It’s unfortunate that most sales conversations don’t feel authentic and uplifting.
Here is the typical framework:
1. Cleverly remind the prospective client of their frustrations, blocks, and symptoms that made them want to seek out a solution. Ask questions or tell stories to get them to really feel the pain and how bad it would be to stay there. (Try to get them to the point of feeling desperation about solving the problem!)
2. Get them dreaming about what’s possible, the ideal life if only that pain weren’t there. Or if they could achieve their goal, how pleasurable it would be!
3. Finally, show them that we (our services program / product) are the bridge from the current pain to the future ideal … we help them get from “pain island” to “pleasure island”.
4. We overcome any objections they might have to signing up. Make sure to have a polished and persuasive answer to any questions that they might have.
5. We interject some scarcity – some kind of time limit to signing up while spaces are available, or to take advantage of a dramatic discount or amazing bonus. The way we justify it is that it’s in their best interest to quickly make the decision to work with us.
Power Over Others
In short, we are taught to skillfully manipulate the prospect’s emotions and frame of mind, until they are like putty in our hands, to be shaped how we will.
This is having psychological / emotional power over someone.
It’s profitable, the sales experts tell us, because now they will do what we say: spend the money we ask them to spend, and take the actions we recommend… all in service to “make their life better.”
I believe the opposite – to really make someone’s life better, we must allow them as much choice and power as possible… including making mistakes.
I’m assuming we’re working with adults. Allow them their decisions — especially about money and commitment — with as little pressure as possible.
If they choose our product, let it be something they’re genuinely excited by. Let them pursue you, rather than you having to persuade them.
Be honest and transparent about what results can be expected. Search within yourself: eliminate any manipulative strategy that tempts you.
This is what Authentic Sales is about.
“Heart-Based” or “Conscious” Sales Strategies?
The traditional sales method I described above is currently being dressed up by the modern “conscious” or “heart-based” business coaches who say:
“Using the pain-to-pleasure method, we are empowering them to make an ‘investment’ in themselves… we need to use techniques that get them to shed their resistance, to take INSTANT action… we manipulate them purposefully, to help them better their life.”
“We won’t distract them by talking about how the majority of people who ‘made an investment’ with our program, did not achieve the results we promise… because it’s really up to them… it’s not our fault if it didn’t work for them.”
Now, you’ll be able to see through their rationalizations. These marketers are making money hand-over-fist by “helping” people make “an investment in their life”. I’ve lost count of how many clients, before coming to me, had already spent tens of thousands of dollars on such programs.
Manipulation & Persuasion vs. Diagnosis & Empathy
The problem here is not with the pain/pleasure framework.
It’s about correctly naming their symptoms, so that you can diagnose the cause of those symptoms. This way, they can see that you can actually help them.
It’s about empathy.
The problem arises when we try to use the pain/pleasure as a tool to manipulate their emotions (experiencing low and high feelings) so that they buy from us.
They already know their pain. You don’t need to rub it in.
You can, however, take a few moments to make sure you actually do understand their pain, not as part of an agenda to sell them, but from a spirit of connection and helping, like a doctor gently tapping on a problem-area to make sure they are going to diagnose you correctly.
How can sales conversation instead feel more authentic?
Try these principles:
Authentic Sales Conversations
1. CONNECT with that person genuinely — as a possible future friend — to discover what it is they are really needing and wanting at this time, to see if it honestly makes sense for your business to help them at this stage. Or, is it better for you to refer them to another trusted provider or resource?
Be in service, but don’t underestimate the value of what you can bring to their life. If they are interested to work with you, and you believe you actually can help, then tell them your honest thoughts. Try not to oversell (but don’t undersell either) what you truly believe you can do to help them.
2. ASK. Prioritize asking questions rather than monologuing about your qualities and credibility.
What are their goals or vision? (As related to your area of expertise.)
Where or how are they challenged now, in the realm of things you do with clients?
What have they tried, and why didn’t it work?
Again, we are trying to empathize and understand them better, to see whether we have the right resource for them.
3. SERVE them in that conversation. Give them a small sample of what you do with clients. Observe how open they are to your efforts. Are they eager for your help? Or are they reluctant, giving you objections? You are interviewing them, as much as they are getting to know you.
Be careful not to overwhelm them, because that wouldn’t help, but also don’t be holding back any idea or process that you believe would really help them in that moment. Share anything that is easy for them to understand, in the short time that you have.
(Learning this balance takes practice. Start with your next conversation!)
4. INVITE. 5 minutes before the end of the call, try saying: “So, do you have any questions about how I work with clients?” Ask this question only if you truly feel that your service would be a great next step for them.
If they respond eagerly, then you can simply answer their questions and talk about how to start working with you.
If however you feel that another provider or resource would honestly be the best next step or a better fit for their style, ask if they would like you to refer them onwards. If they insist on working with you, and you don’t feel your service is the best fit at this time, you can recommend a DIY product of yours, or add them to your waiting list.
If they give you a lackluster response to this question, then they are probably not ready to work with you. You’ll have learned a bit more about who is an ideal client vs. who isn’t, and perhaps you will have helped that person whether or not they ever become a client.
Timing: In my exploratory conversations, I basically spend about 5 minutes in the Connect stage, 5-10 minutes Asking questions, 10-15 minutes on Serving them, and the final 5 minutes on the Invite, as mentioned above.
I wonder if this framework feels more authentic and service-oriented to you?
You will be creating potential client relationships in an honest, supportive way. It will probably feel good to both you and them. You’ll be creating goodwill and positive word-of-mouth.
By contrast, if you use the traditional sales method, you are immediately starting the relationship from a place of emotional manipulation and a power-over-them dynamic. You might feel the need to keep up that front, as you continue working with them.
Rather than the typical spirit of Performing and Persuading in a sales conversation, let’s switch to a deeper intention of Connection and Service.
Going forward, I wish for you genuine, truly supportive conversations and relationships with clients!
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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