After a decade of self employment, I’ve been told “no” several thousand times. I have records. For the same period, I’ve been told “yes” a few dozen times. Fewer than a hundred. I have records of that, too.
As you can tell, I–like most humans, salesmen, and business owners–experience rejection more than acceptance. Unlike many people, however, I don’t let that discourage me as a proprietor. But I almost did once.
Courtesy New Yorker
I “sold” religion door-to-door in Brazil two decades ago and I know it annoyed a lot of people. But this fantastic long-read on for-profit door-to-door salesmen makes me feel slimy because these guys are a nuisance and largely dishonest. The problem with door-to-door product sales is that many (most?) harbor the dishonest believe that every household needs what they’re selling. That’s just not true. But because of the rise of spam lists and not call registers, door-to-door sales are actually growing. Hustle always works. And so does taking advantage of mentally feeble buyers.
I was recently asked my approach to sales, given that I spend significant time asking people if I can write for them. Here it is in its entirety:
“Hi, human. I sell this thing for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others like you. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”
That’s it. This gentle but persistent approach has served me well, because it respects timing as much as finding and asking the right person.
Me hiking the Inca Trail
Here’s something you might not know about my work as a writer: 30-40% of my time is spent asking people if I can write for them, while the remaining 60-70% is spent on actually writing.
In other words, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell or a salesman who knows how to write. Consequently, I would’t have survived the past 15 years if I hadn’t asked thousands of people each year to let me write for them. I would have wilted long ago had I listened to the few rouge naysayers that rudely tell me to get lost sometimes.
Case in point: of the hundreds of emails I send on a monthly basis, the vast majority are ignored. Continue reading…
Courtesy New Line Cinema
“Hi, human. I sell this thing (in my case writing) for a living because I believe in it. It’s benefited myself and others you may know. Are you the right person to pitch? If no, do you know someone who is? If yes, is now a good time?”
I’ve been writing full time for 10 years now. Much of that time, if not half of the time, is spent asking people if I can write for them. In that sense, I’m either a writer who knows how to sell, or a seller who knows how to write.
Either way, I’ve followed the above pitch for the last decade. I don’t know if it’s the best sales approach, but it’s worked alright for me, and it’s one I feel is the most respectful.
Know a better way?
Does .99 cent pricing really work? Wouldn’t it be easier to round everything to the nearest dollar?
The answer to both those questions is a resounding “yes.” Although it would be easier to round up, stores use so-called psychological pricing because it demonstrably boosts sales by 8%, according to one study of 60,000 mail-order catalogs.
In short, the 30,000 customers that received rounded up pricing spent 8% less than the 30,000 catalog recipients of 99 cent pricing. (Note: The two catalogs were identical except for pricing.)
Granted, this study was performed 20 years ago. But with those kind of gains, the trend is sure to stick around for a long time.
I just got done reading this great story on a no-name musician landing a big break after “cold calling” a headliner on Twitter. In my opinion, the deal went through because of the following:
- The solicitor has talent. Continue reading…
The competition has thinned.
As a self-employed individual, I’ve closed a lot of deals. Seven years worth, in fact. Enough to make me a thousandaire. But I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won, something that’s expected in business.
What isn’t expected, however, are the rare occasions when a prospective buyer ridicules me for not meeting his terms. It usually happens like this: Buyer probes, likes what he sees, and then starts asking questions. We talk. I name my final price. He doesn’t like my final price.
But instead of walking away, like most sane buyers do, this buyer hangs around, and suddenly decides he no longer likes the free market. Continue reading…
“The truth isn’t the truth until people believe you, and they can’t believe you if they don’t know what you’re saying, and they can’t know what you’re saying if they don’t listen to you, and they won’t listen to you if you’re not interesting, and you won’t be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly.”—William Bernbach, famed American copywriter
In sum, to be interesting you have to say things in ways other people don’t—but can still relate to. To be heard, you have to say interesting things as often and in as many places as possible. To be understood, you have to communicate clearly. And to tell the truth, you have to tell the truth, which can be found in everything. For example, Satan is undeniably “the most evil man in the world,” so if you are ever hired by the devil to sell more immorality, brand him as such in a creatively loud way and you’re gold.
Friend, colleague, and referral ninja extraordinaire Chris Knudsen outlines six ways to become a better salesmen, Zig Ziglar not required. He writes: “Bottom line: solve problems, sell benefits not features, sell value, show value, listen, educate, have empathy and build real relationships. By doing these things correctly, I promise you will see a dramatic increase in your sales.”
I especially like Chris’s counsel to ask good open-ended questions that show the client you’re thinking about their pain areas and how to improve their business.
I was at lunch today downing a delicious Green Chili Quesadilla from Bajio when I overheard to young bucks discussing sales strategies. They must have both been in their early twenties. The one doing the training was pitching the all too familiar and cliche “assuming the sale” method with a misconstrued twist. Here’s what he said, slightly paraphrased: “You just want to go to the door, and assume the sale. Don’t even ask them if they want to buy your product. Assume they do and move on to payment details, i.e. ‘How do you want to pay for this?'”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the inexperience of these two knuckleheads. If this wasn’t amateurish, I don’t know what is? At the same time, I’m not the best salesman and could really take a cue from their ambitious “everyone will want our product” approach, but I always ask for the sale. Sometimes I ask several times to metaphorically pinch myself. I realize that’s a no-no on my part. Just today I was talking with an existing client about renewing a monthly consulting engagement. They already said “let’s go again,” but were out of town, so I was unable to formalize the repeat business until today. But I still asked and now realized the client must have been thinking, “Blake, shut up. Let’s do this. I shouldn’t have to tell you to assume the sale, you already freakin’ got it.”
So how do you define the “assuming the sale” strategy from both a salesman and consumer perspective? How have/haven’t you successfully used the method in your sales efforts?
For all you salesman out there (which is just about anyone who tries to influence others), here are three of the most consistent prospecting methods:
Asking for referrals. Remember to always ask clients, colleagues, even prospects if they know anyone who could benefit from your services.
Executive Networking. Let your work speak for itself. Get your client CEO’s to call or email others in their industry on your behalf. Executive-to-executive sales will always outperform seller-to-executive sales.
Cold Calling. Yup. That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, the reason this method keeps re-occurring in sales is that it works. No other method can increase your prospecting efforts like cold calling can. (I have personally closed many profitable clients this way.)
There are lots of other ways to build your pipelines, but hopefully this will prioritize them and remind you of what works.
[Source: Power Prospecting by Patrick Hansen]