In this series we’ve covered why sales is important to master, and the background human psychology you need to know to understand why people buy. In this third installment we’re going to look at the nuts and bolts sales skills for introverts that take your prospects from cold to sold.
A lot of people teach sales, and everyone has a different method. The commonality is that basically every sales method is built upon the same framework. The psychological principles are consistent – because they work.
What I call the ‘sales journey’ is the framework that every sales method takes you through. They all brand it differently, to differentiate their method. Different people have different ideas, but they’re all fundamentally built upon the same framework.
It’s like this, if you wanted to drive to the other side of town in your car, and you asked 10 different people how to do that, they’d give you 10 different answers…
Much would probably be unsaid, because it’s assumed.
However, all would be basically the same, whether they articulate it or not…
You need to get in and start your car.
You drive on the road.
You set off in a specific general direction.
While different people would have a different method for avoiding traffic, taking the scenic route, etc.
You ultimately start and end in the same place.
It’s the same with a sales journey. All of the different systems and methods are built on the same framework, and ultimately they start and end in the same place.
I’m not a sales trainer, so I’m not interested in branding up ‘my methodology’ and selling you on why it’s the best. I’ll simply tell you about the underpinning framework.
If you want to really understand this on a deep level check out How to Sell by Will Freemen.
Sales Skills for Introverts: The sales journey
Let’s overview first, then we’ll drill into each stage to understand what it’s all about. This is the theoretical side to understanding the sales skills for introverts that work with the win-win style of selling we discussed in part 2. In part 4 of this series we will dig in to exactly what to say, real life examples, etc. You need to understand the theory and framework first, then we’ll layer on the actual words to say.
The journey of any sales conversation is going to like this…
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- What’s stopping you?
* Number 4 and 5 will circle around until you get the sale, or get a hard “no”. More on this later.
This entire style of sales is not only closing the sale, but as discussed in part 2, helping both you and the prospect understand the situation, and discover what they actually need (from you, or otherwise) to achieve their desired outcome.
Where are you now?
This is establishing the position the prospect is in now.
They need to state the facts of where they are, but that’s just the beginning. When I’m selling fitness I’m not just looking for the guy to say, “I’m 40lbs overweight”.
Like… yeh bro, I can see…
They do need to acknowledge that themselves, but what I’m looking for is the deeper level…
How do they *feel* about that?
How is it impacting their lives?
What effect does that have on other things that are important to them (dating, career, family, social life, etc.)?
Here you’re establishing their motivations – the pain they’re in, problem they face, and why it is important for them to do something about it.
Without this, there will be no urgency and they’re unlikely to move forwards, especially if it’s something they can ignore.
Where do you want to be?
This is asking what their goal is. You need to get deeper than “lose weight” – they need specificity and everything else that is involved in good goal setting.
Deeper than that, again we’re looking at *why*…
How will you feel when you achieve that?
How will your life change?
What will the impact on other areas be?
What will happen if you don’t achieve it? How will that feel?
Here you’re establishing their goals. What they actually want to achieve, this is where you should be beginning to understand how you could help them.
What’s stopped/stopping you?
How did you get in the situation you’re in now?
What do you think you need to do, to go from where you are, to where you want to be?
What’s stopped you doing that before?
What are the obstacles in the future that will stop you achieving your goals?
What do you need to change/learn/do/overcome to achieve your goals?
Here you are establishing exactly what they need – and importantly, what they think they need – your product or service is framed to cover all of the things listed here. Consider it their buying criteria. They’re telling you exactly what they want you to sell them.
Expectations & Objections
These final 2 parts are not linear at all. You’ll be circling between them until you get a definitive answer yes or no.
You want to get them to list their ‘objections’ before you try and close them. That way you’re covering them up front, before they ever really become objections. As soon as you go for the close, their barriers will come up, you want them to have taken in ALL information they need to, before you close.
The objection handling, after trying to close, should just be reminding them what they said earlier, and reassuring them. Once the barrier has come up, and money is the only thing in their mind, they’re not going to be in much of a state to objectively process and new information.
Having them set their expectations, of what they actually want to get as a result of working with you/your product is both strategically important for the rest of the relationship, and helps close the sale.
When they set their own expectations, there is no sense that you’re making outlandish promises that you cannot keep. It also gives you a stated outcome that allows you to manage expectations throughout the entire relationship. Essentially they’ve defined what will make them happy, and once they have done that, they will be happy when you help them achieve that.
The close is the simplest part in theory, but usually the hard part in practice.
The most important thing to note here is that you need to get a definitive answer.
“Maybe”, “let me think about it”, or “I need to check with my partner/check I have the money”, is a waste of everybody’s time.
A maybe is usually just a soft “no”. What will usually happen is they will go away and even if they genuinely wanted to think about it, they will get cold feet.
Then you’re chasing them up, which wastes your time, and harasses them. They avoid you on purpose, you both get annoyed with each other, and it sours the entire relationship.
It’s better to get a solid no, and leave the conversations still as a win-win.
If you’re getting a “yes”, make sure you take payment – even if it’s only a deposit.
A yes is not a yes until money has changed hands. Before that it is essentially still a “maybe”. They still have to go back, reach into their wallet and pay you at a later date. There is ample time for them to get cold feet and back out between now and then, for a million different reasons.
Sales Skills for Introverts
A frame is a psychological term. Every individual has their own frame – think of it as the window through which they interact with the world.
When 2 individuals come together, in any situation, their frames will ‘clash’.
You cannot operate in 2 frames at once, so to interact with another party, one person has to enter the other person’s frame.
When a hot girl is stood at the bar, and some thirsty douche is eye-raping her, and begging to buy her a drink… he’s thoroughly in her frame. She can choose what to do with him… entertain him and get a free drink… tell him to F off… completely ignore his existence and turn her back on him… it’s totally up to her.
The person who’s frame you’re in, is in control of the interaction.
Now let’s imagine the same girl see’s a tall, handsome, rich guy get ushered into the VIP area, shake hands with the owner of the bar, and get a free bottle of champagne. She wants to go and join his table, so she hovers around near by, trying to catch his eye…
Meanwhile, the guy is sat back, swigging champagne and chatting to the bar owner. The girl is now totally in his frame. He can choose to invite her in, tell her to F off, or just grab her hand and walk her over to any other part of the bar.
The hot girl’s frame dominated the thirsty loser, but the handsome guy’s frame dominates hers.
Frames in selling
When we’re selling, we can either be in our own frame, or that of the prospect. The moment you enter the prospects frame, you’ve lost the sale.
However, there needs to be nuance. If I stick a gun to your head, you’re gonna be in my frame – I can dictate whatever terms I wish to you… but you aren’t going to have positive feelings about the interaction, or want to see me again afterwards.
You want to bring the prospect willingly into your frame, while maintaining rapport and providing a positive experience for them.
The way to do this is to lead and be firm, but always respecting the other person’s position.
To get the outcome you’re looking for (and to help the client), you need to be in control. You need to guide them through the sales journey.
If they’re in control, they will derail the conversation and take it anywhere but the right place.
I like Jordan Belfort’s description of this – think of him and his ethics what you will, you cannot deny his sales ability. His method is called the “Straight Line System”.
Basically the goal as a salesman is to take the conversation in as efficient route as possible from A to B. This would be a straight line. Every little deviation from the line is making it less efficient, and the sale less likely to happen.
The client will inevitably pull you off the straight line at various points, but when you’re in control – the interaction is in your frame – you can guide them back onto the line, and continue moving towards a successful close.
As soon as you enter the prospect’s frame, the conversation will derail off on a tangent into the abyss. It’s unlikely you will ever get back on the line from here.
To maintain the interaction in your frame, you have to be leading at all times. While the prospect does most of the talking, you do all of the guiding – by asking questions – so you’re in control.
You’re the expert
Remember that you are the expert in whatever you’re selling. If they were an expert, they wouldn’t need your help.
When I started off Personal Training I was 20, had zero life experience, and started working with investment bankers and corporate lawyers in the financial district…
They’re 20+ years older than me, rich, successful, powerful people who spend all day being in control and bossing people around…
But when it comes to fitness, they know very little. They’re now in my domain of competence. In any other area I’m a snotty kid who knows nothing, but in this one area, I am the expert and they are the student.
It’s important to remember that you’re the expert and not let the prospect try to be the expert. Even if they’re powerful people and you’re new to what you’re doing, they are coming to you for help. You’re the expert and you need to act like it.
In this domain, you know what is best.
You’ve got to remember that, and lead the conversation. If you don’t take the lead, they won’t respect you, and even if they hire you, the relationship won’t go well.
Most client management problems – not being paid on time, missing or rescheduling appointments, hitting you up last minute to turn things around immediately, unrealistic expectations – they’re all born here.
You know where you’re trying to guide the client, and that it’s in their best interests, so don’t let them stop you from doing it.
To maintain the frame and stay in control of the conversation, you’ll need to set and maintain boundaries.
Think of the boundary as the space just outside the ‘straight line’ of the sales journey. If the conversation strays outside the boundary, you need to put it back inside, as soon as possible.
You’re in control of the conversation. You ask the questions and they answer them. If they ask you a question, you do not have to answer them immediately. Deflect and answer at the appropriate time, don’t get pulled off course. It’s in their best interests, as well as yours.
If they don’t give you an answer you are looking for, ask the question in a different way until they do. Failing to get all of the information out on the table is going to sabotage your sale, and does them a disservice in actually helping them.
We’ll cover how to do this, with exactly what to say, in part 4 of this series.
You’re also setting boundaries and expectations for the ongoing client relationship. Before they agree to hire you, you tell them how the relationship will work. How much contact time you have, when you can talk, how much work you will produce, how and when you will be paid, etc.
They can define what that is, but you need to agree upon it now. They’re not able to just throw more stuff at you after the fact, because you can reference back to this conversation. Either they pay you extra, or have someone else do the extra leg work they’re trying to shove onto you.
You need the client to open up and be honest with you, and themselves.
If they hold back, it’s only going to cause problems later on. Every stage of the sales journey is important. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be there.
You need to push people to get the kind of answer you’re looking for, without becoming combative.
When you ask what someone wants, they’ll say “lose weight” or “make more money”, which is a bullshit answer. You’ve gotta keep digging to get to the real answers, which are under the surface.
However, the push is with a non-judgmental, inquisitive tone of further curiosity, “tell me more about that…”, it’s never direct or harsh.
If you challenge people they will dig in and become combative. You’ve totally lost rapport and the conversation has gone way off the straight line rails.
The tonality when asking questions should always be non-judgmental and genuinely interested. Always agree and ask for more. Specifics of what to say will be covered in part 4.
Always ask, never tell
Aside from near the end when you give a brief overview of the product/service you are offering, you should never *tell* a prospect anything.
Always ask, and let them come to their own conclusions.
If you tell them – you’re selling them. If they come up with it themselves – it’s the truth. (In their mind, at least).
You don’t need to *tell* them how good you are. *Ask* a leading question – “why do you think I’d be the right person to help you?”.
Now they’re selling you. They’re talking up your strong points, of their own volition, in their own words… it’s the truth (in their mind).
You incept ideas by asking the right questions, the prospect fills in all of the details. Everything is their idea or thought, and thus true.
They will never feel like you’ve *sold* them anything. They end up feeling like you totally understand them – which you do, because you actually listen to them.
I cannot understate how important this is.
When people use the term ‘salesy’ in a negative context, this is what they mean. The feeling that someone is being ‘pushy’, trying to tell them things that they don’t necessarily believe.
The way to never be ‘salesy’ is to never tell them anything that they haven’t asked. Simply ask them why they think that, and they’re going to tell you what you would have said anyway, but you’ve added positively to the relationship by asking and listening, instead of trying to ram it down their throat.
In part 4 we will bring these concepts into the real world, with actual examples of what to say, and some example scripts you can use when having your next sales conversation.
It’s important to understand the psychology that underpins what you’re saying, otherwise you become a robotic automaton who is clearly reading a script. It might work for some easy sales, but the second you get pulled off that straight line, the script goes out the window and everything falls apart.
Dealing with human beings is never going to be predictable or linear. You need enough of a plan (script) to reference as a roadmap, but ultimately you’re interacting in real time. You need the flexibility to maintain frame and control where the conversation goes next, no matter what the other person presents you with.
Check back soon for part 4 of sales skills for introverts where we will look at specifically what to say during the conversation, the tonality, and how to get people to open up to you, without ‘being salesy’.