Whenever you read about selling these days, it’s all about messaging, story-telling, and pitching.
Thing is, those are wicked tough skills to learn.
They take a lot of work and time. They take a ton of preparation and practice. They take a boatload of hard effort.
Well, what if they were a whole lot less important to selling your professional services than you think they are?
Yup, they have their place. They are good skills to have. They definitely can help in some situations.
But what if there was another skill that was at least (if not more) than ten times more important than those “persuasive skills?”
And not only that, what if it was a whole lot easier to learn and implement in every selling conversation?
Well, I already gave it away in the title:
This is not just one of a number of important skills when it comes to selling.
It is the MASTER SKILL. Nothing is more important. Nothing will help you close more deals. And luckily, nothing is easier.
Except for one little thing. And that’s a persistent belief that says, “To sell my services I need to persuade, I need to have a perfect message, tell powerful stories and pitch my benefits.”
You see, most of us are ridiculously bad at just shutting up and listening.
In my newsletter, two weeks ago, I outlined my step-by-step selling process in detail. You can go back and read it here.
But today I want to point out the listening part and make is stick out like a sore thumb so you can’t miss it.
Imagine this common scenario:
Someone has expressed an interest in your service. They might have come from anywhere – as a referral, as a guest on a webinar, from visiting your website or LinkedIn profile.
And so, you agree to set up a time to speak with them. (I do this exclusively on Zoom these days.)
The Absolutely Key Next Step:
Ask them to read the Services Information Page on your website before you speak with them. This is not optional. This page, your S.I.P., answers all the questions they may have about your services.
The page doesn’t pitch them or use fancy, persuasive language, it just answers the key questions anyone interested in your services would want to know.
The Selling Conversation
Now, a few days later, you’re speaking with this prospective client on Zoom. They already know the key benefits, features, and processes of your service (because they’ve read your S.I.P.).
So, you don’t have to tell them again. No, you want to switch off your “persuading organ” (mouth) and turn on your “listening organ” (ears).
What to ask:
1. Ask, “Tell me about your situation.” And listen really closely.
2. Ask, “Tell me about your challenges.” And listen really closely.
3. Ask, “Tell me about your goals.” And listen really closely.
How to listen:
When they answer each of your questions, show that you’ve heard them and then ask a follow-up question. Keep going until you know enough about each of those three areas – situation, challenges, and goals.
You: Tell me a little about your company.
Them: We’re a small manufacturing company in the Midwest.
You: Oh, what do you manufacture?
Them: Exercise wear for gerbils.
You: Fascinating! How did you get into that business?
Example – Challenges
You: What is the challenge that had you reach out to me?
Them: We’re not selling enough of our gerbil-wear.
You: Tell me more about your marketing.
Them: Nobody thinks gerbils need exercise wear.
You: I see, so what are the things you’ve tried?
Example – Goals
You: If I was to help you, what are your goals?
Them: Either sell more of what we’ve got or change what we offer.
You: Do you have a specific target for sales?
Them: We’d like to gross $1Million this year.
You: OK, that sounds great.
Now assuming your prospective clients have more real-world problems than our gerbil clothier, I’m sure you could ask good questions in those three categories, right?
And with those questions, you’ve conducted 90% or more of the selling process. You’ve asked questions and listened. You know who they are, what challenges they face, and what they want to accomplish.
No messaging, story-telling, or pitching on your part. You kept silent on all of these. (Which often takes some real restraint!)
No, because listening and hearing is 10 times more important than anything you can say about your services.
So, then you do these two things:
1. Assure them you can help them (but only if you absolutely know you can).
2. Ask them if they have any questions about how you help your clients.
Example – Assurance and asking for their questions.
“I’m confident we can help you increase your sales. That’s our specialty – improving sales for niche manufacturing firms like yours.”
“Now what questions do you have about how we help our clients? I know you read the information on our website, but I’m sure you have a few questions.”
Then they ask their questions.
And you answer them and close on each answer.
“Yes, we do this and that to make sure we get the result. Does that make sense?”
“We expect to see results in about 6 months. Does that fit your expectations for improvements?”
“No, we’re not familiar with gerbil clothing but we have clients who manufacture outfits for dogs. Is that close enough?”
Don’t rush through their questions. Make sure that every question they have is answered satisfactorily.
“Anything else? Any other concerns? Does that give you a complete picture of how we can help?”
Then you close
“Based on our conversation, I’m confident we can help you get X outcome. Do you think my approach is something you can succeed at?”
And if they say, “yes,” you are done! They have decided to trust you to work with them.
And nowhere did you use tricky persuasive techniques, masterful story-telling, or heavy-handed pitching.
Does this approach really work? Well yes, I’ve been using a version of this for more years than I remember. And my closing rate is about 80%
And for most of those who don’t end up working with me, their situation, challenges, and goals were such that I let them know I couldn’t help them.
Stop Selling and Start Listening. :–)