking rocket science here. When I interview people and I ask, “What’s the most important part of selling?” the answer I get most often is one simple word, “relationships.” If you’re not in a “one and done business” (i.e., car sales, homes, or other big ticket items), I tend to agree with that answer. In my business, insurance, our people do form long-term relationships with agents and CSRs so likability is huge.

I usually follow up my question with something like this, “If you get this job, and you’re getting ready for your first sales calls, what will be your strategy to build your relationships quickly?” This is where most interviewees fall flat. They know their current customers like them but they don’t really know why. If they don’t understand that, then building strong relationships quickly is a matter of hit or miss. If they do understand what causes people to like them, then they can look for ways to tap into that and get those new relationships off to a good start.

First and foremost, we like people who are like us. That can encompass many things such as where you’re from, favorite sports teams, similar interests or backgrounds, to name a few. Once you notice something you have in common it is incumbent upon you to tap into that by speaking up.

I always think of my wife, Jane, when it comes to this. If you’ve ever met her then you now she’s a diehard Steelers fan!! When I was a kid I hated the Steelers…with a passion…but, after 21 years of marriage and a lot of football, I’ve become a fan too. What Jane is so good at is connecting with people. It doesn’t matter where we are in the country, if someone has Steelers sportswear on she’ll say, “Go Steelers!” Quite often that leads to conversation which would lead you to believe Jane and the stranger had known each other for years.

And it’s not just the Steelers. Once, while having a drink at Cheers in Boston, she overheard someone talking and recognized the accent as being from Southwest Pennsylvania. She asked about it, was correct, and a conversation followed.

Those were simple things any of us can do, if we take the initiative. If we see something we can connect with, we need to simply raise it to the surface and let nature take its course. The other important point to note is, when you talk about what you have in common it usually elicits good feelings. As people come to associate those good feelings with you, that’s where liking happens. That’s when they start thinking of you when they have a need or want to do something social.

In the coming weeks we’ll look at others ways you can tap into the principle of liking. Now here’s the really cool thing; if you try the things I teach you, not only will people come to like you more, you’ll actually like them more as well. And who knows, that could lead to some new friendships along the way.