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The art of helping people buy

05 Dec 2011

I was sitting with a client the other day discussing an executive training project for the new year.

The company in question is at the top of its game, but in a saturated market. Management have realised that to maintain their growth curve they need to move into new market verticals.

"Fair enough", I thought. I was wrong.

"What we need, Sean, is for our sales people to close harder,” the person said.

"If we put them through one of your courses and make sure they learn all the closing techniques and tricks, then we’ll be good to go.”

Was this person serious? Had they found an old training article online and mistaken it for up-to-date advice? It turned out they hadn’t.

Now, here at Sales Systems, there is not a closing technique we don’t know about, or have not used over the years.

These include, but are not limited to, the Columbo close, the Assumptive close, the Order Blank close, the Puppy Dog close, the Backwards close, the Take Away close, and the Sour Grapes close.

But that’s not how we do it anymore. Nobody does.

Now I am never one to talk myself out of a project – particularly when it’s so close to Christmas – but on this occasion I found myself on a mission. A mission to convert the poor, tainted soul in front of me that was, after all, my prospective client.

"Jen,” I began, "in my team we have two of the best in the business. We were also trained by some of the best in the world, and spent a combined 45 years at Xerox. We know a thing or two about selling.

"I can tell you that ‘closing’ may have been the game in the seventies, eighties and nineties, but the world has changed. It just doesn’t work that way anymore.”

Fortunately for all of us, the world has changed, and changed for the better. Today, we call it Helping People Buy.

Whether you like it or not, there are more things running interference in the sales process than ever before. Your prospective clients will ‘pre-filter’ you and your proposition well before you get a chance to even get through their door.

As for closing hard, if you search the internet for ‘closing techniques’ you will find pages and pages of examples. All of which are utter rubbish. Think about it for a minute; when was the last time you were closed hard by a salesperson and liked it? That’s right, you didn’t.

A great sale these days is when you almost reach the decision yourself. Sure, the salesperson may entice you across the finish line with that sharp professional presentation or client reference list, but in the end, armed with the right information and what you see in front of you (website, salesperson’s presence, collateral), it will be you who will more than likely make the call.

The ‘trick’ these days is for your sales people to understand the changes that have occurred, and figure out the many ways in which they can help influence their prospective client’s buying decision.

You will be pleased to know my client decided (without us closing them) not to unleash any more hard closing sales people onto their unsuspecting prospects, and we will spend the later part of January 2012 enlightening and converting their teams to the art of ‘Helping People Buy’.

Sean McDonald is managing director of Sales Systems. Go here for more.

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