At a previous employer of mine, I worked as a sales representative selling digital marketing
solutions. The company I worked for was focused on developing repeatable models. I am not here to call out or put down repeatable models. As a matter of fact, I believe that repeatable models are very important for successful businesses.
I am an outside the box kind of person and I viewed the sales process as a framework or
guideline. In other words, I viewed it as a dynamic model. What I mean by dynamic model is that I agreed with the various components of the framework, but I did not view them as a linear path that had to be rigorously followed to the letter every time. I believed that the conversational flow should drive the direction of the sales conversation framework, but if adhered to rigorously
like a train track, opportunities to close a sale might be lost.
The commonly Held Belief on Sales
How many times have you heard the phone ring, and without any thought, you allow it to go to
voicemail because the number is a 1-800 number? I know, personally, I do this almost every
time. Why do we do this? I believe my mom says it best. I have been at my parent’s home
when the phone rings. This is how the scene unfolds: my mom sees it is a toll free call, so she
immediately remarks, “Oh, someone is going to try to sell me something. I am going to let it go
to voicemail”. The question is why does she, and most likely many of you, think or say
something along those lines? What if the caller has a product or service you might need? The
reason is simple, and I’m sure many of you will agree without hesitation. Many of us would
rather ignore the call and go online and to the service or product ourselves because we believe
we know that the individual on the other end of the phone will be following a sales map and you
will not feel heard and understood.
The cookie cutter sales process generally includes some form of introduction to start. Once the
introduction is taken care of, the conversation enters into a series of open ended questions that
should uncover a handful of needs that (with enough creativity) you will be able to either
strongly or loosely tie to one of your product or service offerings. At least this is the view
according to the majority of sales processes. Once you believe you have uncovered enough
needs and adequately presented enough value, it is time to drive hard towards the close. There
are a variety of different approaches to the close you can take, so you choose the best one and
drive to the close. After you finish your close, the hope is that you effectively showed the
potential customer that the value far outweighed the costs being incurred, and the individual
This is not a bad approach to selling. In fact, it must work with a high level of success or
companies would not continue to use sales processes that fall in line within the aforementioned
framework. What if I told you that there is a better way that builds genuine connections and
relationships? Would you want to know the better approach?
I have broken down the Genuine Connection Approach into 4 simple steps.
1. The Foundation: Key Acknowledgements
Acknowledgements must be made about initial encounters with other people. This is true
whether you are selling over the phone, in person, on the internet, or just trying to make a
positive impression in an interview.
Anytime you introduce yourself to another person, both professionally and
personally, it is important to acknowledge that there is a conflict that can be described as
a “what is in it for me” subconscious attitude. Test yourself the next time you meet someone, it may surprise you. You have 2-3 seconds to identify the level of conflict and how to overcome the “you vs. me”. Thus you are transforming that encounter into a collaborative “we” team relationship. To decode the level of conflict, you want to listen to:
-The Tone of Voice
-Rate That the Message is Being Delivered
Once you have decoded the four cues, you will know what obstacles you must
overcome and how big each obstacle is that needs to be overcome to create a
collaborative team “win-win” relationship.
2. Empower an Authentic Conversational Flow
Train or Airplane?
Once you are able to successfully navigate beyond the introduction successfully building the
collaborative team “win-win” relationship, it is of utmost importance to not allow your focus and energy deviate from being fully engaged and focused on the individual you are having a
conversation with. This is the foundation of a genuine connection.
Many organizations would not find any fault with the Strategic Life Introduction Philosophy which I have detailed thus far. However, step two is where the sales process train begins to derail. The resulting cognitive disconnect is due to a subconscious belief that if you focus on the other person during the introduction, you are earning the right to then control the conversation. Think of this idea as if it were a “train” on the “tracks” of the sales process. This notion could not be further from the truth. Instead of viewing the sales process as a “train” that must go where the tracks lead, view the sales process as an “airplane”.
Imagine that there was a train traveling from Denver to Los Angeles, and an airplane also
traveling from Denver to Los Angeles. Both the train and the airplane are scheduled to depart at
the same time, and for sake of argument, they both had the same arrival date and time. In
theory, the train and the airplane will reach the destination. The difference is that if a storm
came in that would negatively impact both the path of the train and the airplane, the train has
two options. The train could attempt to muscle through the storm, or stop and wait for it to pass
and therefore not arrive on time. The airplane, on the other hand, has different altitudes it could
fly at as well as multiple different paths it could take to avoid the storm. This flexibility would
allow the plane to make the destination much closer to being on time. The airplane and the
train both had the same points A and B in the analogy. The difference is profound: for the airplane, points A and B are the only forced terms. The airplane’s course of travel has the ability to become dynamic if needed. Here is the “big idea”. Even if the plane took a different path from A to B than, due to obstacles that arose along the journey, it still made it to point B.
The point is that during your needs evaluation allow for a dynamic conversation to arise. Also,
allow yourself to take a different flight path if it is needed. Take a few minutes to: 1) get to know
the individual you are speaking with 2) genuinely care about who the individual is 3) figure out
how he/she is doing 4) understand what drives his/her why. At Strategic Life we refer to the
“Needs Assessment Phase” as the "Foundational Understanding Phase" because it is when you
have the opportunity to gain understanding of the current state of the individual which is point A,
and the desired future state of the individual which is point B. The resulting knowledge can
make a real impact in the future success and fulfillment of the potential customer.
While in the moment you may feel like you have no control over the conversation and that rabbit
trails seem to keep popping up, go with it and genuinely care. If you need to throw little nuggets
of value in your needs assessment, do it. You will be amazed how much of a difference making
a genuine connection through active listening and empathy will make as you transition to
present value to what you are able to offer.
3. Present Value to the Customer’s Why
The Game Changer
Now, it is time to shift into your opportunity to present value to your brand offerings. If had taken
the train, by this point you would have collected enough pain points along your rigidly scripted
conversation that you could tie to different closing levers in your sales tool belt. You are not
going to pull those levers just yet, but the value you present will be carefully thought out so that
you can pull those levers when the time comes to close the sale. This is not a bad value presenting philosophy, but there is an alternative approach that becomes the “game changer”.
If you were going to travel somewhere and had a choice between flying or taking a train, which
would you choose? Unless you have a fear of flying, you probably would choose the airplane
and wisely so. The same is true for the sales process as it is for travel, the airplane is a much
By the time you get to the “Value Presenting” portion of the conversation, if you chose to take
the airplane, odds are you have already been presenting little nuggets of value all along the
way. I say this because if you were actively listening and empathizing, it is natural for value to
dynamically flow throughout the entire sales conversation. So, instead of calling this portion the
value presentation, at Strategic Life, we refer to it as the "Relationship Investment Phase".
Think about it this way. From the moment you introduced yourself to the individual, you have
been attempting to show the individual that you desire to genuinely connect and join his/her
team in a collaborative relationship. A collaborative mindset and authentic desire to genuinely
connect has been all about the potential client you are speaking with being willing to be open
with you and vulnerable with you. If the potential client is vulnerable and open with you, you will
need to empathize, affirm, and give nuggets of value all throughout the conversation. Otherwise,
the conversation becomes uncomfortable and unsafe. As a result, the conversation naturally
flows to the Relationship Investment Phase. At this point, it is time to bring all of those nuggets
together, creating a beautiful masterpiece that subconsciously says to the soon to be customer:
“Wow, they really listened; I trust that they will be able to empower me to achieve my goals”.
This positive reaction occurs when you take the pain points that you gained through Genuine
Connection during the Foundational Understanding Phase, and instead of pulling on closing
levers, you address the future goals to get to point B. Thus, you are partnering your brand offerings as the airplane that will take both you and the individual as a team to point B. All the while, you are showing the “why” and the “how” of what your offerings will do that for their specific areas of opportunity that were revealed in the Foundational Understanding Phase. This result was reached because you overcame the initial conflict by genuinely connecting with the potential customer, then you empowered the individual to take some control of the conversation which is when the first investment of the relationship occurred. To instill trust in this new relationship you gave little nuggets of value along the way as a reassurance that you understand that the time is coming for you to match the potential customer’s initial investment in the relationship. Now, in the Relationship Investment Phase, you bring it all together; thereby, showing you are investing back in the relationship. This motion naturally carries both of you into the “Close”.
4. Don’t See It As a Close, See It As a Beginning
The word “Close” speaks to the conclusion or the end. This perspective could not be further
from the truth. When the sale occurs, nothing is being closed. The truth is that the relationship is
just beginning. Instead of referring to this portion of the conversation as the close, at Strategic
Life we call it the “Relationship Solidification Phase”.
We title this step as such because there have been emotional investments from both you and
the potential customer. The potential customer has been transparent and vulnerable in sharing
their point A and optimistic in sharing the dream of their point B. You emotionally invested
through active listening, empathy, and through all of the nuggets of value you dropped along the
way that led to your big emotional investment as you brought all of those nuggets together to
create a beautiful masterpiece that revealed the flight plan to get to point B. At this point the
potential customer knows that price is the next thing to cover, and they are most likely feeling
some anxiety as a result.
The anxiety can be directly linked to multiple subconscious thoughts. “Was I just sold?” “Should
I not have been so transparent and vulnerable?” “Is my sales rep going to invest anything real in
this relationship or will I be the only one required to make that kind of investment through my
wallet?” “Can I really trust this company and brand?” "Will they really get me to point B?”
Such questions will always be subconsciously present for good reason. Whenever money is
involved, it is important to make sure that the money spent will be a good investment. If you can
understand those subconscious emotions that will be present, then solidifying the relationship
will be the easiest portion of the conversation. The result is the creation of a new beginning, not
The relationship is solidified by you taking the lead and laying out what your real investment will
be. This investment could be a discount, or something that will save the customer time.
Whatever it is, ensure the investment addresses an area of weakness of the customer. You
want to be genuinely providing real value to the relationship. In essence, you are saying to the
customer: “I will do this for you”. In that statement, you are communicating that this is my
investment and now all I need is payment from you. By this juncture you have already made
your real investment in the relationship and it is the potential customer’s turn to make their
investment in becoming a customer. The two of you are officially becoming a team, and are
empowering your brand and your new customer to embark on the journey that will leave point A
behind and achieve the dreams of getting to point B.
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