Being a great salesperson doesn’t require an outgoing personality, underwear of steel, or an unusually aggressive attitude.
It does require knowledge of how to help people make decisions that serve them–an openhanded approach, which is opposite from the typical sales approach.
Typical Sales Approach vs. Openhanded Selling
Here’s how a typical salesperson approaches a prospect: She has a product or service that she believes in. She needs to find out if the prospect needs it, so she asks questions to find out what they need. When she spots a gap that her product or service could fill, she tells them about it (presents). She “spins” the benefits, weaving a picture of how their lives will be better once they’ve purchased the product or committed to the service. Then she asks them if they’d like to buy it.
While there’s nothing about this approach that’s dishonest, for some strange reason it feels manipulative.
And that strange reason is this:
As soon as a salesperson starts asking questions to “find out” what the prospect needs, the prospect knows his answers will be used to “trap” him into buying. So any question that is asked to serve the salesperson in “setting up” the sale is bound to create resistance.
Not only does that feel uncomfortable to the prospective customer or client, it feels awkward for the salesperson, making many potentially great salespeople run from sales.
What’s a salesperson to do?
Rather than asking questions that serve the salesperson in setting up her presentation, she can ask openhanded questions that serve the prospect.
Let’s contrast questions from a typical salesperson and questions from an openhanded salesperson.
Typical Sales Questions
Questions that serve the salesperson look like this: “How do you feel about four-wheel drive?” “What are your financial goals?” “When do you want to put your home on the market?”
Openhanded Sales Questions
Openhanded questions that serve the prospect might look like this: “What sorts of things bother you about your current truck?” “What are you hoping a financial planner will help you do?” “What concerns do you have about the timing of putting your house on the market?”
Each of these questions would be the start of a question chain. You’re not looking for an answer. You’re looking for a conversation. For example, you want to let them get clear about the timing of putting their house on the market, so you listen to their answer, then ask another question about what they’ve just said, then another.
They say: “We’re worried that it’ll sell too soon and then we’ll have to put stuff in storage.” You say: “That would be disruptive, wouldn’t it? If it did sell too soon, what other options have you considered, other than putting stuff in storage?” They say: “Well, we’ve thought about putting our stuff in friend’s garages, but that would feel weird.” You say: “I can understand that. What else have you thought about doing?”
Notice the Realtor isn’t trying to solve their problem or argue the point that most houses don’t sell quickly. In this way, the real estate agent is helping the prospect sort out this decision. When it’s sorted out, the agent can move on to the next points.
The beauty of openhanded selling is that you don’t feel pushy because you’re not “setting them up.” As you develop your openhanded selling skills, you’ll also learn to “close” in a soft way that invites the prospect to make a decision about how to work with you or purchase your product.