When I was in grade school, we had fundraisers which required each kid to sell a minimum allotment of stuff in order to fund field trips, school programs, and clubs.
Usually we had to sell candy bars.
I was terrible at this. I’d trudge from house-to-house after school, knocking on doors and asking people to buy.
- A lot of people weren’t home
- Many said they had no cash
- Most didn’t want what I was selling
At the end of 2 -3 hours, I was exhausted. I was lucky if I had sold more candy bars than I’d eaten. I’d return home and beg my mom to buy everything I had left.
In high school, fundraising was optional. I could sell candy to pay for a trip, pay cash, or not go. Since I was poor, I missed a lot of field trips but at least I never had to sell candy again.
Until one afternoon after I graduated high school when my good friend Jeff called me up. Our conversation went like this:
Jeff: “Hey Steve, I have to sell 4 boxes of candy for my football team. Do you want to help me?”
Me: “No way! I hate selling candy and I suck at it.”
Jeff: “Aw…come on. It’ll be easy. Then we can go hang-out afterward and try to pick up chicks.”
Me, reluctantly: “Ok…”
Jeff told me to meet him in front of Kroger’s, the grocery store near his house. So I did.
Jeff: “Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’ll ask every person who goes in the store to buy a candy bar. If they say they don’t have any money, we’ll ask them again on the way out when they have change. Make sure to say it’s to support my football team.”
Then we executed on Jeff’s plan. We charmed people. We made jokes. We caught people who had snuck by us on the way in and pleaded with them to buy on their way out.
We sold 4 cases
in 2 hours.
It was a blast.
That was my first lesson in selling.
Sell where there are buyers who have money to spend.
I wish someone had taught me that lesson 10 years earlier.
Today I’m going to teach you another of my favorite sales techniques – the Inside Sales Dude version of “The Ben Franklin Close*”.
I use this in nearly every sales situation:
- Convincing a prospect to accept a meeting (or demo)
- Selling a product or service
- Interviewing for a job
- Trying to convince my wife to do something my way
Does it guarantee you will close the sale? Nope.
But it definitely increases your odds of success.
Here’s how it works:
#1 Before the sales call, I put myself in the customer’s shoes and write down every concern about buying from me that I think he might have.
Here are some examples when I am pitching Inside Sales Dude consulting projects:
- ISD is too small.
- ISD has no references in a specific industry.
- My prospect is satisfied with his current situation.
#2 Now I make a concentrated effort to think about these concerns from his perspective. I write down reasons why, if I was in his shoes, I might be willing to work with me.
The key here is to be ruthlessly honest. This is not the time to fall back on the marketing jargon on your website or generic sales fluff. Dig deep to ferret out the truth.
For the examples above, here are some reasons I have listed:
- ISD is small – in fact, it is just me. I purposely built it this way. What you get with ISD is my expertise, knowledge and personal attention. I won’t hand your work off to a junior level associate or outsource it.
- I haven’t worked with other companies in your space. In fact, you shouldn’t hire me if are looking for a product expert. My expertise is in improving sales organizations. This is how I’ve helped other companies who are similar to you and have had the same challenges…
- I’m satisfied with my current situation. My one question would be, are you certain that you are getting the most from your sales organization? You might be. In which case, I cannot help you. But most of the people I’ve helped in similar companies have had areas where sales could be improved and ISD was able to help. Are you willing to have a discussion to explore this before ruling it out?
#3 During the sales call I pull out my list and share it.
Literally. I say,
“I spent some time thinking about your business before our meeting and came up with a list of concern I would have, if I were you. Would you like to see my list?”
The prospect will always want to see it, even just out of curiosity.
Here’s where the ruthless honesty from Step #2 will make or break you. If you list bogus concerns and canned answers like what we all see in one-sided white papers, glowing case studies, and marketing pitches, you’ve just lost.
But, if you’ve done this right, you will be sharing legitimate weaknesses and concerns about your business with your prospect.
This immediately demonstrates that you have invested time in thinking about his business and that you are trying to make an honest effort at winning him over, without trying to hide your weaknesses.
Prospects love this.
Often, they’ll review over my list and dismiss a bunch of concerns. Or they’ll select one or two and say those are their major concerns. Sometimes they’ll add one I missed.
It transforms the sales call from a pitch into working discussion. (For other ways to do this see Whiteboard Jiu Jitsu.)
#4 What if I cannot address a concern?
This happens all the time. Sometimes I’m not a good fit. Other times I have no valid counter to a serious objection.
I acknowledge these but if I still think I can help him, I’ll ask him to give me a shot.
Most times, the customer will appreciate my honesty. Sometimes I still win his business. Other times, he gives me a shot in the future. I’ve even had prospects who never bought from me refer other people to me.
Don’t Forget to Listen for Buying Signals
When you use the ISD Ben Franklin Close, you will be well prepared to handle a bunch of objections. You may have hours or days putting together your list and brainstorming responses.
You may never need it. Be sure you are paying attention to your prospect. If he’s ready to buy, then leave your materials in your bag, stop your “pitch”, and make the sale.
*The actual Ben Franklin Close is described here. Like many “closing” techniques, I find it to be one-sided, a bit hokey and manipulative which is why I created the Inside Sales Dude version.
If you want my help building your sales team or improving sales, contact me here. I’d love to hear from you.
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