The Art of Communication podcast transcript
Episode 12: Sell by not selling.
Hello, this is Sian Hansen and welcome to The Art of Communication Podcast. I’m here with Robin Kermode. And this episode is called selling by not selling, as soon as someone starts selling to you, your hairs go up on the back of your neck and you think no, no, no …
Well, you don’t trust them, because you think they’re trying to pull a fast one. But if you think that somebody is offering your solution to a problem, that being helpful, so they might be well selling you something, but it shouldn’t look like a sell.
And that’s what we’re going to dig into today. So Robin, can we just start by unpacking who this podcast is actually for? Clearly, if your job is sales, you have to be able to sell, but when else do we sell?
We sell all the time everybody sells every minute of the day? Well, no, no, not every minute of the day. There are times you have a bath. But generally we sell because we’re selling an idea. We may not sell a product, but we are selling an idea. If you’re working in an office and you say Do you know what I think we should move the tables away from the window to that side of the room. Some people are going to think that’s a good idea. And some people will say actually, I prefer the light by the window. So you have to persuade everybody that this is a good idea. You’re selling an idea. So the art of selling is about persuasion, ultimately, it should feel like it’s the decision of the purchaser, not somebody forcing them into that decision. So they should think I want to move the table to the other side of the room, I want to buy that product. Nobody wants to come back from a visit to the store and say I was sold this TV set, you want to come home saying I chose this TV set?
Yes, it was my choice. My choice. Yes. So help me to help me got it. So this is something that everybody has to do. It’s something that natural that happens in society. And we’re going to use it all the time. In fact, from what you’ve just said, it reminds me a little bit like a marriage or relationship with a sibling or a parent, actually. So it must happen all the time. Well, we
sell ideas to our children as well. I mean, if a child says, I want to stay out till midnight, and you say no, you’ve got to be home by 10 o’clock, depending on their age. And they say, what can it be 1130? You say? No, it’s 10 o’clock. But we have to get them to buy into the idea that 10 o’clock actually is a sensible idea.
So how do you start building this groundwork, this common ground where you open the discussion, you’re trying to sell something to somebody, I assume you don’t go into the what people call the hard sell. So how do you build this common ground ready at the beginning?
If you go into the hard sell straightaway, you haven’t asked what they want. And if you don’t ask what they want, there’s no common ground because you don’t know where you’re trying to get to. So what we’ve got to do is to work out what they want. So a customer comes in saying I’m looking for a particular size television set, you say, Okay, what are the things that are the most important to you, when you’re buying a television set? They say, well, the sounds important, the pictures important or the look of it, or the thinness of it, or whatever it is, the more questions you ask at the beginning to establish this common area.
That’s the common ground. So here’s the fly in the ointment. Sometimes people don’t know what they want to know.
So this is where gentle questioning comes in saying, well, for example, you’re in the room that you watch the TV in, is the sound that important to you? Or do you really want it to look great? And the person might say, we haven’t really thought about that? No, I think locks are important. Now once they’ve said looks are important. What we need to do is to repeat back the same words who said, Well, if looks are important, then I think this might be the best one.
Oh is echoing the word back in important trigger.
Basically, customers will believe words, they say more than the words that the seller says. If I’m the customer and I say I want a television set that looks right, then I’ve confirmed in my head, that’s what I want. But if a seller says to me, you want a television set that looks right. Oh, don’t tell me what I don’t exactly don’t tell me what to think. But as soon as I say it myself, then actually has more validity in my head. Right? They now want a television set that looks good, because they’ve said it does.
So now you’re in a dialogue because you’ve started to ask questions, you’ve started to find out what the potential purchaser wants from whatever product or service that you’re trying to sell them. But they’re going to put up objections, aren’t they? It’s almost part of the game that when you’re trying to sell something, somebody on the other end of the line or in front of you is going well, you know, that’s too expensive, or it’s not the right color, or it’s not the right size, or I think I’ll think about it and come back. What would you do with these objections?
You want to honor their objections? First of all, what does that mean? Well, in other words, you don’t rubbish it you don’t say no, no, it’s not important. They say yes, but it’s too expensive, you could say. But on the other hand, if you look at the length of time, this product will last you in fact, year by year, it’s actually no more expensive than a cheaper product when you have two by three over the same period of time. So you’re honoring it. So you do have to say, I see why you might think that or yes, I’ve had other customers who have come in and said this, but actually what they find is something else. So you acknowledge that it is a problem, but you don’t linger too long on the problem.
So before you go into any kind of sales pitch, I suppose you have to know or have a good idea what the objections could be before you go in
To that, yes. And sometimes it’s good to be devil’s advocate. So you could say some people might say it’s too expensive. Some people might say this, that or the other. In fact, A, B, and C …
… just get it out of the way under your turn to start with. Yeah. So if you’re looking at these potential objections, when you’re selling to somebody, and you’re acknowledging it, honoring it, and then explaining it away, is there any time when you stop selling in order to sell the product? Is there any time where you just go, You know what, you’re right.
Sometimes you have to go? Yeah, it is expensive? Yeah, yes. But actually, the word expensive has a judgement about it. When you say something is expensive. It sounds like you’re saying it’s too expensive. So I think we want to be careful of the language sometimes.
Another aspect of selling that I always come across is that when, for instance, I go into a beauty bar, and I booked a pedicure, sometimes what happens is the person helping me will try and sell me a book of 10 sessions. Yes. And they’ll say there’s better value each pedicure, you know, cost me 10% less if I buy a book of them upfront. Now, what do you think of that as a technique?
Well, it’s a really good technique. The trouble is that it can be a lot of money for you upfront. So of course, you’re guaranteeing that you’re paying eight times rather than one, even though you’re going to get to free because it’s a delayed gratification thing. But what I would do under this circumstances is I would use a advertising phrase from the 1960s, which is you sell the sizzle, not the sausage. So if you’re advertising sausages, you sell the sizzle, the excitement, the noise, that the sense that in the kitchen, there’s this lovely tasty product coming away so that you sell the excitement of the fact that if you buy this product, not only will you save money, you’ll have perfect feet for a longer period of time. So it’s a really good investment, but you’re selling the excitement around wouldn’t it be great if you had perfect feet?
Yeah. And in some circumstances, it might also be good that you say, buy the first one at full price. And then if you’ve enjoyed the experience, you can buy a book of 10 of them. And we’ll discount the first one that you bought.
I know that places in the UK like the National Trust will do that. They’ll say we’ll go round. And if you really enjoy it, we’ll knock off the price of this visit for your annual membership. But they get you to try something first. I think that’s a really good idea.
Yeah, if you’re allowed to try something first, again, you feel like you’re in control. So quite a lot of what we’re talking about is feeling in control of your own purchase. Yes. So if you’re the person doing the selling, you have to remember that, don’t you, you have to remember, you want them to feel like it’s been their journey to making the decision.
Yes. And also you’re there to help them solve a problem. So in the early days of the Internet, if you say, plumber, and you had a plumbers website, it would say we’re a family business, we’re amazing. We’ve been going 100 years and this, our customers say this about us and we’re amazing. I don’t go to a plumbers website to hear how amazing they are. I go because I have a problem, which is I have a leaky tap. So if you go to a good website, now it would say if you have a leaky Tap, Click here. So somebody coming in to buy the TV set has a problem, they want a TV set, you’re the solution, you can provide one you go in for a pedicure, that’s your problem and problems the wrong word. But essentially, you have a need. So if you’re providing a service, you are offering a service, not because you’re ramming it down somebody’s throat, whether they wanted, you’re offering a service, if there’s a need for that service, advertisers, often if they’re trying to shift a particular product, they will find a way of making it seem like we have a need for that. Now, most of us if we’re going to work need one nice set of clothes. But if an advertiser can say yes, but if you just have this one, you’re just going to get the next interview. And this is just for when you want the promotion, whatever, then you think, well, if I don’t buy this, I won’t get the promotion. So they seed it in your head, the need is there. But ultimately, the easiest way of selling is when a customer comes to you with a need or a problem, you’re not actually doing any selling at all.
Which brings me on to anticipation a lot of selling is about anticipation isn’t it?
It is but it’s also about matching the state of the buyer and the seller. So if you think of going to buy a car, the moment that the customer is the most low in the whole process, that the lowest emotional point is when they actually signed to buy the car, because they think giving away your money or giving away your money. You think, Am I making the right decision? Oh, am I going to regret this? These kinds of things at the moment you sign? That’s when the salesperson goes, yes, I’ve got my commission, right. So that’s their highest point. But of course, what the salesperson has to do is match the same emotion. So just at the moment, you’re about to sign you’re feeling a bit nervous, they have to reassure you. And the last time I bought a car and it was absolutely hysterical. And I’m quite sure it was planned. You know, if you go into a showroom, they often have a series of tables down the side of the showroom. So my sales guy was looking at me and behind me was another salesman doing his bit, but he happened to be free. So just at the moment I was about to sign the other salesman apparently unplanned but probably was glad we got up from his house and he walked past just and he could see me wavering with my pen. And he said Is this the gentleman buying the black car? And my guy said yes, it is. And he said, Oh, that’s a lovely car outside, so they just pushed me over the edge got the affirmation, because they both recognize that that was the time that I was most nervous and then they reassured me at that moment Now, of course, five days later, when you turn up to pick up the car, I’m all excited because I’m the customer, I’m going to pick up my new car, I’ve got over my guilt of spending the money. I’m excited about it. But the salesman is in a low point now, because they’ve already got their commission, they’re not really interested in me, but they have to pretend to be interested in me. So they have to match the emotion. So
you, as the salesperson have to remember that because you want the repeat business, you have to match their enthusiasm for the right moment.
Imagine you’re the salesperson and there’s a room full of potential customers in your showroom, and somebody comes into click their car, you have to go fantastic to see what an amazing day look at this, the sun’s out your new cars here, and off you go and all this other stuff. What you can’t do is to go yeah, here are the keys by I’m going to sell it to these other people, because then you think you were just trying to sell to me. So it comes right back to this whole thing of don’t look like you’re selling.
Let me give you an example when it didn’t happen for me, where I recently bought a painting. It’s a really small painting, but I bought it in a gallery, I was incredibly excited. It was hanging on the gallery wall. They said you can’t pick it up for a couple of weeks or not until the show comes down. And I thought okay, and I got the notice. And I said you can go and pick it up. I’m incredibly excited about going to pick up my painting. And then they said Go to the back entrance where all the tradesmen go are with your little collection nodes, where it was handed to me by somebody who didn’t even welcome me into the loading bay unceremoniously unceremoniously handed it to me in bubble wrap and went there.
And you’ve probably had two months of excitement and look at anticipation thinking, Oh, I’m going to pick up my painting. Yeah, lovely. And you kind of want someone to hand it to you and almost in gloves.
But now, but I still love the painting. So this idea of being excited around selling, is it true to say that it’s okay to be excited when you’ve sold something to somebody?
Well, it depends why, if you’re standing there rubbing your hand saying I’ve made my commission Hurray, then of course, that’s going to annoy the customer. But if you’re saying, I’m really pleased that you’ve got the set you want or you’ve got the car you want, then of course, you’re saying, I’m really pleased that I’ve helped you, the customer would like that.
So I’m just curious, do doctors do they sell to doctor so you’re talking about need, and the most needy circumstances you can be in is when you’re unwell and you need a doctor.
There are some doctors who will sell you surgery, you don’t need that, but not very often, hopefully. But I think in most circumstances, it’s a profession where you don’t sell private doctors. So because you have a choice, you can go to a different doctor, they’re selling their brand and their service to you.
Yes. So is there any profession or any circumstance where the situation doesn’t require any selling at all?
Is that only true when there’s not money involved? charitable giving, charities are selling massively charities advertise all the time? No, you’re right. In most circumstances, we are selling something, even if it’s an idea.
So wrapping it all up, what we’ve discovered is that the best way to sell is to not sell it’s to build a common ground, listen to the person who has the need, and try and solve that need in the nicest and most helpful way so that by the end of the transactions, you found that you both have the same energy levels, the same positive feeling around the transaction.
But sometimes just at the end, you have to push them over the line. Sometimes they’re almost ready to sign and they’re wavering a little bit as a magic word. And the magic word is given what you do right at the end is just when they say let me think about it, what you do is you repeat back things they’ve said. So given that you want to television that looks right, given that you want to television that has this particular size, given that you want to television at this price range, is there any reason that we can’t go ahead, and they’ve kind of got to go? Let’s go ahead. And the other thing is just before you do the final, do you want to sign just before that you ask them three questions, but get them to say yes, three times before you say Shall we go ahead with this?
Oh, what to almost any question, just get the answer to be positive. And then they’re in that frame of mind.
Yes. So if you say lovely data, isn’t it? Yes. That’s a nice coat you’re wearing? Is it new? Yes, it is three times they have three yeses in their head. And you go Should we go ahead? And again, yes, and it’s. And it’s amazing how it works for many years, I coached auctioneers, and we discovered that if an auction is saying 1000 2000 3000 4000, whatever the prices are, you get to the point where somebody has given you 4000, you look to the next person and you say 5000, and the buyer shakes their head, we want to try to encourage them to say yes, so what we learned is to go for 1001 person, you look to the next person and you go 5000 Yes, what a lot of auctioneers do as they’re about to say 5000 persons shakes their head to get 5000 No, as if you’re saying no, you’ve decided not to be as soon as you say 5000 No, they go no, we tested it. If you get 5000. Yes, much more likely for them to go. Yes. Occasionally they say no. And you go well, yes, would have been a better answer.
My top tip is if you’re on the phone and you’re trying to sell something stand up, it makes the biggest difference. Well, you would know this, but it’s something in the energy in your voice when you’re standing up is very different when you’re sitting down and you have a much better success rate.
Also, your inflection tends to go more up and down. So there’s more energy in the voice as well.
Robin, thank you so much. I think we’ve learned a lot about how not to sell in order to sell exactly Okay, so it’s goodbye for me.
For more information online public speaking masterclass, visit robinkermode.com