Sales is a topic that people tend to be a little bit wary of.
People feel like sales are icky and forced, and the idea of selling is often wrapped in negative associations.
I choose to see sales as opportunities. To get another perspective, I chatted to my dad, Vincent Vanderputte, to get his advice on selling. After all, my mom once said that our family would never go hungry because my dad could sell air to anyone.
But as he points out, it’s not just about the act of selling. Rather than talking about closing the sale, we should be thinking about selling in terms of opening the relationship. It’s not about the final transaction, it’s about understanding how you can add value to your customer’s life.
After all, buying is never a simple process.
Let’s take buying a new car as an example. There are a bunch of options you could choose from: an impractical, fancy Ferrari, a reliable Jeep, a sturdy but boring minivan. Sure, you could weigh up the features of each car and make your decision that way. But that’s rarely the only thing you look at. You think about how driving each car would make you feel, right? That’s the emotional part of your brain coming into play, and what we need to think about if we’re trying to sell something to our customers.
You’ve probably heard about the right and left hemispheres of the brain, your creative side and your more logic-driven side. We’ll come back to this later on, but the art of sales is appealing to both halves of the brain when speaking to your ideal customer.
Here, my dad shares the 4 key steps you need to take to make a sale through relationship-building, rather than through aggressive tactics and DMing strangers on Instagram (hint: that never works).
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Step 1: Dig the hole
In order to know how you can best serve your customer, you need to get to the bottom of what their problems are. And by that, we’re not just talking about their surface level problems: we need to find out what the emotional roots of the problem are.
Let’s say you’re trying to sell a fitness program to a middle-aged man. The fact that that man sometimes gets out of breath isn’t enough of a trigger to get him to buy your program. You need to start digging to get to the bottom of the emotional aspect.
In this example, you might start asking the man how it makes him feel when he’s out of breath. Sure, it’s annoying, but it’s something that he can accept, given he’s now middle-aged.
What is going to make your customer want to break the status quo? What is going to make them burst through the acceptance of their problem, and decide they’re ready for the solution you happen to be selling?
This is what we’re trying to dig out in conversation.
Through your strategically placed questions, our middle-aged man might remember that last time he was out of breath on a walk with his family, his young son turned to him worried about his health. The son’s friend’s dad recently suffered a heart attack, and your potential customer’s son worried the same fate awaited his dad.
Suddenly there’s a lot more at stake for your customer. It’s no longer a case of ‘oh, I guess I should lose a couple of kilos at some point’, but rather ‘this is something I need to do for my family’.
When you dig through a conversation with your ideal customer, you’ll eventually get to the emotional trigger – my dad advises that this is usually after about 5 or 6 questions.
We as humans have two key motivators for buying something: avoiding pain, and gaining pleasure. Through our hole digging, we’ve covered how we’re going to help our ideal customer avoid pain. Now, it’s time for gaining pleasure.
Step 2: Paint a positive vision
At this point, as a salesperson, you’ve got to the bottom of the problem your potential client is trying to solve.
Now, we want to move into painting a positive picture. Let’s go back to our middle-aged man. We know he doesn’t care that he’s slightly overweight and gets a little out of breath when he goes for a walk. We also know that he does care that his kids want him to get healthier and that they’re worried about him, because this makes him feel like he’s a failure as a dad.
If we said to this guy ‘imagine if you shirts fitted better!’, he’d probably be like ‘okay, bye’.
Instead, we need to prove that we were listening to his story, and appeal to his emotions to create that positive image. We can do this by asking questions like, “how would it make you feel if you could run around with your kids for hours without getting tired and sweaty? How would it feel to have your kids running behind you full of respect and admiration, because their dad can outrun them in the park? How would that make you feel?”.
The answer is probably something like “pretty damn good.”
And that’s exactly how you want your ideal customer to feel. Luckily, you’ve got the solution to get them there.
Step 3: Satisfy the logical brain
Now that we’ve catered to the emotional side of our ideal customer’s brain, it’s time to satisfy the logical side as well. We’ve got them to the point where they can envisage this amazing future where they have their desired outcome, and now you’re going to tell them how your tool will help them get there.
This needs to be done in a very rational way. You explain how your tool works, what processes, steps and elements that are involved. This appeals to the logical brain, because it needs to know how you’re going to take them on this magical transformation from A to B.
It’s great knowing the transformation that your ideal customer wants to undergo, and their reasons for this, but you also need to make sure you really clearly communicate the process once you’ve got the emotional factors locked down.
Every sales decision is an emotional one for which we find rational reasons. This is both to make ourselves feel better about buying the item, and to make it easier for us to justify the purchase to others.
Your ideal customer doesn’t have the rational reasons yet: you, the salesperson, need to give them to the customer.
Be clear and concise, and repeat and reflect the language your ideal customer has already used in the conversation. It’s important that in this step, however insecure you might be feeling about making the sale, you project confidence.
If you don’t feel confident in your product, why should anyone else? People need to feel like you have control over that solution for them.
Step 4: Open the conversation
The final stage in the process is opening the conversation. This kind of turns ‘typical’ sales tactics on their head – when the end goal always seems to be closing the sale, sealing the deal, signing on the dotted line.
That’s all great, but it’s also key to open the relationship going forward. Depending on what you’re selling, you might want to define expectations, or tell people about the next steps. It’s an ongoing process, not a one-and-done situation.
One super important thing to be aware of? Don’t fuck up the sale! Be confident in what you’re selling, and don’t be afraid of silence. You need to actually master the art of silence, rather than talking aimlessly to fill the space.
And once you’ve got your customer to agree to whatever it is that you’re selling, get off the phone fast! Let them know you’ll be sending an invoice their way, but other than that, don’t start going on about your product or service, because your customer might start to backtrack.
You don’t sell by pushing facts in people’s faces. You make your customer see what’s holding them back from an ideal future, show them that you hold the solution, and then the sale is the logical next step for them.
My clients have said in the past that following this framework, making the sale seems almost too easy. But that’s the reality: sales doesn’t have to be something slimy that everyone hates doing.
If you’re confident in your product and the solution you’re selling to people, you’re almost doing them a favour by providing them with this offer.
I hope you’ve found this framework useful. If you want more awesome content featuring my dad, head to https://fastforwardamy.com/apple13 to listen to our podcast episode together, where he dives into the art of selling in even more detail.
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