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Chris LoCurto

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September 12, 2012

The Art Of Selling

September 12, 2012 | By | 60 Comments">60 Comments

Today I am in Indianapolis speaking at our EntreLeadership 1 Day event with Dave Ramsey and Jon Acuff. And while their topics are amazing, mine is way better.

OK, I might be exaggerating a bit, but it’s one of THE  MOST IMPORTANT areas in business.

What would that be you ask? The Art of Selling by Serving. It’s about how to sell your product without  feeling or coming off like a sleazy salesperson. It’s a four-step sales process that actually works. So, what does it look like? The four steps include:

  • Qualification
  • Rapport
  • Education
  • Close

If you want to know what this all means … come to the event! Bah!! OK, I crack myself up. But seriously, come to the event. In the meantime, here’s a little bit on Qualification.

I use as an example of a specific type of retail store that almost every version of it has salespeople who try to sell you something the moment you walk in the door. “Hey, we have a brand new _______ for sale. Are you interested?” It’s totally frustrating when you’re the UPS guy and all you want to do is deliver a package.

Green, or bad salespeople, ALWAYS miss this step. You have to make sure that your prospective customer is qualified to purchase. Otherwise, you are absolutely wasting your time and theirs, too. Plus, you look really bad in the process.

There are four things a qualified customer must have, and the first is a need or want for your product. I once pulled onto a car lot and noticed a group of guys in a circle over by the sales office. They all looked at one guy as he crushed out his cigarette and headed my way.

My car had barely stopped and he was already at my driver’s side door. When I opened it, he literally said, “Great day to buy a new car!” To which I said, “I’m here for an oil change.” He didn’t say another word. He just turned around and walked off. Amazing!

Your perception of my need of your product doesn’t actually make it real. Start by finding out if I actually want or need it.

Question: How should a prospect be qualified?

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  • http://www.epreferreds.com/ preferred stocks

    it is good that Joel already posted his comment, because I was going to say something like “Joel would say…”. I’d say you’ve qualified your prospects with your marketing. You’ve explained to people through ads, social media and other resources what it’s that you sell. If your marketing plans is clever, the right people will come soliciting more information, when they are thinking of buying. This is extremely different to attacking someone who walks through a

  • http://www.facebook.com/riley.rogers.399 Riley Rogers

    Different situations require different tactics. In the instance of the car salesman, he needs to realize that people come to car dealer ships for other reasons than to buy cars. A more proper question is the traditional “Is there something I can help you find”? or the like. This tells the prospect that the salesman is focusing on their needs, not on his own. The prospect will then tell him if they are a potential car buyer or there to have their oil changed.

  • ReasonDisciple

    The way by which I try to qualify a buyer is to ask questions. I actually have every quarter a survey go out and posted on all of our websites, YouTube, blogs, and even Podcasts. Then we bring in all the need, wants, desires, and things people struggle with and I do a video and podcast of the results with other leaders in my niche/industry to see how we all can meet this need(s) in our own ways. In other words, I don’t compete with the “competition” I ask for help from them because I cannot meet all of these needs, just the ones that I am gifted or “qualified” to reach. Then we all develop goods: products and services for that help and add value to those whom needed it.

    Ricardo Equiips

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marshall-Walker/1270909443 Marshall Walker

    I think that one of the number one steps in qualifying is to actually care about the customer/lead. I can follow all of the steps but if all I’m about is just making another sale and not a true concern for them and their situation then they will smell that from a mile away.

  • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

    Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. It works best to ask them questions that can’t be answered by “yes” or “no”. Get them talking, listen, and learn.

    • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

      My experience in retail addressing customers:
      Q: “How are you today?”
      A: “Fine, just looking”

      or

      Q: “Today is an awesome day to be alive, right?”
      A: “Fine, just looking.”

      or

      Q: “Sir, I think you dropped your wallet?”
      A: “I’m fine, thank you.”

      • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

        Jon, I get it. It is hard to find the right questions. “Is this your first time to the show?” – nope, that’s a Y/N question.

        “How did you find out about the show?” – better.

        “What is your favorite type of artwork?” – risky, they might hate realism.

        “Where are you folks from?” – some people take that as interested, some take it as pushy.

        Ick. I need people for this. But, I don’t have people, so I keep trying!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

      Ahhh… the power of simplicity. It’s a gift which you have and I don’t.

      • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

        Lily, you seem to have the “gift of gab”, which engages people, infects them with your enthusiasm, and probably causes them to want to buy from you.

        Want to come run my booth at the next show? 8-)

  • http://www.epicenterlanguages.com.mx Aaron Nelson

    How should a prospect be qualified? It’s been said, but in a friendly manner, and without pressure.

    I think I might just be a salesperson’s worst nightmare. On one hand, when I walk in a store and you don’t pay any attention to me, I end up leaving because you’re not paying attention to me.

    But I’ll also be leaving if you pay too much attention to me. I don’t like getting hammered by a million questions. I wind up feeling pressured, and I’m outta there.

    My best salesperson experiences happened when the person observed what I was interested in (Look at what he’s looking at…pausing in front of…etc) and they just started talking with me about it.

    Salesperson: So I see you’re looking at the new Mac blah blah. Are you on the hunt for a new blah blah today?

    Me: Yes, I think so.

    Salesperson: Wonderful! So, do you know what you plan on doing with your Mac blah blah?

    Me: Well….I’m not entirely sure.

    Salesperson: Ok, have you ever used something like this before?

    Me: Sure! I used to own a Mac blah blah.

    Salesperson: Great! And what kind of things did you do with it?

    What’s important is that there were many differing Mac products available – some lower end, and some way more expensive. A bad salesperson would automatically aim for the most expensive item, right?

    Not my guy. He was great! After asking me a few more questions about how I wanted to use the product, what I needed it to do, what my normal usage patters were – he suggested I try out one fo the low end products that did EVERYTHING I was looking for.

    It felt natural. I loved interacting with this person. He made me feel like he cared about what I was looking for. And more than that, he took the time to teach me about why product X, Y or Z was or was not a good fit for me.

    Long comment short: qualification should be about observing your prospect and gently engaging them in conversation to find out what they are looking for…not immediately offering your solutions, services, or products.

    Great post Chris!

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      In other words, be friendly, be helpful, and listen!

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        I have no problem being friendly and helpful, but I have to work very hard to be a better listener. Any ideas??

        • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

          Lily, I have found it hardest to listen when one of two things is present: 1. The person is a TOTAL bore or 2. I am so excited to respond (before I forget what I want to say) that I think about my words instead of listening to theirs.

        • http://jonahenry.com/ Jon Henry

          Lily, I’d always try to incorporate the line “based on what you told me.” That makes you listen, because you actually have to know what they told you. Plus, when you repeat back to them what they said, you often uncover the cues they didn’t say… and give your prospect a means to correct any differences in communication too.

  • http://caroldublin.com/ Carol Dublin

    I agree with Lily – it starts with a relationship – some questions to see what the customer’s need is and then start the selling from there. In the book world, it would be some leading questions as to what type of subject they liked, what they had read before that they liked, etc. and then you can make suggestions from there. Hate when a salesperson pounces on me the second I walk into the store, too. I’m more than likely to tell them I’m just looking when that happens. Great post, Chris, and looking forward to the EntreLeadership 1 Day in Nashville next week!

    • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

      Wooohooo!!! I’ll be attending the simulcast. You should look for Scott and Jon and you guys should wave a huge banner “I’m with The Blog”

  • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

    It’s good that Joel already posted his comment, because I was going to say something like “Joel would say…”. I’d say you’ve qualified your prospects with your marketing. You’ve explained to people through ads, social media and other resources what it is that you sell. If your marketing strategy is smart, the right people will come asking for more information, when they’re thinking of buying. This is very different from attacking someone who walks through a department store just to get to the food court on the other side of the shopping mall.

    The greatest thing I’ve learned about sales and marketing from Chris and Joel is that qualifying a prospect is just establishing the beginning of a relationship with them in which you get to serve them.

    Good luck in Indy!!!

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      Well said, Lily! The jargon is “marketing funnel,” which is nothing more than building a relationship on trust and education with intention. As the marketer, you think through the steps involved and guide the relationship building process and then transition to the sale at the right time.

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        Yep. Just what Joel said.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jillian.rothe Jillian Rothe

    If they walk into your store… What can I help you with today? is always a good generic starter question. Or perhaps a good old fashioned How are you? :)
    But to qualify potential customers, I use F.O.R.M. – Family. Occupation. Recreation. Money. Do one of those categories for them fit something my business can help with?
    Ask questions about hose topics (depending on your product) to find out what THEY do and what is most important to THEM. (Kids? Time off? Low prices? etc…) Only then will you know if your product is right for THEM. Plus they may even tell you WHY your product is right for them in the process!
    Plus people LOVE talking about themselves or their kids or their job or their hobby, so they may like you more (See step 2 above…) just for asking. :)

    • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

      This is good.

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Agreed. Too many people like to skip to the M in FORM…or skip all 4 and try to sell something they can’t.

  • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

    Perfect title because selling is an art but that leverages science and psychology. I could go on forever on this topic so I’ll just say your marketing needs to feed selling in that it helps find, identify, and to varying degrees, educate people and then it needs to transition to sales. I know this is vague but the point is marketing and selling is a process rooted in some principles, not an event.

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      I think you’re being purposely vague to drive traffic to http://www.getservekeep.com site… Haha (you’re welcome :) )
      I always enjoy your insights, vague or not!

      • http://www.bluebridgecomm.com/ Joel Fortner

        Clearly I have some trust building to do with you still so you trust my intentions. =)

        • Mark Sieverkropp

          Not at all. I completely trust yor intentions, and I know you, like many of my pals here are too professional to self-promote, so I enjoy doing it for them :)

          • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

            He’s head of the Marketing Committee.

  • http://www.dadrenaline.com/ Christopher Pilon

    I have never worked in sales but I do use some of these same ideas in my job as a retail investigator. When I interrogate team members who have stolen from our company, I must first gauge their interest in explaining the truth of their actions. Many have a sincere need or want to make that clear due to guilt they are carrying around.

    Next, to be a truly “qualified” prospect, they need to have a sense of urgency to make things right. Being honest and empathetic with them during the interrogation makes this process go quickly. Most people just want to give me the “why’s” as to their dishonest actions and they want to do so quickly. This makes them a great “customer.”

    Lastly, they must trust me. As an investigator, unlike someone in sales, I already know a ton about my prospects. I know what they have done to become a qualified prospect and I only need to communicate clearly and honestly what will happen next. My goal is to earn their trust during our conversation because that is what will allow me to get a full admission of all their dishonest activity. I may only have a couple incidents but, surprisingly, many people will share everything from the previous 10 years if I have their trust.

    All of these things, though, are gained just by simply listening and watching their body language. People, whether they are looking to buy a television or just want to share something they’ve done, just want to be listened to and understood. When I interview someone for theft, I already know most of what they have done but I don’t know “why” they’ve done it. I think I would use some of these same skills if I were in sales.

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      Chris, I have no intention of becoming one of your qualified prospects, but I love the application! There’s some great burnt rice in your comment for those of us not specifically in sales!

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        Hey, how long have you been here? EVERYONE is in sales.

        • Mark Sieverkropp

          Hey, my first day ;) you’ll notice I said “for those not SPECIFICALLY in sales” meaning those that sell, but aren’t “salesmen”. :)
          My point was his application of the selling process was instructive for us to see how it DOES apply to our situations even if I’m not a “salesman”

          • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

            OK. Got it.

  • Cass Sitterly

    I think qualifying starts with observation then grows with listening. If the salesman can connect with the customer that makes them feel listened to and valued in first few moments, they may discover a greater potential even if down the road than first anticipated. You can’t sell what you want to sell, you have to make them have to need it or want it in their mind and no one values anyone’s opinion if they don’t feel listened to. For instance my son wanted new cologne and as I sent my husband to price it out the sales rep excitedly gave him the “lowdown”(that’s the SALESMAN”S terms). HE explained the cologne my husband inquired about was worn by his Grandfather, and we couldn’t possibly want that one. At that point he lost me and my money since he insulted my son’s choice. He lost the chance to educate and possibly win a new customer for life. Ralph Lauren stores have several fragrance variations, and I walked off with none of their offerings since we were greeted with a sell that insulted our desires. Qualifying isn’t capturing, its embracing.

    • http://www.dadrenaline.com/ Christopher Pilon

      I love this story. I’m amazed how often this happens to me when being sold to. I don’t want to generalize but it seems that I get this a lot from younger sales people. I went to purchase a TV a while back and I had done all the research and knew exactly what I was going to get but, still, the salesperson had to give me 10 reasons why I was making the wrong choice. He thought I should get the TV that was $200 more expensive – big surprise. I immediately told him that I was going to make my purchase at another store since he wasn’t going to accept my purchase decision. He just looked at me like I was crazy as I left. I paid $20 more but it was worth it to me.

      • Mark Sieverkropp

        Haha. Sounds like he needs to read Chris’ post: Selling by SERVING he wasn’t serving very well was he?

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      Haha. Wow. We’ve all been there. I usually have some snarky comment for a salesman like that…but that’s just me :)

    • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

      Yes, listening is key! We must understand the needs (and wants) of our customers.

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      Um, wow. Pretty sure sales rule #1 is “Don’t insult the prospect.”

      “Oh, you have State Farm Insurance? Yikes.”

      “Sorry I didn’t realize you chose Comcast.”

      “You picked a Toyota? Really?”

      “I’ll bet you regret going to that restaurant.”

      There is a way to say “We’re better” or “this is a better option” without being a jerk.

      Thanks for sharing Cass!

    • http://caroldublin.com/ Carol Dublin

      I like that “Qualifying isn’t capturing, it’s embracing.” Great story!

  • Mark Sieverkropp

    “Your perception of my need of your product does not actually make it real.” haha. Love it!
    How should a prospect be qualifies? My first thought was: Completely. It’s funny how often we fall into thinking that qualifying someone wastes time, when in fact NOT qualifying someone is a huge time waster!
    I think a great way to qualify someone is to help them do some of the qualifying on their own by providing a small amount of info to begin with or asking a question, Like Matt did and your car salesman should have: “hey, what are we lookin for today?

    • http://www.dadrenaline.com/ Christopher Pilon

      I like it. Let the customer qualify themselves by just asking some simple questions. I’m no salesman but that seems to be the best way I like to be sold to when I’m in a store.

      • Mark Sieverkropp

        That’s right! We all like to buy. But most of us don’t like being sold…

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

          And smart people have done their homework before they even step into your brick-and-mortar or online store.

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Stop saying you’re not a salesman. ;)

        Yes. You. Are. Everyone is.

  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Your story about the car salesman is hilarious. I have a particular car lot in mind in Franklin when I pictured that. Lot’s of guys named Bubba and Ron doing the selling. I think they are all related.

    Also, bummer that you and the crew are less than two hours from me and I can’t make it. I know quite a few people attending and have instructed them to yell “burnt rice” loudly in unison periodically while you are speaking. Let me know how that goes.

    I have always been involved in such niche industries that, thankfully, I have never had to deal with a many unqualified prospects. I did learn early on selling insurance leads that I needed to ask three questions though to weed out the 10-20% that weren’t going to work in our program before launching into our half hour-plus sales call:

    1. Have you purchased internet leads before? A yes means they are almost assuredly qualified. A no does not disqualify, but makes the next two questions important.

    2. Do you work alone or do you have a team? Alone means at most they can handle 1-2 leads per day and are usually high maintenance.

    3. Do they currently have a system for working new leads and/or the right CRM software in place to handle them?

    No-alone-no = not qualified.
    no-alone-yes = probably not, but we would ask a few other questions…if they have a system and are eager, we left it to the salesperson’s discretion
    yes-alone-no = not qualified. All this means is they have tried them before, failed, and will fail again.
    no-team-no = not qualified. The only exception to this is if they were a referral from a customer. We would give them a chance then.

    Most other combinations would at least be qualified enough to continue.

    I learned this lesson the hard way, OF COURSE, by wasting many hours early on with “prospects” who I had less than a 10% chance of closing or who quit after spending less than $100.

    • Mark Sieverkropp

      Wow Matt, quite the answer, is it true that a publisher offered to turn just THIS comment into a three book series?? I mean DANG. Can you say character limit?? Haha. Like Chris said, I crack myself up! Haha
      Great experience though! Isn’t it interesting that so many people don’t want to take the time to qualify prospects, and then waste waaay more time trying to sell water to a drowning ma?

      • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

        I think the character limit rule is #323

        • Mark Sieverkropp

          Haha 50 lashes and a 5000 word essay on the importance of brevity ;)

          • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

            @lilykreitinger:disqus And nana nana boo boo. :)

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Isn’t it about time you went and broke something?

        OK, that was low. I repent. Lord forgive me…

        • Mark Sieverkropp

          It absolutely is! Ask and te shall receive: typing now: matt…McWilliams…dot…com, there, commence to breaking! :)

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

          now you sound like Larry the Cable Guy…

    • http://www.epicenterlanguages.com.mx Aaron Nelson

      LOL boy do I wish I could hang out at that event and yell ‘Burn rice’ at periodic times in during the talk. That would rock! (It would be honest, too!)

      Great comment on how you qualify your leads!

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Thanks Aaron.

        I am close enough to the even that if I yell…I might get arrested.

        • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

          I see a recurring issue with you and getting arrested, orange jumpsuits and handcuffs… Interesting….

          • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

            It’s like I could blog about that or something…

            • http://www.lilykreitinger.com/ Lily Kreitinger

              Yeah…. ;0)

    • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

      Matt, I’ve often wished I could ask each “prospect” these questions (I’m an artist): 1. Are your walls already full? 2. Do you have any disposable income? 3. Are you just killing time by coming to my booth/studio/show?

      It really would help to know up front why they are there. Instead I go with lots of conversation, listening, guessing, and trying to decide what their excuses will be or how much energy I have to expend on someone who just wants to tell me that her nephew draws muscle men and hot cars.

      Sometimes I’d like to have a sign that says “I have to talk to a million people today to find twelve that want to buy. If you are just using me for entertainment, please don’t make me talk to you because I need my energy for the twelve.”

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        LOL first :)

        I feel you. If I am just looking (read: if my wife is shopping and I am in an art gallery) I tell the person. If he/she still wants to talk, great, but if another prospect comes in, I make sure he/she knows it’s OK to go make money.

        • http://www.janabotkin.net/ Jana Botkin

          I like people like you! Honesty is probably my favorite character quality in any one.