Photo Jim Readan, Unsplash
By David Mamet
Why are salespeople always coming across as sleazy?
It’s because the desperation behind their offer is more self-serving than neutral.
Sales is about finding the right people for the right products. Unsolicited pressure-selling leaves a bad taste in our mouths because it’s usually selling the right products to the wrong people.
But with monthly targets, commissions, and a family to feed, you can’t necessarily blame a salesperson for trying. They’re playing the numbers game.
Instead of judging that approach, I’d rather fix that approach — by offering alternative tactics to close deals or sales more effectively, without pressuring your customers using guilt to buy right here, right now.
1. Listening and Effective Listening Are Different
What’s the difference between listening and effective listening?
Listening is giving your attention to the sound. Effective listening is hearing the message, the delivery and the intention behind the words.
“You see, but you do not observe.” – Sherlock Holmes
When someone says, “I’m looking to provide for my family,” you should never offer them a deal without that as an end goal.
What do they want? What do they desire? Help them reach it with your product or service, and you’re easily closing the deal.
It’s not sleazy to tailor your offer to their desire — quite the opposite. If I went into a store asking for a new car that was safer for my family and the salesperson offered me a sports car with a two-star safety rating, I’d be appalled, even if it was cheaper and better looking.
To close, your job is to find out what the customer truly wants. Not what they think they want on the surface. What they truly want.
Most people can’t verbalise what they want. It’s your job to ask why.
Dig down. Get personal.
When you do, you may find that your service or product truly isn’t for them — saving you countless hours of negotiation with someone who will never buy.
However, if they want it, you’ll know exactly what area of your product to highlight most.
Here’s the kind of questions I’d ask to get deep, effective answers from a potential client. I need this to know if what I’m selling is what they’re looking for:
What are your current challenges?
What one area do you need help with the most?
How much would you be willing to pay to never have to worry about that ever again?
Why haven’t you attacked this problem area before?
If this was handled, how much better would your business run/you feel?
2. The Time-Sensitive Sale
Has an ecommerce website ever given you this message: “Your offer expires in 24 hours”?
Be honest. Were you more likely to buy after seeing it?
Photo by Agê Barros on Unsplash
Put simply, commerce works on supply and demand. When a customer leaves the table, they should know that they’re making room for another customer to sit down.
As someone who respects their own time or product offering, you can’t wait for them forever. It’s not pressure, it’s realism. You have a finite number of hours in each day, and you have to give the time to the people who are meeting you halfway.
This is why time-sensitive deals make so much sense to close customers.
“Sleep on it. Let me know in the morning. But just so you know, the price of gold could go up by tomorrow, and I’ll have to renew my offer to reflect that change. No rush. I just wanted to make you aware that the price could change, so there are no nasty surprises.”
If it’s true, it’s fair game.
Don’t be afraid to put a value on your time. For anyone on the fence, this could be the push they needed to land on your side.
The same applies to products. If you only have a certain level of inventory, it’s worth being honest. Those goods won’t last forever. As long as the customer knows that the product can’t wait, they can’t be disappointed when someone else snaps it up.
Sometimes, simply telling a customer exactly that fact is enough to ensure they immediately buy it.
3. The Cold Shoulder
Treat them mean, keep them keen.
That’s not to be taken literally, but a cold shoulder approach to sales can work just as easily as a warm one.
Tomorrow I’m booked in to get a haircut in SWYD Tatoo & Barber Shop in Cardiff. My barber has won Welsh Barber of the Year multiple times in a row. For that reason, I don’t expect him to ever call me or to roll over backwards to fit me in. It’s a one-way relationship.
If I don’t want to show up, there’s a line of other customers who will. He’s fully booked — always.
How does this apply to you or your business?
If your product is good and you know it, why not act like it? Stop chasing.
Make your customers work for you.
Most good restaurants only accept bookings. No walk-ins, ever. Their demand far exceeds their supply, so they don’t beg for your custom.
If you want to sell in this way, you need to signal to buyers that what you’re selling is worth chasing. Don’t always give it up so easily. People can smell desperation from a mile away.
Reminding someone they’re not the only person in the world who needs your time, product, or service is a great way to close them on your terms — and in a timely manner.
4. The Pros and Cons
Not everyone is a buyer. But similarly, not every buyer is effectively sold to.
What do I mean by that?
I class buyers as those with the intention and means (capital) to buy. Not just those who eventually make the sale. Plenty of people are willing to pay but like to weigh up the pros and cons first. They’re already on a journey, but it’s up to your sales tactics to ensure their destination is you and not your competitor.
By outlining your own pros and cons and those of your competition, you can justify the sale with respect to your offer, e.g.:
“We do x and our biggest competitor does x & y, but they aren’t really specialists at what you need. I know we’re a little more expensive at x, but with us you get a higher standard and z thrown in free, which they can’t even offer.”
That structure works to close even the most discerning buyer.
You’re telling them what they want, that you provide it, and that you’re not oblivious to the fact that others can, too, and potentially cheaper.
However, you’re confident of your better service and the added benefits your service/product provides.
You’ve answered their potential questions before they’ve asked.
5. Be Attentive
Whilst shopping for a new car, I drove past the Mercedes Benz showroom.
A few of the cars caught my attention, so I looped back to take a closer look.
After seeing one I liked, I was impulsive and ready to buy, walking straight up to the reception desk to speak to a sales representative.
Every single one of the three people at reception was on the phone. Not one of them acknowledged me with a look, eye contact, or a gesture — despite seeing me standing in their otherwise empty lobby.
They didn’t even bother to hold up their index finger to suggest they’ll be with me in one minute.
Listening to their conversations, none of them were trying to wrap it up or telling the person on the line, “Sorry a customer has just come in, I have to go.” I’ve never felt so unappreciated. Their conversations continued for another two minutes before I turned around and left.
That lack of attention and rudeness cuts so deep, it’s worth mentioning here. The cold-shoulder approach works well, but when the customer comes to you, you need to be attentive.
They’ve made the first move and come 90% of the way. You should go the other 10%. Okay, maybe I just plagiarised that lesson from the kissing scene in the movie Hitch, but it definitely applies here too.
If a customer wants you, make them feel wanted back.
6. Take Away Friction
I use DocuSign to close new contracts with clients. It’s easy, can be signed from their phone, and they don’t need to create an account to close the deal. In short, it’s frictionless.
The same can be said for contactless payment terminals in stores.
Cash is friction. Not everyone has it, and even if they do, perhaps they don’t have the right amount on them. However, with the right payment terminal, a contactless debit or credit card hovers near it, *beep* and it’s paid. Paying via telepathy would be the only way to make it simpler.
Start by removing the friction in your business.
By giving customers more ways to pay, or making the process of commissioning your services easier, you can ensure the highest conversion rate possible.
Try not to let your customer say, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” Inaction is a subconscious action. By not prioritising the completion of your deal or the purchase of your product, they’ve decided no subconsciously.
It’s not your first rodeo, and it’s better to show it than say it.
Reducing friction makes it easier for your customer to make signing/buying a priority.