Over the last 10 years I have mastered the art of sales. And in this article, I’m going to explain to you exactly how I did it.
People try to paint sales as this complex, elusive thing that you’re either born with or you’re not. But in reality, the art of selling (excellent book by the way) can be broken down into a series of simple steps that anyone can master.
After all, the act of selling is really just having a conversation with another human being.
And at the end of that conversation, they give you some money.
I’m going to break it all down for you right now.
Before I learned how to sell (but had an amazing tan)
But before I do, let me give you a little background on how I cobbled together this strategy for separating people from their money (happily, I might add).
When I got out of the army (IDF), I moved to Tel Aviv. I had just finished several years of the most ungodly grind of my life.
The army is not a pleasant experience by any means. I tell people that it was the best experience of my life that I would never want to do again.
When soldiers are released from service, they go a little crazy. You’ve been locked up in a disciplined system for so long that when you’re finally given a taste of freedom, you take advantage of it to live in excess.
For two years after getting out, I had as little responsibility as possible.
I partied, perfected my tan, and worked as little as possible. When I did work, it was odd jobs here and there that never lasted more than a few months before I either quit or was fired.
As fun as this life was, it eventually got old.
Living in Tel Aviv is great, but I wanted something more. I wanted more MONEY.
Specifically, I wanted to use that money to spend six months in Thailand learning Muay Thai. The only problem was that with all the temptation in the White City, I couldn’t save a shekel to save my life.
I knew that lots of Israelis would go abroad and sell products in shopping malls for quick cash.
I had no sales experience at the time, but I figured that since I was a fluent English speaker already, I would be a natural at this job.
Boy was I in for a surprise.
Eventually I booked my ticket back to the USA and went to work in Phoenix, Arizona.
I’ll spare you the surprise right now: I was NOT a natural at sales by any means.
If anything, I was naturally BAD.
I hated when customers told me no. I hated hearing “I’ll think about it.” I hated the downtime in between customers.
I hated my manager. I hated myself. I hated sales.
I did sell here and there, but my sales were pitifully small and brought me virtually no money.
After my first month of being terrible at sales, I broke down in the middle of work one day and started crying.
I’m not talking just a few tears here and there. I was BAWLING to the point where my face crumpled because my facial muscles were so tense with emotion.
Crying by yourself in the parking lot of a shopping mall is not fun. Even worse was when my manager walked out and saw me.
To her credit, she was actually nice about it.
She told me everything would be okay, that she cried all the time at work, and that it’s just part of the learning process.
I had no idea sales would be so hard, but right then and there I resolved to figure out a system to making it work so I would never have to experience these negative emotions ever again.
And that’s where this strategy was born. Right there in the parking lot of an Arizona shopping mall.
I ended up sticking with kiosk sales, a job that would enable me to travel the world and meet literally tens of thousands of people and to make more money than I’d ever made in my life.
Each year that I worked, I made more money.
I sharpened my skills to the point where it felt like I was turning my brain off at work and making money in my sleep.
And over the years, I cobbled together this formula for selling that I still use today.
This is a simplified version of my formula and there is some nuance that I won’t get to in this article.
But this exact formula is something that even a brand new salesman can use to start making sales from day 1.
Once you understand this system, selling becomes just a matter of taking customers from point A to point B.
So now that I’ve built up the suspense, let’s jump right into the actual system itself.
Part 1. The approach (prospecting)
The first contact you make with a customer is extremely important. I believe the old adage is true: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
While it’s true that it’s possible to overcome a poor approach with a solid demo and solid closing skills, why would you want to make life harder on yourself than it has to be?
Early in my sales career, one of my managers told me something profound:
“If you do a good approach, doing a good demo is easy. If you do a good demo, then it’s easy to close. And if it’s easy to close, then upselling is easy.”
So by that logic, the better your approach, the more you’ll sell.
In my experience, the most powerful approach is one that contains what I call KILLER INSTINCT.
I was tempted to define this as “high energy,” but it’s really more than that.
I think high energy can be off-putting to some people, especially when it comes out of nowhere. We’ve all probably experienced an overzealous salesman who latches onto us from the beginning of a conversation and talks himself right out of a sale.
But if you approach with killer instinct, then you are more inclined to scale your energy up or down depending on the energy level of the prospect.
It’s not so much high energy as it is powerful energy.
Killer instinct – the key to prospecting
The correct approach in sales comes down to one thing: killer instinct.
This will sound a little strange, but when I would approach customers, I would imagine myself to be glowing like Goku when he goes into Super Saiyan mode.
I would imagine flames coming out of my eyes as I strode towards a customer, almost like I was walking through a dream.
I’m sure it was a hallucination, but I imagined that nothing could stop me.
Stopping people in the mall has a few additional layers of complexity in it because 1) you need to pick the right angle to approach the customer, and 2) you need to make sure that nobody is coming from the other direction so you don’t bump into anyone as you approach them.
But when I approached with killer instinct, it was like none of that mattered. I had one singular purpose, and that was to stop the customer by any means necessary.
Like I said before the beginning of this section, I could write entire articles about each section, but suffice to say that your approach needs to be solid in order to have a chance of getting the customer to pay attention to you long enough to hook them into the conversation.
And hooking the customer is the goal of the approach.
The “hook point” refers to the moment in the interaction where the customer wants to remain in a conversation with you MORE THAN they want to run away.
How do you cross the hook point? Simple: you get the customer to invest in the conversation.
The best way to do this is to ask them questions.
- “Would you be interested in cutting your insurance costs in half in the next 15 minutes?”
- “How would it sound to you if you could triple your revenue in the next 30 days?”
- “If I told you about a source of leads that was 50% cheaper than Google Adwords and just as targeted, would you want to hear more?”
People who aren’t valid prospects won’t just stand there and let you ask them these questions. And that’s ok.
We don’t need to sell to everyone and their mother. We just want to sell to the people who are already somewhat interested (at least theoretically) in what we have to offer.
Other questions that are worth asking are ones that get the prospect to reveal information about their current situation regarding similar products or services.
Are they already using a solution similar to yours? How effective or ineffective is it?
This information will become invaluable later in the sales process.
Part 2: Perfecting the art of your presentation
“If the demo is good, then closing will be easy.”
I find it crazy that there are still some salespeople out there who aren’t using a pre-written script to sell whatever it is they’re selling.
Could you imagine if actors in TV and movies just ad-libbed all their lines? It would be terrible.
The argument against scripts is that they sound forced and unnatural. But that’s only in the beginning.
There’s a concept in sales called “take the pitch and make it yours.”
This means that you start with a sales pitch, usually given to you on a piece of coffee-stained paper, full of grammar and syntax errors, hastily written by a sales manager who has no idea what he’s doing.
Most of the time, reading this pitch verbatim is clunky and awkward.
“Hello Mrs Jones, I am calling from ABC Agency to talk to you today about your insurance policy. Do you have five minutes to hear about an amazing opportunity to save money on your insurance payments?”
It’s too formal and awkward, and worst of all it screams I AM A SALESMAN HERE TO TAKE YOUR MONEY.
That said, a script is still necessary to get the basic framework for properly conveying the benefits of whatever product or service you’re selling.
There’s a reason infomercials are still a viable medium for selling products. BECAUSE THEY WORK.
There’s a reason why the 12 step copywriting formula is responsible for selling information products – because they work.
Following a formula (and a script is an expression of that formula) will make your sales journey much, much easier.
Why you MUST have a script in order to sell effectively
Let’s take two situations as an example.
- Salesman A doesn’t have a script.
He talks to a customer and tries to remember everything on his own that he needs to say to convey the benefits of the product he’s selling. Because he doesn’t have a plan, his pitch is filled with ums and uhs and is caught completely off guard when hit with an objection such as “I want to think about it” or “I need to ask my wife.” He attempts to close once (awkwardly) and folds like a lawn chair when the customer tells him no.
- Salesman B does have a script.
He talks with confidence because he has already repeated this script 1000s of times on other customers. He has structured an exact timeline of when to tell the customer about various benefits in order to offset any negative reactions towards the price or spending money. Because he knows his pitch cold and has a list of canned responses to various objections, he breezes by them with ease. He has a list of several closes he can use after each objection, and because he has them memorized they come off smooth and natural instead of awkward and forced.
- Which salesman do you think is going to make more money?
- Which salesman do you think is going to get more referrals?
- Which salesman do you think is going to ENJOY working more?
- Which salesman do you think is going to rise higher in the ranks of his company?
- Which salesman do you think is going to get his customers to love him more?
I can tell you 100% without a doubt in my mind that the second salesman is going to come out ahead in every single category. All because he started from a script.
Now, it’s not enough to ONLY use a script.
While a bad formula will outperform no formula, a GREAT formula will outperform a bad formula by a wide margin.
To illustrate this point, let’s move onto the next step in this sales formula.
Step 3: Tell them the price (yikes!)
Many salespeople are afraid to mention price because they know that the customer will invariably lose interest once they’re reminded of the fact that this fun conversation they’re having with Mr Salesman is going to end in in them having to part with some of their hard earned money.
But true aces know that the price band-aid is one that MUST be ripped off, and the sooner the better.
In my experience, you want to tell the customer what the price is early on for 2 reasons:
- You anchor a high price in their mind so that any deals or discounts later on will seem more meaningful
- You want to give them time to “digest” the price so they can wrap their minds around the possibility of spending that much money
There are many examples of scientific studies that have proven that anchoring works.
One study in particular anchored a number (one high and one low) in two groups of participants’ minds and then asked them how many countries were on the continent of Africa. The group that had the higher number anchored guessed a higher number than the one who had a lower number anchored.
In his book “Never Split The Difference,” ex-FBI negotiator Chris Voss states that expert negotiators will “go first” in a negotiation because they understand the power of anchoring.
I believe that this translates to sales as well.
If you’ve done a good job in your approach and initial demonstration, you’ve likely gotten the prospect all worked up about how amazing your product or service is.
Very soon, you’re going to be hit with the magical question: “How much is it?”
Answering objections: do you fold like a lawn chair?
I’ve seen SO MANY SALESPEOPLE buckle when they’re hit with this question.
They avoid the topic, believing ancient sales advice that recommends salespeople NOT answer this question with a number.
So they beat around the bush, clearly afraid of confrontation with their precious prospect, who sees right through the salesman’s tactics and begins the death knell of any sales process: boredom.
My formula and style of selling is very emotion-based.
I believe that if the prospect feels good when they’re in the interaction with you, then they’re more likely to buy.
In the beginning of my sales career, I was always told that any time you create a negative emotional spike in the interaction (i.e. telling them the price), you need to immediately follow it with some sort of positive emotional spike.
While this is true to varying degrees, I’ve found the principle helpful more often than not.
When the customer asks you the price, you have to tell them.
You don’t have to give a one-word answer that consists of ONLY a number, but you do have to give them an answer (assuming they’re not asking prematurely and you’ve already established the benefits of the product).
However, the correct way to do this would be to anchor a high price first, and THEN tell them the starting price.
For example, let’s say you’re selling mini Vegas vacations.
These are generally priced around $300 and include a TON of value – free show tickets, free buffets, discounted hotel rooms, nightclub tickets, and a host of other benefits.
The trade off is that the prospects must attend a 90 minute timeshare presentation.
The correct process here would be to state the benefits during the demonstration and get the prospect all excited, after which they would then ask, “so how much is it?”
If the salesman simply answered “$300” he wouldn’t be doing himself any favors.
A far more effective approach would be to first anchor a higher price and then give a reason for a discount.
“We normally sell these for $699. The show tickets and hotel room alone are worth over $1200. But we’re actually having a special promotion until the end of the day where if you decide to go with either Caesar’s Palace or the Bellagio, you can get the entire package for $399!”
Then you shut your stupid salesman mouth and listen to their response.
Sorry, I don’t mean to jump down your throat, but SO MANY times I’ve seen salespeople who will give a price and just keep talk talk talking, never giving the prospect an opportunity to say, “Okay, I’ll take it!”
Shut your damn mouth, salesman
Sales is a two way conversation.
In order to know how to talk to a customer, you need to see how they respond to the information you’re giving them.
For example, you will naturally want to take the conversation in different directions based on their response.
If they say:
- “$399!?! Oh my god, I can’t afford that! I’m already 9 billion dollars in debt!”
- “WOW, ONLY $399?! THAT’S A CRAZY DEAL! OH MY GOSH!”
- “That’s pretty good for all that stuff.”
- “Wow, I was expecting it to be way more. Do you guys take credit card?”
- “Is that for one or two people?”
- “Do I have the option to stay at a different hotel?”
All of these responses mean something slightly (or sometimes vastly) different.
But if you don’t shut your stupid salesman mouth, then you don’t give the prospect the opportunity to tell you that they want to buy.
In most cases, even if the customer loves you and your product and has the money, it’s likely that they’ll balk slightly at the idea of spending money.
Back when cryptocurrency was hot, you would see memes floating around the internet with two panels. The first panel would have a guy indecisively looking at a t-shirt with the caption, “me thinking about spending $20 on a t-shirt.”
The second panel would have a guy throwing a stack of cash around with the caption, “Me spending $2000 on Ethereum.”
The point is that sometimes it’s hard to spend money, even if the amount of money isn’t that large. And this happens regardless of who the person is and how much money they have.
But as I mentioned before, the important thing to remember is that you want to create as many positive feelings in the customer as possible when you’re doing the demonstration. This is especially true when you give them the price.
In order to counteract this negative emotional spike, I would recommend that you give them a positive one.
One that worked well for me would be to make a dumb joke after giving the customer the price.
“And not only that, but I come with it! And I cook, I clean, I do the dishes…”
More often than not the joke landed well. I would even have a lot of customers respond, “WOW! Can I take you home right now?”
The point is that you need to keep things light and fun, regardless of what you’re selling. A sense of humor is an asset in every sales interaction.
Step 4: Erase the pain of spending money by talking about product benefits
Steps 4 and 5 are really the same thing: piling on additional benefits.
In these steps, we want the customer to understand that the amount of value they’re getting from everything that you’re giving the FAR OUTWEIGHS the amount of money they’ll have to spend to get those benefits.
The way to do this is to save a few key benefits until the end of your presentation.
Oftentimes, salespeople run their presentations in the following way: they pull out all the stops in their demo and tell the customers about literally ALL of the benefits that their product or service has.
This happens mostly because they’re afraid to talk about uncomfortable topics (like the price), so they focus on more positive topics such as how amazing their widgets are.
However, what ends up happening is that eventually they exhaust the list of product benefits. Then the customer asks the now-tainted question “how much is it?” just because they want to appear polite.
Let me make this clear: asking about the price because the prospect is genuinely excited is FAR SUPERIOR to them asking about the price during an awkward pause in the conversation after a salesman has blown his wad of benefits.
You want the former, not the latter.
Assuming you’ve done your job correctly, by now you’ve done an approach with killer instinct, a polished demonstration, have anchored a high price and made a few jokes to smooth out any negative emotional spikes.
Now all you need to do is pile on the benefits.
How to overcome objections with THE BIG GUNS
In my experience, this is where you bring out THE BIG GUNS.
The big guns are the most powerful benefit that your product or service has and should be mentioned RIGHT BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO CLOSE!
A lot of salespeople like to bring this out in the beginning, but in my experience this isn’t necessary.
Sales is all about timing. You want the customer to have hit buying temperature close to the moment where you begin to close them.
If the customer hits buying temperature early in the demonstration, then you should try to close them then.
If you wait too long, then they cool off and it’s possible they’ll get bored and lose interest in the rest of the presentation.
But assuming you’ve structured your pitch well, they should hit maximum buying temperature after you drop the big guns on them.
When I was doing kiosk sales, the main product that I sold was hair straighteners. These were cheap Chinese products that we bought wholesale for $8-$20 and sold retail for $200-$300
Don’t get me wrong, these were great products that did what we said they did.
But they weren’t much different than the other products on the market. The reason we were able to sell so many of them was that our presentations were amazing and we were bloodthirsty closers.
The two main benefits of our products were 1) it straightened your hair very quickly, and 2) it was very easy to do curls.
My demonstration was based on the first benefit, while “the big guns” was the second one.
I’d get through my demo with varying levels of interest from the prospect. I’d tell them the price, make a few jokes, and then get to the big guns right before closing.
Over time, I perfected the curls and did them very well. Just about every time I did them, the customer oohed and ahhed about how amazing they were.
That’s when I went for the jugular.
The important things to remember from this section are that you need to save some of your powerful benefits to the end of the presentation to offer right before you close.
The REAL Step 5: Close with a deal
I am not a natural born salesman. I was terrible at every single step of the sales process when I started.
My biggest weakness was closing. I was the absolute weakest closer in the history of closing.
Looking back, I realize that the reason for this was that I hated confrontation. Being more battle-hardened at this point, I can look back and laugh at how awkward and pathetic I was.
In fact, I was so afraid of closing and answering objections that I forced myself to find a way to make money in spite of this.
At the time, I was working with Israeli salespeople. I’m not sure if you’ve had the (dis)pleasure of doing business with Israelis, but to call them “pushy” would be an understatement.
Israelis are downright ruthless. They will push, badger, cajole, smooth talk, and pressure you into doing what they want until you beat them off with a stick.
Being the sweet little California boy that I was, I did none of those things. I didn’t want to feel like I was arguing with people.
In my mind, if they didn’t want to buy the products I was selling, then they didn’t want to buy them.
I realized very quickly that this was an ineffective attitude, at least as far as making money is considered.
I knew that because of differences in disposition and personality, there was only so much I could learn from Israelis on how to sell.
So I consulted the masters. Guys like Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins – these guys all had more polished, traditional, AMERICAN styles of selling.
What I did was to combine the best aspects of both the American and Israeli styles to create my own hybrid style of closing.
Essentially what I did was to eloquently offer the customer an incredible deal as a way to close them.
The close went something like this:
“Look, I’ll tell you what, if you take this right now, I’ll throw in this shampoo for you for free. And instead of $200, I’ll let you take it for $179.”
Seems simple, right? That’s because it is.
Make them an offer they can’t refuse
Now I know what you’re thinking: “oh come on man, if it was that simple, then more salespeople would do it and this wouldn’t be a problem for anyone!”
Not so fast.
Just because something is simple doesn’t mean that a lot of people are going to do it.
If you want to separate two pieces of wood that are screwed together, all you need to do is pull the trigger on a power drill.
Pulling the trigger is simple, but if you had no idea that the power drill existed or how to use one, then you’d be stuck trying to separate the two pieces of wood on your own.
But with the use of one simple specialized tool, you can get the job done much faster and with much less effort than brute force.
And that’s EXACTLY how I would describe most salespeople’s efforts when trying to close deals: brute force.
Don’t get me wrong: sometimes you need to pressure prospects a little bit to push them over the edge.
Some people are terrified of making decisions and need a strong-willed salesperson to tell them to pull the trigger. That’s just how it is.
(Believe me, I know. I used to sell exclusively to women.)
But pressure is just a TOOL, and like any other TOOL, it should only be used for specific jobs.
You wouldn’t try to cut a 2×4 with a hammer, would you? No.
Does that mean the hammer is a bad tool? No, it’s just the wrong tool for the job.
Pressure is a tool that is to be used when a person is hemming and hawing over making the purchase, unsure of whether to actually buy. They like it, they want it, but they’re just not there yet.
And let’s be clear, by “pressure” I don’t mean that you should say, “COME ON, DO IT. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO! WHAT ARE YOU, CHICKEN? BAWK BAWK BAWK!”
“Pressure” in this case is presenting additional logical reasons why making this purchase right now makes sense.
I don’t want to get side tracked, so let’s just leave it at that for now.
How to close your sale by making a deal
When offering a deal, here are some options you can use to create one on the spot:
– lowering the price
– throwing in an additional product for free
– offering additional customer service
– offering a better guarantee
– offering a risk-free moneyback guarantee
– offering a free trial
– offering an upgraded version for free to trial along with the standard version
– offering an additional service with the product
Ideally, you would have paid attention during the demonstration and noted what benefits the prospect was most interested in. Oftentimes, a customer will make a purchase just to get an additional bonus for free.
For example, when I was doing kiosk sales, I would demo the straightener along with a special hair serum that had an incredible softening effect on the hair.
Many times, the customer would like the serum more than the straightener itself. I would frequently sell the serum instead of the straightener.
After all, most girls already had “a” straightener, but they didn’t have the specific serum that I showed them.
Additionally, when asked, “can I use that serum with my straightener to get the same effect?” I would tell them yes.
I would say, “Yep, you can totally use that with whatever you have. You don’t NEED the straightener.”
Because they would see that I wasn’t outright pressuring them to buy the main product I was demonstrating, more trust was established.
That said, it just so happened that the particular serum I had shown them retailed for between $75 – $125.
So sure, they could buy it if they wanted, but if they chose to buy that instead of the package deal I would offer them at the end of the demo, they would ultimately be getting less value overall.
Did I care? Not particularly. As long as a sale was being made and the customer was happy, I was happy too.
The reason I’m giving you this example is because frequently when I would structure a deal, if I saw that the customer was head over heels in love with the serum, I would offer it to them for free if they bought the straightener.
“I’ll tell you what: if you take the straightener right now, I’ll throw in a bottle of the serum for free.”
If they genuinely liked it, oftentimes they would say yes. If I still was met with a little resistance, I made sure to have enough room to give them something else for free.
The point is this: when structuring a deal, just throw something in that the customer has indicated that they wanted earlier in the demonstration.
Conclusion: Follow the formula
I hope this has somewhat explained the formula that I laid out in the beginning of the article.
- More benefits
- Close with a deal
I created this process in this specific order because I saw that customers were being taken down a specific emotional path before making a purchase.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of the positive emotional spikes, certain concepts need to be conveyed to the customer at specific times.
For example, if possible you’d like to hook the customer with some intriguing questions for them to answer in your approach.
Then, you want to convey some benefits that they would find interesting during your demonstration.
After you’ve gotten them somewhat interested, you want to hit them with the price.
This will create a negative emotional spike, so after that you’re going to want to add in some additional benefits to rekindle their interest and make them forget how bad they feel about spending money.
Finally, you’re going to close with a deal by making your offer even more tempting than before. You can do this by lowering the price, offering more stuff for free, or creating an additional benefit based on any of the feedback they may have given you earlier in the demonstration.
Questions? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org