- Resume Services
- College Grads
- Work & Family
- Small Business
This is the hard part for many of us, the part that intimidates us because we have never been in a position to learn how it’s done. So it’s time for some actual “how-to” stuff — sales technique. I need to start out by telling you that, while we are going to be talking about the Jack Lacy sales technique, this is not the be-all and end-all of sales techniques. There are others out there. It just so happens that I don’t know what they are, since I don’t have formal sales training either. This is as much a voyage of discovery for me as it is for you.
But my purpose in pointing this out is that there is nothing to stop you from taking whatever you discover here and tweaking it until it works for you. The salesman police are not going to come knocking on your door if you wind up bastardizing your Lacy Technique in order to make it into a workable solution for your situation. Don’t be afraid to experiment here. Once you have mastered the basic techniques here — which really entails mastering a certain strategy for dealing with sales situations — feel free to get creative.
And speaking of getting creative, the particular kind of selling we are going to be talking about is referred to by the Lacy folks as creative selling, so called because it is done by creating a desire in your prospect that they didn’t know they had. In other words, your job is to convince the prospect that your product or service will help them do or be something or someone that they want to do or be.
It’s possible that they didn’t know there was a product that would help them with that.
It’s possible that it never occurred to them to even look for a product to help them with that. Your job is to find out what that is.
That is what the Lacy people call the Hot Button, and every prospect has one. So your initial task in any sales situation, according to this school of thought, is to find out what that Hot Button is and to build your sales presentation around it.
This calls for a thorough, inside-out-and-upside-down knowledge of your product and all its features, and an unshakable ability to think fast on your feet. Don’t be nervous. You can develop both those things. If it’s your product, knowing it inside out shouldn’t be too difficult. As for the ability to think fast on your feet, if you know your product that well, you’d be surprised at how easy it can be.
Which leaves the “problem” of finding out what that Hot Button is.
And that’s not difficult, either. Remember what I told you in the first article of this series, about how psychological studies have shown that people think/talk about themselves 94% of the time? (Fear of Selling) That means that if you give them just the slightest chance, your prospect will tell you all about their Hot Button almost as soon as the conversation starts. What you have to learn how to do is let them talk and pay attention so that you know it when you hear it.
So, your first new selling skill is going to be The Fine Art of Knowing When To Shut Up.
Stop for a minute and consider you last encounter with a telemarketer. Most of them read from scripts, and they read very fast. That’s because they get paid for making a certain number of calls within a certain period of time. When you get paid like that, it sort of doesn’t matter whether the person you’re talking to buys or not, and it doesn’t really matter if they even hear what you say. You just have to make the call.
Have you ever interrupted a telemarketer in mid-schpiel to ask a question? Notice how they have to stop for a minute and reorient themselves to the business of being a person rather than a machine automatically reading a script?
Now think back to your reaction to their initial speech. You stand there holding the phone, feeling bored, half listening. You aren’t paying any more attention to them than they are to you, and the only reason you are still on the phone is because you’re too well brought up to just hang up on them. Is it any wonder why they so rarely make a sale? They don’t stop talking long enough to find out who you are and whether you want something that their product can help you get.
That’s why most salespeople don’t consider telemarketers to be other salespeople.
But if you act like a telemarketer when you make your cold calls, that is precisely the same reaction you are going to get — polite boredom.
The fact of the matter is that the people you talk to are going to be much more interested in a conversation when they are talking about themselves. All you have to do is give your own experience the briefest review to see the truth of this statement. People just love talking about them. Let them. If you are listening, they will tell you exactly what you need to know in order to close that sale.
“Hello there, Mr. Hoohey. How’s business these days?”
“Well, we’re doing alright, I guess.”
“You don’t sound all that sure. What’s the matter?”
“Well, our revenues are down a bit from last quarter is all. We’re not losing money yet, but one of our competitor stole a major client right out from under our noses.”
“How’d he manage to do that?”
“Oh, he offered them the same product that we sell, only he managed to offer a wizzy-what along with it that only slightly increased the price. I don’t know how they can do that and keep their profit margins intact.”
“You know, it’s funny you should mention them. I happen to know that those wizzy-whats have dropped their profit margins to scary levels.”
“See? I knew it! Are you sure?”
“Sure. That company is counting on volume, figuring they can undercut their competition and take a real bite out of the market.”
“Well, that’s pretty obvious. My problem is that I don’t see how we can compete with that. I had that wizzy-what guy here in my office trying to convince me that I had to buy his product or this competitor would have me out of business in a couple of shakes. But I just can’t afford to cut my margins like that. And the more customers I lose to this guy, the less I’ll be able to afford it. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard spot here.”
“No, you’re not. Not really.”
“I’m not, huh?”
“Not at all. You did know that my company provides a competing wizzy-what, didn’t you? It’s a much better quality product. And it costs less.”
[chuckling] “Well, I didn’t know it, but I probably should have guessed. So, what are you going to tell me that this other guy didn’t?”
[laughing] “I guess I can’t put anything over on you, huh? Okay, what I’m going to tell you that if you were to use our wizzy-what, you’d be able to offer your customers their own wizzy-what, undercut your competitor, and keep your profit margins intact.”
“Yeah? Hmmmm, well, that sure would solve a lot of problems for us! Tell me more about your company’s wizzy-what.”
And you’re about ten sentences away from closing the sale.
Does this seem terribly dishonest to you, using a common human trait to sell a product? It isn’t. Mr. Hoohey had a problem that this salesperson happened to be able to help them solve.
Of course, it doesn’t always drop into your lap quite that easily. Sometimes you’ll have to prod people, maybe ask them a few questions about themselves before you get them off and running. But finding that Hot Button in your particular situation probably won’t be too much more difficult than that. What is going to take the creativity on your part will be finding a way to use that Hot Button to shape your presentation.
For the rest of it, if you didn’t genuinely believe that your product really would help your prospective customer with something they are trying to do, then it would be dishonest. But, then, if you don’t really think your product will help people, you should probably be in a different line of work anyway.
People won’t buy from you because you have a wonderful, high-quality product. People will buy from you because you have convinced them that your product will be useful to them. They need to believe it will help them with something that is important to them. That’s the only reason for anybody to part with their cash.
You have to fight your own impulse to be a typical human being with your attention focused on yourself for 94% of the time. Above and beyond anything else, you are going to have to answer the question What’s in it for me? in order to make even the smallest sale
About Dawn R. Rivers
Dawn Rivers (formerly Dawn Rivers Baker) is a writer, journalist, publisher, microbusiness expert and advocate, She's written articles for many media outlets including US News & World Report.