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Learn to Close without “Closing” with Persuasive Selling

In my quarterly newsletter last week I mentioned I’m finishing up my second book. Persuasive Selling is written for people in the insurance industry and should be available on Amazon by year-end. The book looks at the application of the principles of influence throughout the sales cycle and how to apply the psychology to different buying styles. Below is an excerpt from the chapter I’ve called Closing without “Closing”.

Nobody Wants to be Closed

What’s the number one reason we hold back in relationships? The fear of rejection. Nobody likes that feeling so we do what we can to avoid that possible self-inflicted wound. This is why so many people struggle when it comes to dating. It’s why people rank the fear of public speaking over death. And without question fear is the biggest reason salespeople are reluctant to ask for the sale. It’s safer for the ego to let the prospect “think it over and get back to you.” 

Consider this: if you knew you would close every sale every time you would always ask for the sale! In fact, you’d probably look for every opportunity to get in front of as many people as possible. On the other end of the spectrum, if you didn’t give a darn what some stranger thought of you then you’d have no problem asking for the sale either. Obviously you don’t live in either extreme so what can you do?

  1. Separate rejection of your offer from you. When you realize a prospect is saying no to your offer it begins to remove the sting of rejection. Unless they really don’t like you (that would not be the case because you know how to leverage liking!) then it must have come down to something in your proposal.
  2. Get better at selling. The only way to move closer to 100% acceptance is by getting better at selling. I’m not so naive to think any price or protection plan can be sold but I do believe many more deals could be closed if salespeople did a better job incorporating the principles of influence when talking to customers. Why else do some salespeople close sales that you might never think possible? 

In their uncertainty, prospects generally 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 is this: “What’s the best way to close?” When I’m asked about closing my standard response is, “The best way to close starts the moment you meet a prospect for the first time, look him or her in the eye and shake hands.” That sets the stage and from that point forward however easy or difficult closing the sale is depends on what you do. I believe closing the sale should just be a natural part of the ongoing conversation with a prospective customer. The best compliment a salesperson can hear from a client is, “I never felt like I was being sold.”

Early on in this book 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.

Of course, 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. Mentioning the clients who are like them, those that you already do business with, taps into consensus and makes you look like even more of an authority. 

All of these principles serve to reinforce why the prospect has made their way to this point with you. It’s very likely both of you have invested a lot of time and effort up to this point. Now it becomes especially important to tap into consistency and scarcity.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was name one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

Don’t Memorize, Internalize. Embrace, Anticipate, Practice!

At a recent sales training event I encouraged attendees; don’t memorize, internalize. These were salespeople and we were talking about how to deal with objections whenever they arise. The key with objections is to embrace them. After all, if you’re in sales then objections are part of the game just like running is part of soccer or jumping is essential in basketball. Nobody would start playing soccer and complain about all the running. Likewise, no one would take up basketball if they didn’t like jumping. Now apply that thought process to sales and dealing with objections.

No surprises here

If you’ve been selling for any length of time you face the same objections over and over. Sure, there are rare case something new is tossed at you but the vast majority of the time there’s no surprise when an objection is lobbed your way.

I recall when I was learning hapkido (Korean version of aikido, think Steven Segal) every offensive attack move I attempted, the black belt I was working with had a counter move that would break my wrist, elbow or arm. No punch I threw at him caught him off guard.

You’re in control

With objections the ball is in your court so to speak because when you know what to expect you’re actually in control. Consider this; if you were playing a competitive sport and had an answer for every move you opponent might make there’s no way you’d lose!

Back to hapkido; because I could not surprise my black belt opponent he was always calm in control. That allowed him to stay focused on what needed to be done to protect himself and subdue me.

You have answers

You can’t control other people but you can control yourself. Not only do you know what’s coming, which allows you to stay in control, you should know exactly how you’re going to respond.

As noted previously, the black belt I was working with had a counter to every move I made. His counters, if fully executed, would have quickly ended the confrontation and because of the damage he could do it was scary stuff.

Practice you moves

There’s nothing worse than dealing with a salesperson or customer service rep who gives pat answers that sound like a bad telemarketer who mindlessly memorized a script. Even worse might be the person who obviously doesn’t care because “they’ve heard it a thousand times before.”

My black belt friend needed more than knowledge of what I would do and how he would respond. He needed to be really good at his response in order to protect himself and end the confrontation. That meant countless hours of practice on his moves.

Conclusion

You may not be in sales but you’re sure to run into objections in your career. Those objections may be to a project you’re proposing, training you believe is needed, budget approval or any number of other initiatives. Knowing this you need to be embrace the reality of objections, anticipate them and practice your responses. The better you get at this the more likely you are to get the approval you need.

To Do This Week

Take time to write down the five most common objections you face. Next, think about how you might incorporate the principles of influence into your responses to make it easier to hear yes. Then begin to practice your responses out loud.

Two principles that are excellent when it comes to dealing with objections are social proof and authority.

  1. The more you are viewed as an expert or invoke expertise (principle of authority) the easier it will be to get beyond the objection.
  2. Tapping into social proof, what many or similar others are doing, is often an indicator that the person or group you’re trying to influence might want to consider doing the same.

Remember, just like my black belt friend, anticipate, practice and respond. Don’t memorize, internalize so your responses become and authentic part of who you are.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, international trainer, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the planet on the science of ethical influence and persuasion.

Brian’s book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was a top 10 selling Amazon book in several insurance categories and top 50 in sales & selling. His LinkedIn Learning courses on sales and coaching have been viewed by almost 90,000 people around the world!

PS That’s a picture of me with our daughter Abigail at Taekwondo.

Selling Without Making People Feel Sold

One of the nicest compliments I’ve received came after a presentation I gave a few years ago at a large insurance event. An attendee said afterwards, “I think Brian came across as a guy who, quote unquote, was not interested in selling you and invariably he sold us.” That compliment came to mind recently as I worked with a young intern at State Auto Insurance.

I spent an hour with this high school student talking about coaching in business. I started with the example of a basketball coach because she had a clear picture of what a good basketball coach should do to prepare a team to play to the best of its ability. From there we transitioned to business coaching and eventually focused on her.

As we talked about routines I asked her if there was something she’d like to change in her typical day. She acknowledged having a hard time getting ready for school in the morning. We discussed why that was the case and what she could do to make it easier on herself. She talked about possibly laying out her clothes the night before, perhaps showering the night before and doing her hair. She also knows she could start making the choice not to hit the snooze button after 6:45 AM.

Once we’d discussed all the options I asked her what she intended to do. She said she knows a better routine would help and committed to write down a few things we had talked about then try them over the next seven days. I encouraged her that even if it doesn’t work out as well as she would like we could talk about it again and see what part of her new routine might need to change.

Then I surprised her with this, “Do you realize we just had a coaching session?” Her eyes got wide; she smiled and shook her head to indicate no she didn’t realize it. I didn’t come across as someone who intended to “coach” her and in the end I coached her because there was no resistance. My coaching was just part of the bigger conversation we were having.

If your attempts to coach, sell or persuade someone come across as anything but a conversation you might want to rethink your approach. In our Principles of Persuasion Workshop I often tell salespeople the best way to close a deal starts the moment you shake a prospective customer’s hand and look him or her in the eye because everything builds from there. Your “selling” should really be informing people into yes and that happens best when you ethically employ the principles of persuasion.

I didn’t intend to convince you of anything here but I hope I convinced you.

Persuasive Selling – A New Lynda.com Course

I had the privilege this year to work with the people at Lynda.com, now owned by LinkedIn, to create an online sales training course. It was quite an experience to visit their facility in Carpentaria, CA, a stunningly beautiful place! I worked with a director, producer, make-up artist, lighting technician, and a digital artist. And that was only part of the crew that ultimately made Persuasive Selling come to life.

Understanding how people think and behave is key to mastering the art of persuasion and an essential ingredient to any successful sale. In this new sales course I draw on the work of social psychologists and behavioral economists to provide concrete, actionable items and transferrable ideas for each step of the sales process.

I start the course out by sharing eight psychological concepts that you can easily employ throughout the sales cycle. If you’ve been a reader of Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then you’re familiar with reciprocity, liking, social proof, authority, consistency, scarcity, compare and contrast, and using the word because to get people to say “Yes” to you.

After laying that foundation you’ll learn how these concepts play a role in the early stages of the sales cycle, as well as how they can help you realize the qualities of your ideal client, deliver presentations, handle objections, negotiate, close, and ask for referrals. Lastly, you’ll learn how to grow from each sale and continuously refine your approach. Topics include:

  • Reaching out to prospects
  • Developing a rapport with customers
  • Making a good first impression
  • Giving a successful presentation
  • Providing the correct amount of options
  • Handling objections
  • Understanding the value equation
  • Closing the sale
  • Asking for referrals

The course lasts an hour and by the time you’re finished you’ll feel much more confident as you ready yourself to tackle the next sales opportunity.

Want to get started? First, if you’re not already a Lynda.com member you’ll need to sign up. To get that process started click here. Once you’re inside the site type “Persuasive Selling” in the search box and you’ll see the course with my name next to it. Click on the link and you’ll be ready to launch the course and start learning.

I hope you find Persuasive Selling entertaining, enlightening, and most of all, useful for your career.