Archives for September, 2011

The True Path to Sales Success

September 29th, 2011, Comments Off.

Closing a sale requires that you focus not on your prospect’s needs, problems or pain, but on what he wants.

By Mel Schlesinger

Have you ever wondered why there is so much emphasis on overcoming objections? Whether it’s prospecting or closing the sale, sales trainers tell us that we must be prepared to overcome objections.

In prospecting, we are taught to use the “feel, felt, found formula” to overcome objections. This is the one that goes: “I know just how you feel Mr. Prospect. Many of my clients felt exactly as you do, but after giving me a chance to illustrate how this idea can help them, they saw the value and became some of my best clients.”

To deal with objections at the close, we are taught that an objection is simply a request for more information. Trainers tell us that that the first order of business is to uncover the real objection so that we can answer it. I believe that overcoming objections creates an adversarial environment that is not conducive to creating a relationship in which you will be looked upon as the trusted advisor.

Emotions rule
In virtually all of my programs, I ask salespeople to fill in this blank: “In order to close the sale, you must uncover what the prospect __________________.” Ninety-five percent of the time, participants respond with the word: “needs.” This is not surprising since salespeople have been taught from the beginning of time that we must uncover the prospect’s needs, pain or problem.

Unfortunately, people are not motivated by needs, pain or problems. As much as we would love to believe that sales success is a logical progression, it is not. And it is important to note that there is great science behind what I am about to share.

The May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine features an article titled, “Change or Die.” This article discusses many studies of people with coronary artery disease who have just undergone bypass surgery. Immediately following the surgery, they are told by their doctors that if they do not change their diet or exercise habits, they will undergo a second surgery within seven years. Obviously all the participants see and acknowledge the need. Yet five years post-surgery, less than 10 percent of members of the study group make any change to their diet or exercise.

Closing the sale requires that we somehow engage the prospect’s emotions.
In addition, there are many newer studies that look at the brain in an fMRI (functional MRI) and watch as major decisions are made. Time after time, the areas of the brain associated with logic light up but fail to motivate a decision to change. But in every case where a decision is made, even those involving multimillion dollars, the areas of the brain that are engaged are those dealing with emotion. There can be no doubt that closing the sale requires that we somehow engage the prospect’s emotions and that requires that we focus not on his needs, problems or pain but on what he wants.

Wants vs. needs
In a recent program on this subject, one of the participants asked this question: “If I help the prospect identify a problem and he wants to fix it, then haven’t I identified what he wants?” The short answer is no. Saying that I want to fix a problem is easy but meaningless. Talk with a person who is overweight and you will discover that he knows that he has a problem and wants to lose the weight and get healthy. But this same person will still fail to take action. Intellectually, he knows all of the arguments for change but still lacks the necessary motivation.

Now look at someone who actually lost weight and began an exercise program and you will find that this individual knows the outcome that he is expecting. Perhaps it is the impending birth of his first son and he wants to be able to play ball with him without struggling, or maybe it is a woman who is getting ready to go to her daughter’s wedding and wants to look good in the photos. These people (who are actual people that I know) always knew that they had a problem and needed to lose the weight, but it took an emotional desire to motivate them to take action.

In business, the role of emotions is no less powerful. I may need to have a buy-sell agreement and I may agree with all of your points. I may agree that if my partner were to die prematurely, I would not want his wife as my new partner, but that will not engage my emotions. On the other hand, if you can get me to talk about my vision for my business if my partner dies, you can get my emotions engaged.

Uncovering what a prospect wants utilizes many of the same skills you use to identify his needs, problems and pain. While you will still ask questions, you will have to pay more attention to the language you use in asking those questions. But an understanding of what your prospect wants will have an impact on everything you do, from prospecting to closing.

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With more than 30 years of commission-only sales experience, 23 in the insurance business, Mel Schlesinger understands what it takes to build a successful life and a health insurance business. He created the Objection-Free Sales Academy and can be reached at 336-774-3075 or at mel@objection-free.com.

Why Some Sales Strategies Don’t Work

September 22nd, 2011, Comments Off.

Find out why they create problems—and how to fix them.

By Mel Schlesinger, RHU, REBC

Have you gone to one of those big bookstores and looked at all the books promising a solution to your challenges as a salesperson? If you have, then you know that they all provide essentially the same strategies. At the end of the day, they all offer a variation of these themes:

  • Secure a lot of appointments.
  • Identify a need, problem or pain.
  • Realize that “no” is simply a request for more information.
  • Use trial closes to test the water.
  • Ask for referrals regardless of whether you get the sale or not.
  • Get as many referrals as you can from your clients.

After more than 35 years as a commission-only salesperson, 25 of which have been spent selling insurance, what I know for sure is that the most important thing to know about objections is that you cannot overcome them—for the most part. The second most important thing is that it is possible to have objection-free sales appointments. But first, let’s take a look at these generally accepted strategies of selling and why they create problems.

Secure a lot of appointments
As a salesperson, you are taught that success is about getting to tell your story to as many qualified prospects as possible. A qualified prospect has the following criteria: can make a decision, can afford your products and has a need or a problem. According to this theory, if the prospect says that he is not interested, your job is to overcome his objections and secure the appointment. Generally salespeople apply the “feel, felt, found” formula to overcoming the objection. But in the world of objection-free selling, we do not overcome the objection. We move on to the next prospect. Rather than waste our time and energy on prospects who are not interested, we seek out prospects who have a ready interest in our proposition.

Identify the need, problem or pain
This is the biggest paradigm shift that salespeople have to make. Identifying your prospects’ needs, problems and pain is the reason you receive objections in the first place. The science of neuro marketing tells us that many people are just not motivated by needs, problem or pain avoidance. Instead, they are widely motivated by what they want and there lies the secret to objection-free selling.

“No” is simply a request for more information
As a professional financial advisor, your goal should be to become a member of your client’s team and not become his adversary.
The idea that you have to close at least three (or five or 10) times is ludicrous. It is this approach to selling that makes people dislike salespeople. Attempting to overcome objections and close the sale creates an adversarial relationship. As a professional financial advisor, your goal should be to become a member of your client’s team—not his adversary. A well-crafted presentation should result in simply asking the prospect what he believes his next step should be, and his response should be: “Well, purchase this insurance policy of course!”

Use trial closes to test the water
Trial closes are a distraction from the sales process. What is worse, they can reduce the prospect’s sense of urgency by making him aware that his objectives are not being met by your presentation. An example of a trial close is when a car buyer asks a salesperson, “Can I get this in red?” The salesperson replies, “Do you want it in red?” Trial closes should be replaced by the skill to ask really great questions in the right order and in the right way. Great questions help the prospect identify what is really important to him and connect what is important to why it is important. This raises the prospect’s sense of urgency.

Get referrals
Seeking referrals is a great idea since those referred to you are highly likely to purchase from you. Unfortunately, most of the books on referral gathering would have you believe that you can get a ton of referrals from each prospect or client. The truth is that you can only get one or two really great referrals from each client and none from a prospect who does not become a client. Names from a prospect who did not buy from you are just names and they are not different from names on a purchased list.

Consider the following: I call you up and introduce myself as the objection-free sales coach. I tell you that one of your fellow advisors gave me your name and suggested that I call you to discuss how I can help you be more successful. It is a fair guess that you will call your fellow advisor to ask if he hired me as his coach. When he tells you that he did not because he felt that he did not need my services, what will your response be to my sales proposition? On the other hand, suppose he had hired me and increased his income by $50,000 while working less. Now what will your response to me be?

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Mel Schlesinger, RHU, REBC, has more than 25 years of commission-only insurance sales experience. He began by selling life insurance at the kitchen table and today has a thriving business marketing voluntary employee benefits. He coaches insurance agents in the objection-free sales system. You can reach him at 336-774-3075.