Last week I was in Florida for two days of events for the same client. Over that time, I heard her introduction twice. For our first meeting, her intro was good enough, it qualified, it was what they expected. She updated them on her company news, which is all very good, and she did an effective job of hitting all the high points. Just before introducing me, Melissa mentioned that she would be around to talk to them in greater detail when she would be in their offices over the coming days and weeks.
A predictable close might sound like this “All I ask is for five minutes to tell you about Product. I’ll be around next week, you will probably hear from my internal partner Ring Ring about a luncheon I am hosting next week on Product. I look forward to meeting you, and having a chance to tell you what you need to know about my products.” Then people clap. Not for the update. Not for the obligation to meet, but because the sponsor is finished.
So you know Melissa is very good at her job – more than good, she has reached 77% of her sales goals for this year – and it’s August. Melissa will sell about 200 million dollars in product this year. So when I say that her intro was good, I am not being charitable – it really was good.
But she asked.
This is probably what makes Melissa good at what she does – that despite her success she takes the time to ask someone (presumably someone who would know) what he thinks. Despite her success, she doesn’t think she has it figured out, she herself knew that her intro was … boring. She was paying me, and she was going to get her money’s worth.
Boring isn’t always bad but not standing out or differentiating yourself in any way is a missed or worse lost opportunity. When one of the other sponsors says “I just want a chance to tell you about my products” what they are really saying (often without realizing it) is this: “I would like an opportunity to come in and present you with something that may fix a problem you are not actually experiencing. If you could arrange a time for me to come in and talk to you about something you are not interested in, that would be fantastic.”
About an hour before my event, Melissa asked me what I thought about her intro earlier that day. I told her exactly what I said above. The problem was that she didn’t differentiate herself from anyone else who spoke that day. In my line or work, the speaker is typically introduced by whoever is paying – if there are 4 speakers at an event, there are 4 product pitches to go along with it. There isn’t anything wrong with that – it’s a great and wonderful trade off. The sponsor pays for the client to learn how to improve their business and their life, and in return the sponsor takes less than 5 minutes to advertise their news and services.
The only problem for the sponsor is that there are too many variables she can’t control. The time slot alone can kill you – are you the first speaker, the 2nd, the dreaded post lunch speaker or like I was last week, the closing keynote for Day One (nice work if you can get it). Who are you following? A dynamic speaker you can’t live up to? A technical speaker who just spoke for 55 minutes about something that they are the only person to find interesting?
So right there in two chairs we talked about the old adage “Facts tell, stories sell”.
Instead of quoting a bunch of financial reports – Melissa told them all a story. She told them about the new owners of her company, from another Country and she made billionaires sound interesting and mysterious. She talked about her new CEO, new product managers, and her companies recognized turn around to the #1 rated company in their industry. More than anything, Melissa gave everyone some hope.
She told them that overall sales within the client’s firm with Melissa’s products are up over 190% this year, and her personal sales within this organization are up 457%. After telling the audience about these amazing stats, she respectfully asked them to clap because “my boss is in the room.” They all laughed which confirmed for me that everyone was listening. I could see it from the side of the room, everyone was engaged – they were expecting a typical sponsor pitch, but they received a story.
Then she laid out the best call to action anyone heard over two days. Notice that she doesn’t ask anyone to give her anything, not even five minutes, by doing this she doesn’t cheapen what she has to offer by essentially making the request for a meeting into a favor. Notice that she lets the client off the hook for not using her products now and defers to their professionalism, and obligation to do their own due diligence.
“Now you are probably wondering if my sales are up over 400%, why haven’t you seen me? Well I would love to see you. The truth is, you have been busy, and you already have a matrix in place that has products you know, use and like. But if you would like to hear more of this story, and would like to know about what I have, and why specifically your clients would like to own it, I’d like to have that conversation and it probably wouldn’t take more than five minutes.”
The Close. That’s what sales people call it – the close. The Close is often presented as this thing you do to people – you close ‘em. A friend of mine once told me that in his business it’s known as The Roast. The idea of that makes my stomach hurt. It sounds like you have to quickly close someone before they figure out they don’t need your products, or your products don’t work.
People talk about The Close the way people talk about scams – first you do this, then you do this, then when they say this you spring it on them. Nobody wants that done to them, and it takes a particular person to want to do that to someone else – no wonder “asking for the business” is still a challenge for a lot of salespeople. They suffer from internalized suspicion of themselves.
Let’s be perfectly clear – I want to help you sell more inventory, and make more money. I hope you make so much money that you give it away. I won’t help you close people. I’ll help you understand what you do, and why you do it. I’ll help you refine what you say to better reflect what you might mean to say, but I can’t help you close anyone. I can’t operate if I am thinking that way, and ultimately you will fail because closing isn’t what you should do – open is what you should do.
You should open relationships and nurture them.
After I spoke, Melissa pulled me aside and let me know that her introduction had the desired effect. In fact, one of the more important clients (from a revenue perspective) approached Melissa and said “Melissa, I would like to hear the rest of your story, I would like more than five minutes.” The appointment is booked.
What is a little coaching worth? What is a little adjustment worth?
That’s a long and complicated answer. Melissa made a fantastic first impression, has a request for a follow up meeting that will likely cover all the costs from our meeting, but also this is just the beginning. If the client buys $1,000,000 or the group buys $10,000,000 it doesn’t matter. It’s just the beginning, whatever the sales for year one will pale in comparison to what the sales will total after 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.