Tim Dunne and Tim Hurson just published a book entitled Never Be Closing, rooted in their decades of cumulative experience selling, consulting, and managing with global organizations. They advocate for non-linear conversations, group debriefs to prevent static ideas and proposals, and most importantly, an approach to selling that puts the seller first. Below is a summary of our conversation:
1) When it comes to sales scripts, you suggest “first, get it down, then get it good.” What’s the best way to get a sales script truly good and to know if it’s working?
Rehearse. Recruit your colleagues and friends. Tell them what you want to accomplish, and with whom. Next, give them explicit guidelines for giving you feedback. Then deliver your scripts, asking them to play the role of your client. Feedback guidelines should include:
- Does each script focus on a single point that illustrates something unique or interesting about you or your company?
- Does your script tell a story? Did it include people as well as facts and figures?
- Is your script relevant to the client?
- Does your script end with a question, giving your client a natural chance to speak?
- Are you able to deliver your script within 60 seconds?
2) You encourage salespeople to ask catalytic questions because humans are hard-wired to seek resolution for unanswered questions. Why do catalytic questions work so well in Sales, and can you give us a few examples of ones that have worked particularly well for you?
Catalytic questions reframe the way people think about situations. That’s why they’re so powerful. Some years ago, we were working with a Hollywood film lab. At the time, digital imaging was starting to take a bite out of the film processing business so labs were trying every which way to differentiate themselves. Our client wanted to position itself as the most environmentally responsible lab, and they didn’t know where to start. Finally, we asked them: How might you become the Prius of film labs? Immediately, they began seeing their problem in a new way, and were able to galvanize their sales force.
We helped one of our banking clients in a similar way, when we came up with the question: How might we make retirement savings sexy? A simple question, but it reframed how our client and their clients saw the issue.
3) Your book cites a Gallup poll in which selling professions occupy a staggering four of the seven least trustworthy positions (and we thought marketers had it bad!). What are the biggest keys for salespeople to change this perception with customers?
A lot of the negative attitude has to do with what we call the Stranger’s Dilemma. We’re all strangers at first, and for good or ill, people don’t necessarily trust strangers. Ironically, many of the techniques salespeople are taught actually reinforce the problem. Many closing techniques are designed to manipulate clients into saying things they don’t want to say. But there’s a better way to deal with the Stranger’s Dilemma: Stop being a stranger. Make it clear your aim is to help your clients. Our whole book is about how you can do that -- not through trickery, but by replacing the focus on Always Be Closing with a focus on Always Being Useful.
4) You recommend that salespeople assemble a “Salestorm” after a meeting to avoid defaulting to their typical answers and solutions. Why is salestorming valuable and how would you do it if you are a one-person sales team?
Salestorming is one of several debriefing tools we use with clients. It’s amazing how rarely people take the time to do structured debriefs -- to learn from what went well, and what didn’t go well, so they can do better next time. If I were to name one factor that could change a salesperson from merely competent to stunningly successful, it would be structured debriefing. It's a process of asking yourself the tough questions, and being as honest with yourself as possible in answering them; it’s in the debriefing that the real learning takes place.
5) You note that promise is Latin for “sending forward”-- how do reps avoid over-promising in competitive deals?
In Never Be Closing, we recommend ending each client meeting with a promise, and then delivering on it in order to develop a positive relationship. For example, your client is opening a branch in Quebec. You happen to know a first class translation service. Your promise is to connect them. That’s it. That’s the kind of promise we’re talking about -- anything you can do to deliver value. Sometimes that may be information, sometimes a referral, or sometimes a book you think might be useful to your client -- maybe even our book!