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    "Trust Me"
    From TWA.Ambassador - March 1994
    (the publication of Trans World Airlines/Trans Word Express)

    The sales process.Selling Shouldn't be a con job. Long-term customer relationships demand truth in packaging. Honest.

    BY NICHOLAS E. RUBEN AND JACQUES WERTH

    Neither Salespeople nor their customers like the selling process. Why? Everyone has either sold or been sold some product or service, and it's likely you remember the stress and resistance you felt-no matter which side of the sale you were on. What creates this kind of adversarial environment?

    In the current selling paradigm, the salesperson's objective is to "get the prospect to buy." This creates an inherently adversarial relationship from the start.

    If you were a prospect and you felt someone was trying to get you to buy, wouldn't you naturally try to protect yourself? That's where resistance, suspicion and hostility come from.

    In the current prospecting paradigm, the salesperson's objective is to "sell the appointment." Salespeople try to get appointments with almost anyone who will "give" them an appointment. As a result, most of the appointments they get are with low-probability prospects.

    Salespeople have been taught to use deceptive, vague prospecting pitches, such as, "I just want to share some valuable ideas with you." The most a salesperson can accomplish with this kind of approach is to get an appointment with someone who comes to the party wary, confused, aggravated or downright hostile. This prevalent approach to prospecting also creates an enormous amount of rejection and wastes the salesperson's, and his company's, resources.

    What's the alternative? Be honest. Tell the prospect what you're selling and ask whether it's something he might want. No flattery. No convincing. No half-truths. Nothing but the whole truth.

    If you state your offer clearly and concisely, and give prospects a choice, without any convincing, persuading or manipulation, most of them will take a minute to see whether they're interested in what you're offering, instead of resisting you by reflex.

    Words aren't the only way to cause resistance. A "sincere," "enthusiastic" or "convincing" tone of voice can have the same effect. Offers should be stated in a neutral, unemotional tone.

    In high-probability selling, your objective shifts from "getting the prospect to buy" to "determining whether there is a mutually acceptable basis for doing business." In high-probability prospecting your objective shifts from "selling the appointment" to "determining whether the person is a high-probability prospect." You only make appointments with high-probability prospects: people who need, want and can afford what you're selling.

    High-probability prospecting is an identification process, not a selling process. Your goal is to identify high-probability prospects and disqualify everyone else. There is no rejection or failure when you're selling the appointment.

    When you meet with a high-probability prospect, your top priority is to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect. At the beginning of the appointment, you don't show your materials or talk about your product. You don't give false compliments or do any of the things you have ever been taught about selling. What you do is take the time to get to know your prospects. Ask questions. Find out what makes them tick. Determine whether you trust and respect them. Ask the questions you would ask of someone you were about to let into your life. That's actually what you're doing - letting that person into your life.

    Feigned interest or enthusiasm won't work. If you treat this as just another technique, you're sure to fail. Dishonesty glows in the dark. People sense when you're asking questions but only pretending to be interested in the answers. When you're sincerely interested, the conversation just flows. When you're not, you'll find yourself straining and cut off at the neck.

    Whenever you find someone who isn't willing to talk on a personal basis, you've found a low-probability prospect, and it's time to go. It's a sure sign that even if you get the account, it will be trouble. Most bad accounts are worse, in the long run, than no accounts.

    If you're asked about the personal questions, you might try answering: "The way I work, I will only do business with people I trust and respect, and this is how I get to know you. Are you willing to have this kind of conversation, or not? If not, it's okay, I can go."

    All successful relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. If you develop that kind of relationship with a customer, you have a competitive edge that is almost impossible for a competitor to overcome. If you don't develop that kind of relationship, you will always be just another salesperson.

    After you've spent time asking questions and listening (not talking), and you know the person well enough to determine whether you trust and respect him and whether this is someone with whom you're willing to do business, then, and only then, do you begin to "talk business." You do that by asking a number of business-specific questions, such as: "Why do you need asset management services? Do you want asset management services? It will cost between (blank) and (blank) for asset management services. Are you prepared to spend that? If you decide to go forward, when would you want to start? When you're making a major financial decision like this, who do you usually like to talk it over with? If you decide to go forward, who else would have to agree?"

    It's essential that you receive complete and satisfactory answers to each of these questions before you move to the next one. If you don't, the unresolved question will be the one that comes back to haunt you.

    During the high-probability selling process your purpose is to "discover" if there is a mutually acceptable basis for doing business. You can't be focused on or attached to moving product. If at any point during the process your sixth sense tells you that reaching mutually acceptable terms is not a high probability, then the "discovery" turns into "disqualification."

    In high-probability selling you only prepare a proposal if the prospect has committed to buy from you if you meet their requirements. If the prospect makes that commitment, you can begin a working relationship with a foundation that is stronger than you ever thought possible.

    Jacques Werth and Nicholas Ruben are the authors of High Probability Selling (Abba Publishing Co., 1992) and conduct workshops on selling and prospecting. (610) 566-1535 (disconnected) www.highprobsell.com


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