The Art of Selling – Don’t Always Be Closing and Other Counter-Intuitive Tips

What is Sales?

When you think of sales what comes to mind? For me it is the combination. My grandfather going door-to-door selling vacuums in California’s Central Valley in the mid-1950s. I think very highly of my grandfather and he did well by his family. But I don’t think of knocking on doors in the 100 degree Summer Fresno heat as my ideal way to earn a living.

The second image that comes to mind when I hear the word “sales” is a guy in a shiny but none-too-high-quality suit selling sheet metal roofing. Why sheet metal roofing – no idea. But in my mind this salesman is extremely pushy, aggressive and doesn’t give a damn if I even have a house that needs a roof. He is going to persuade me to get his roofing, no matter what.

The final image that comes to mind when I think of sales is this video clip. I am among the most persistent people I have met, in my learning projects, in relationship, or with myself. But I don’t ever treat others or want to be treated like this. I view this hard-nosed desperate selling as pitiable.

And guess what? I am learning sales. If you know me at all you probably know that I love learning – be that gymnastics, dance, handstands, Spanish, questioning or autism. Right now I’m learning sales because being comfortable asking for a sale is going to be a part of the contributing factor to the success of my current big project.

Me being me, I am not going to do sales like any of the images that come to mind when I think of selling. I am learning to sell very differently.

Face It: You’re In Sales

If you’ve already lost interest because you aren’t in sales, think again. Ever tried to convince a friend of your point of view? Or wanted to help a romantic partner feel happier? You were selling, too. I’m also obsessed with behavioral change. Are you trying to lose weight or change a habit? That’s sales. Actually, you were attempting to sell yourself on a different belief about exercise or the new habit.

Throughout this post I’ll use the word sales quite broadly. I use sales not to mean outdated, pushy, door-to-door vacuum salesmen but those individuals so dedicated to their customers that they turn away most prospects in order find the right fit customer-fit. The best sales people are guides, devoted to helping customers find what they are looking for.

The Attitude of an (Effective) Sales Person

During a recent Lyft I had a conversation with a sales executive at SalesForce.com. She and I spent a delightful 20 minutes delving into the attitude of an effective sales person. There was a striking similarity between her sales process, the attitude I use with autism, and how I learned to complete a gymnastics giant.

My passenger began our conversation by excitedly telling me that she had just finalized a big sale of SaleForce.com licenses to a large company and I asked her how she had done it. She described to me how by carefully questioning her client she and learned all about what he hoped for his company and what exactly he needed. She described the questions she put to him as equal parts probing his “pain points” – areas of fear about his company – and “pleasure points” – the things he was most excited about and his hopes for the future. Thus, my passenger said, when it came time to pitch her customer she was able to use his language and relate to him more effectively. This puts me in mind of “Joining” which is the basis for the Son-Rise Program, and which I have incorporated into my autism work. By joining anybody we are able to see where they are more clearly, dropping our own biases to better understand someone else.

My passenger went on to describe how she had said calm and happy despite set-backs with her client. He didn’t jump at the opportunity to purchase the largest package available. I asked why my passenger wasn’t more upset. She said that she had learned over time that it was in her and her clients best interest to remain calm and happy. By doing so in this case she was able to question her customer as to his reasons for not purchasing and thus better educate and address his concerns. This, too, mirrors my practice and the attitude I (attempt to) cultivate in my life. Instead of getting upset at a child with autism exhibiting unusual behaviors I remain curious. This allows me to grow closer, instead of shying away. When I asked my passenger how she managed to maintain a positive attitude despite inevitable set-backs she responded: “I find that it is more useful. And much more fun!” This puts me in mind of my previous post on non-attachment.

Learning to Sell

SPIN Selling
This book shows that all the tactics that are culturally encouraged for salesperson and persuasion are wrong. SPIN Selling teaches that a hard close doesn’t work half as often as asking gentle questioning to learning what is already working and what the pain points are. SPIN Selling is full of counter-intuitive reinterpretations on sales classics. And the best part: all backed by solid empirical research!

The Secrets of Power Negotiating
I’m listing to this by audio for sheer entertainment value. It keeps me in mind of sales without any pressure to be practicing all the time. He speaks like Jay Abraham (whom I enjoy for how fast he thinks and talks) and has clearly negotiated a lot in his life. It is a fun take on negotiation (whether international trade agreements, hostage negotiations or with his teenage daughter). I find that may of his tactics are valuable to consider, but I really only want to act on them after infusing them with a lot of love.

Always Be Closing blog post by Tim Ferriss. Take home message: never give up.

The Attitude of a Mentor which I’ve written about several times. Most people (and especially special needs parents, which are my current demographic) want to be cared for and loved. A judgmental attitude isn’t going to get anyone anywhere.

How to Win Friends and Influence People
This is a time-tested book and I love it. I find the messages endearing and sweet. His messages are: be nice to people, give people the benefit of the doubt, and give more in value. As an audiobook, the entire book is described with a loving tone and endearing stories from throughout history. It is a great bedtime read.

Taking notes on personality traits
I have begun a practice of taking notes on personality traits that I find engaging. What makes me drawn to someone? Why do I want to engage with a stranger (on the street, on the phone, etc.) and when do I not want to?

Practice. Every Day.

  • I am making 3 hours of calls each day
  • I am doing 1 hour of dialogue about my discomforts every day
  • Before each call I set an intention. How do I want to be with this person, on this call? Right now it is to love the person I am calling and invite them to come to our upcoming talks.

My Attitude In A Call

  • Excited to speak with my prospect
  • There to be of service
  • Loving them and wanting what is really best for them
  • Asking questions
  • Specifically focusing on the combination of what they are doing that is already working and what they want next for their children.

Where This Leaves Us?

I’d love to hear from you: when was one time you had an opinion changed, you were treated like royalty but customer service, or otherwise had an unexpectedly pleasant, loving sales experience. Share your story in the comments below.

And come to our free talks this weekend!