I’m Not Here to Sell You Anything Article by: Jim Rohrbach

Do you ever have trouble getting a prospect to take action, pull the trigger, and become a paying client? A large percentage of my coaching clients are salespeople who often haven’t done much in their career to upgrade their professional selling skills. They believe that because they have the gift of gab, they can “wing it” during meetings with prospects. No wonder their numbers are down!

The following is a step-by-step approach I’ve adapted to my style and teach to my clients. I give much of the credit for what I share with you here to the Nightingale-Conant audio programs Advanced Selling Techniques by Brian Tracy and Close the Deal from the Sandler Sales Institute.

“I’m Not Here to Sell You Anything”

Introduction with benefit. When beginning a relationship with a prospect, start with something like, “Hi! I’m _______________________ with ________________________________. We help people like you to __________________________.” Fill in the blanks with your name, your company, and, most important, the main benefit you provide to your clients. For example, “Hi! I’m John Smith with Acme Benefits. We help our clients in companies like yours to sleep well at night instead of worrying about their health-care coverage.” Ideally, you want this statement to be catchy or memorable in some way. The idea is to get your prospect to want to know more.

Positioning statement. The next step is to mention what you do, and perhaps what you don’t do. So you might say, “I’m really a consultant, and my role is to help you make good choices for yourself about your situation. What I don’t do is sell, promote, or recommend anything before I know exactly what’s in your best interest.”

Ask permission to ask questions. The Sandler Sales Institute calls this step “The Up-Front Contract.” You ask a prospect for explicit permission to ask questions, for example: “I’d like to get 15 or 20 minutes of your time to ask you a few questions about where you’re at currently, where you want to get to, and what might be getting in your way. Then we can decide if it makes sense to do something further together or not. Does that sound fair?” Let me offer a few discussion points about this powerful sales tactic:
“15 or 20 minutes” You’re indicating this will be brief and you won’t take up much time. (Prospects who have a real need will choose to extend this time frame.)
“… we can decide … to do something further together …” This implies that you and your prospect are going to collaborate, that you won’t be begging for his business.
” … or not.” This lets a prospect know that it’s OK to for him to say no. Knowing that allows him to relax: You’ve given him an out if he needs it. It also implies that you can say no too, which helps you to screen out poor prospects.
“Does that sound fair?” No one has ever said no to this seemingly innocuous question. And when a prospect says yes — congrats! You now have control of the sales process, because it is the person asking the questions who is in control, not vice versa.

Start the interview. Proceed with a consultative interview, using a series of questions in a logical sequence to determine your prospect’s …
Pain, need, or gap: What lies between where she is now and where she could be with your product or service.
Budget/Value $$$: What kind of money she has set aside to address any problems you uncover, and what the value of your product/service would be above and beyond her investment.

Decision-making process: Who else besides the person you are in front of is involved with moving forward, what their time frame is, and what would they need to be convinced of in order to know that working with you would be a great decision for themselves and their firm.
Your skillful use of questions in these three areas will be all you need to determine if you and your prospect are truly a good fit. I give all of my producer clients the assignment of scripting these questions out and using them on every sales call. Only amateurs “wing it,” and they are usually checking the want ads for a new job in short order.

The Directive Close. If there is a good fit, Brian Tracy suggests you tell your prospect the exact steps he will need to go through to become an active client, with a statement such as, “If this sounds interesting to you, the way it works is ________________.” Then, SHUT UP! The prospect will either agree to proceed to the next step (which might entail a proposal or presentation) or present an objection. If there is an objection, go back to the interview to determine what the prospect’s real concerns are. Redefine these in terms of his “conditions of satisfaction”: what he must get from you in order to feel comfortable moving forward. Then restate the steps for becoming a client, then silence. (Note: if another meeting is required, you MUST set a firm appointment — date, time, and agenda — even if by phone, to keep the process moving. No nextstep appointment? No sale is likely.)

Proposal/presentation. You may think this is out of place here, but you must refrain from doing a proposal or presentation for your product or service until a prospect has answered your interview questions satisfactorily. The key concept of this entire strategy is not to do dog-and-pony shows, but instead to qualify prospects first through questions and get their commitment BEFORE you deliver your proposal/presentation. I learned a perfect analogy from Tracy: A doctor who would prescribe a treatment plan for a patient before doing a thorough examination and diagnosis is engaging in malpractice. Why should it be different for you and your prospects?

This is a simplified outline for handling the ins and outs of any high-level sale. I greatly respect any sales professional who is using this type of approach on a potential large sale, with its multiple calls, elusive characters, political intrigue, and seemingly endless sales cycle. If that describes YOU, I know you’re well on your way to Closing the Deal!

Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” coaches business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He has helped hundreds of individuals to achieve their goals since he developed his first coaching program in 1982. To arrange a Free Consultation with Jim, go to www.SuccessSkills.com.