Seven Principles for More Effective Sales: Part II

Mar 18, 2022

I used to hate sales, but as I learned more about it and practiced it more, I found that it wasn't nearly as complicated and difficult as I made it out to be. In fact, I discovered seven principles for more effective sales:

  1. The strategy session is not solely about making a sale. It’s about helping your prospect better understand the problem at hand, so they can make an informed and empowered decision. 
  2. Show up as an expert advisor who diagnoses the problem and provides a solution. 
  3. Only pitch to people who want to be pitched to. Otherwise, you’re wasting your breath. 
  4. Listen to your prospect and make them feel heard. They need to trust that you fully understand their unique situation. 
  5. Stay on topic and don’t jump to giving advice. This is a conversation about solving the problem, not a conversation that solves the problem. 
  6. You’re leading the conversation, not them. 
  7. It’s okay if they turn out not to be a good fit. Point them in the right direction anyway. 

In this episode, I talk through the last three principles, and what they really mean in the context of effective, ethical sales.

Today's episode is the second part in a two-part series on the seven principles for more effective sales. In the previous episode, we talked through the first four of these seven principles. In this episode, today, we are going to talk through the remaining three that we have not yet covered. So without further ado, let's go ahead and get started. 

As a quick recap, the four principles that we have already covered are as follows: The first is that the strategy session or the discovery call is not solely about making a sale. Really, it's about helping your prospect better understand the problem at hand, so that they can make an informed and empowered decision. The second is to show up as an expert advisor who diagnoses the problem and provides the solution. Think of yourself as the physician who is figuring out the problem and diagnosing it and then recommending a solution. The third principle is to only pitch to people who want to be pitched to. Otherwise, you're wasting your breath. The fourth principle is to listen to your prospect and make them feel heard. Above all else, they need to trust that you fully understand their unique situation. 

With that, let's go ahead and dig into principle number five, which is to stay on topic, and don't jump to giving advice. This is a conversation about solving the problem. It's not meant to be a conversation that solves the problem, and there's a big difference there. The purpose of a discovery call or a sales call is to better understand your prospects' situation, desires, roadblocks, and then to offer them a solution. 

During this conversation, it can be really easy to slip into giving your prospect advice, or even coaching them like you would if they were already a client, and you really want to avoid that—not because you want to avoid giving away too much information, but because actively trying to help your prospect solve their problem during this strategy session comes at the expense of better understanding their situation. Whereas during a normal coaching or consulting call, you will usually guide them through the process of solving their problem, that's not the goal of a strategy session. The goal of this call is inherently different, because it's a conversation about solving the problem; it's not a conversation that is meant to solve the problem. 

For example, on a call, your prospect might say, “I'm having trouble sleeping, and I think it's because of my anxiety,” and it might be tempting to abandon the structure of a discovery call and jump straight in to immediately helping them solve the problem, perhaps by suggesting a specific meditation or giving them strategies to cope with their anxiety, so they can sleep better at night. However, the better course of action is to continue digging into that problem, to ask about their sleep habits, their anxiety triggers, and how it's affecting their daily life, so that you can then better understand their situation, and so they can better understand the situation too. 

It's often tempting to turn these calls into coaching calls and to start solving their problem, but if you do this, you're missing a vital opportunity to gather more information that will usually lead to the root of the issue. So by staying curious and getting a complete picture of their situation, you'll be much better able to provide higher quality solutions later on. 

The sixth principle for more effective sales is to remember that you are, in fact, leading the conversation and not the prospect. When looking at almost any sales script or structure for a discovery call or a strategy session, one of the first things you'll notice is that during the first few minutes of the call, you're usually going to set the agenda for the meeting. One of the reasons you do that is to establish leadership, to demonstrate that you are the one leading the call, not the prospect. A strategy session is only effective when you are the one steering the conversation. If you don't actively assume that position, the prospect will notice it and do the only natural thing to do in that position, which is that they will assume leadership of the conversation. 

You're not micromanaging the conversation, but you are setting the terms of “This is what we're talking about right now, and this is what we're going to talk about next.” Sooner or later, you will have a call with someone who refuses to let you take leadership of the conversation, either because they have their own internal need to be in control, or just because they have a more assertive, controlling personality. Because the strategy session is, in large part, the process of you interviewing them to see if you want to work with them in the first place, you'll need to decide whether this aspect of their personality would hinder the coaching or consulting process if you were to take them on as a client. Chances are that if conducting a sales call with them is painful, then working with them as a client will be too. 

Finally, our seventh principle is that it's okay if a prospect is not a good fit. Point them in the right direction anyway. I've already alluded to this principle a fair bit, but it's so important that it warrants its own specific point. There are many people you'll speak with who turn out not to be a good fit. There are going to be a variety of reasons why that's the case, and that's okay. In fact, that's to be expected. If they're not a good fit, do not enroll them in your program. Don't even pitch to them. Only take clients whom you know you can help. 

But what do you do if they're not a good fit? Well, as I've already mentioned, one of the top priorities of the strategy session is to help your prospect find clarity on what they need to do to solve their problem. If you're not the person who can help them do that, chances are you know someone who is. One of the most powerful things you can do, towards the end of a call with a prospect who's not an ideal client, is simply to be honest. You can even say, “Hey, I'll be 100% honest with you. It sounds like you're dealing with ABC issues, and my expertise is really around XYZ issues. I'm not the person who can help you get where you need to be, but do you have a pen and paper handy? Because I want to give you the name and contact information for someone who I think might be able to help.” If you're an impact-driven coach or consultant who wakes up every morning, excited to make a difference in your clients’ lives, then that is the type of integrity to display when you're on a call with a less-than-ideal client. 

But what if they're not an ideal client yet? This happens just as often. You'll speak with someone who could be an ideal client, but who needs to make some more progress or understand some key concepts before they're a perfect fit to work with you. In that case, identify the most immediate work they need to do to get to that point and gift them a free training or a resource that will help them do that. Then, promise to follow up with them in a few months to chat about their progress. Again, do this by simply being honest, telling them, “Hey, I think you could be a really great fit to work together, but you need to work on X issue before I can really help you get results.” Again, that's the type of integrity that will really help you grow your business. 

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