by Tiffany Markman (@tiffanymarkman) Only one in nine people is a natural salesperson. The rest of us hate selling — because, when it doesn’t work, it feels a lot like rejection and rejection brings emotional pain. So, let’s equip ourselves with better selling tools, especially in the age of covid-19, when panic is everywhere, times are tough, friends aren’t few but hiding at home, and no-one needs more emotional pain.

Seens & unseens

Every sales conversation has two areas: the seens and the unseens. The seens are the things that actually happen; the unseens are the filters, viewpoints, and values that colour an experience of the sales interaction.

Now, I believe that the goal of all sales conversations should be this: giving the prospect clarity. And you can let the prospect know that the goal is clarity by setting an informal agenda at the start of the conversation, like this:

“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. In the next five minutes, I hope to learn… Based on our chat I’ll… And by the end, my intention is… How does that sound?” (This last bit is a good way to get their agreement.)

“Sales feels yucky”

Indeed. But it helps to think of sales like this: Sales isn’t something you do to someone; it’s something you do for someone. This is a hard one for me. I used to feel a weird guilt about selling my services and asking for money… like I was taking, never like I was giving. But, if you think about selling as serving, you can’t be mercenary. You want the prospect to win.

Here’s what I like to do, since I feel awkward about persistence. I like to show the value I can add by giving something for nothing. A tip. Free advice. I find that it keeps me top of mind without forcing me to ask for the “yes”. ’Til later. Specifically, I give away my intellectual property in the form of a first free consultation, newsletters, complimentary cheat-sheets and downloadable goodies, and this is how I serve without giving away what must be paid for.

To have a masterful sales conversation, it’s important to work hard to develop both comfort and authenticity. If you’re uncomfortable asking for money, requesting a commitment, or handling objections, practise like crazy.

Persist, but don’t stalk

“I’ll think about it” usually means “no”. Remember that, unlike in relationships (I feel I must make this clear), a no in business doesn’t mean “no forever”. It means, “persuade me” or “I’m not ready” or “I’m not comfortable enough”. You’re going to get a lot of “I’ll think about it” at the moment, as flight-or-fright mode isn’t conducive to quick decision-making. That’s okay. Expect it.

It usually takes up to seven* exposures before most people will try something new: product, service or person. That’s six “no”s from the same person, before they may — no guarantees here — eventually feel safe enough to say yes; before their inherent scepticism can be overcome. Most of the time, it’s not you; it’s them. So be optimistic. Keep trying. But please don’t stalk.

*I’m not sure the magic number is literally seven. It may be six. Or, in our current corona-nundrum, 12. But don’t give up after the first or fifth no.

Ask better questions

When you talk too much, you leave the buyer with the impression that you don’t understand their business, their industry or their needs. Listen first. Then talk. Ensure that you’re answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Tell and show and reiterate the value that your prospect can get from your offer, product, service etc. You need to find out what the prospect needs to establish the proper connections and synergies. I sometimes use a short questionnaire for this but I’m careful not to grill the buyer with too many questions, making them feel like they’re being interrogated. It’s really important that you take turns speaking.

It’s important to flip the agenda from yours to theirs, to harness their aspirations and getting your prospect to share hopes, desires, and even fears. Why? Because their reasons to buy or not to buy are inside them, not inside you. Ask, “What is it about this thing that’s making you consider it?”

Here’s another helpful question: “What challenge are you currently facing?” In other words, in what way/s can you reduce their ‘pain’? This motivates the prospect to hear a solution (containing both benefits and features) later on. Remember, however, that the prospect’s ego will be threatened by your proffered solution, and it will create objections. Unravel these, using clarity.

Use strong language

All words are not created equal. High-performing salespeople swear by these:

  • Imagine
  • Successful
  • Decisive language, like “definitely,” “certainly,” and “we can do that”
  • Risk-reversal language, eg: “We offer a 30-day free trial.”
  • The prospect’s name

It’s in the timing

Don’t schedule a first (virtual for now, in-person for later) meeting for a Friday. In The Invisible Influence, Kevin Hogan teaches that Fridays are the worst possible time to sell. People tend to buy on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays around 9am, 10am and 2pm. Rather, use Fridays to schedule virtual appointments. For Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Good luck, and let me know how you go.

See also


Tiffany MarkmanTiffany Markman is a freelance copywriter, writing trainer and keynote speaker who’s worked with over 400 top brands in the last 15 years. She’s most proud of knowing the true meaning of the verb “revert”, though. She loves art and black coffee. If you’ve seen Tiffany on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you may know that she hates the phrase “I hope you are well”.

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

Sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including headlines, emailed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist