I thought I knew sales.
If I could sell security systems to residents in Utah, I could sell anything, right?
Switching industries is a different beast.
Without question, there is overlap from one industry to the next.
Customers must be taken through the entire sales process to be successfully closed. Objections must be overcome. Necessary follow-up must be taken to ensure the customer sticks.
That much is the same.
I spent four years selling home security systems door-to-door. I sold over 700 personal accounts for my company. That is equivalent to just over $2 million dollars in total contract value. These contracts were potentially worth far more, assuming even a fraction of my customers decide to renew their agreements.
For this particular product and service I had it down to an art. I knew which doors to knock on at what time of the day. I knew my chances of closing a housewife driving a Honda minivan were literally zero if her husband wasn’t home. Likewise, selling a single mom who had two kids, a corporate job, and a 2015 or newer SUV was my bread and butter. If she qualified, she was going to buy.
I learned how to sell.
More importantly than knowing my demographic sweet spot, was my ability to predict and uncover each prospect’s objections and move them smoothly through the close.
Body language told me everything.
Being face to face with these prospects took all the guesswork out of the process. If a prospect was hesitant or apprehensive during my close it was because I had missed a step. I had a series of pre-prepared questions that allowed me to carefully observe the prospect, decipher and overcome the objection, and close the deal.
The uneasy feeling before knocking each door never went away, but the job got significantly easier as time wore on.
After the initial launch of my software company Kholo, I naively assumed this type of sale would be no different.
Boy was I wrong.
The decision to develop an iOS app is no question a bigger deal than buying an alarm system. But the ability to build rapport and trust over the phone proved to be a steep learning curve.
One I was certainly unprepared for.
Tell Me Your Objection
I quickly realized I wouldn’t be signing a contract within 30 minutes of the first meeting as I had before.
With some trial and error, as well as some advice from a few ‘phone slingin’ assassins’ I knew, I developed some tactics and skills that allowed me to quickly build a relationship of trust with a new prospect during the initial phone call.
It didn’t take long for me to accumulate a large number of qualified prospects.
But they were all stuck.
Stuck somewhere in the sales cycle.
Without physically sitting with them, I had no knowledge of how to move them to the next step in the cycle. Without knowing a prospect’s objection, it’s absolutely impossible to earn their business.
If you have any interest in startups, you need to get familiar with “The Lean Startup,” by Eric Ries.
In fact if you’re reading this and have recently founded a company, go buy this book in the physical, digital, and audible version right now. It’ll be worth every penny.
One of huge takeaways from his book is what Eric calls the ‘five whys.’ It is a principal he learned while studying Toyota’s production system.
The ‘Five Why’s’ is a game changing technique.
It consists of doing just that, asking five times the question,”why?”
Even In Sales?
Yes, even in sales. I daresay it works best in sales. Particularly in sales that require building a long term relationship and doing business over the phone.
One day as my mind stewed over what I needed to do to get these clients “unstuck” and through the sales process, this Eric’s technique came to me.
I immediately went to my desk and pulled out a blank sheet of paper.
On that piece of paper I listed each of my prospects. I started with the prospect I felt was closest to using my service.
I then wrote the question, “why has Blake not said yes?”
And down the rabbit hole I went.
I concluded that this particular prospect had not said yes because of money. He’d pulled the money card more than once.
After some serious thought and contemplation, I concluded that money is never the issue. There are a multitude of ways to find money. Loans, credit cards, rich uncles, you name it.
Money is rarely the issue.
If Not Money, Then What?
His wife! I recalled how nervous and unsupportive he made his wife sound each time she came up in our conversations.
Surely it wasn’t his wife that was stopping him. When individuals believe in something bad enough, they will always find a way to make it happen.
I took a moment to relive the time I spent $5,000 on a training program. It wasn’t more than five minutes after my wife had told me we didn’t have the money.
The salesman sold me. I desperately wanted the product. I pulled the trigger.
And we’re still married.
Not The Money, Not The Wife
It had to be him. He wasn’t entirely sold on his idea. Perhaps it was the revenue model. Maybe he was having second thoughts about how the market would respond to his app. Whatever the case, the issue was with him.
I kept going. Digging further and further. Asking why. Over and over again.
Instead of asking five whys, I asked nine.
With each ‘why’ came more and more clarity.
His objection soon become obvious.
It wasn’t the idea, nor was it the money, it was the lack of confidence he had in himself. I concluded that I had been wasting my time all along with an unqualified prospect.
I didn’t get the deal, but I learned a priceless lesson.
Food For Thought
Be it prospect in stalemate, an issue with your spouse, or an apathetic employee, the regular practice of the five why’s technique has the ability to bring tremendous clarity to any situation.
Yet, it’s anything but a quick fix.
Use this technique. Exhaust this method. Ask 15 why’s if that’s what it takes.
You will work your brain to the point it physically feels like it’s cooking. Figuring out the five why’s isn’t an activity that takes five minutes. It takes hours, and sometimes days.
It requires deploying empathy, putting yourself in another’s shoes, and thinking as they would think.
Let me reiterate what I said before. “Without knowing the objection, you will never close the sale.”
The five why’s technique uncovers the problem. It takes actual work to solve it.