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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Creating a Sales Revolution

by Shel Horowitz

A personal introduction is 79% more likely to result in a sale than a cold call.

We all knew an introduction is better, but just how much better may come as a shock. According to Susan Bellows, who spoke to the Family Business Center on October 15, the chances of closing a sale are only 1% on a cold call, 50% on a call with a referral, and 80% or better on a personal introduction. And the very best time to get referrals from your customers is right after they've agreed to buy from you.

Of course, existing clients are not only the best source of new clients, but they are also your best prospects in and of themselves; it's seven times easier to sell to someone who's already bought from you than to a new customer.

So why do so many of us spend so much energy chasing after cold prospects through cold methods?

According to Bellows, a former marketing VP at BayBanks and a trainer in David Sandler's sales methods, it's just force of habit. Her firm, Susan Bellows & Associates, trains managers and sales staff in a whole raft of effective communication techniques.

Changing a habit, she says, takes 25-45 days of concerted effort. There's a tripod of attributes behind every habit: behavior, attitude, and technique. So every day, initiate one new behavior that will result in more sales and a better attitude. Consciously reinforce these new behaviors until they become the habits of success.

Bellows uses a series of techniques called Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) to replace failure-prone habits with success-prone ones. A lot of this involves paying close attention to your prospects. Listen twice as much as you talk, pick speech and breathing and body language rhythms that are in harmony with your prospect's, try to meet the prospect on his or her own emotional ground.

Her particular version of the four-part personality matrix separates people into Controllers, Analyzers, Promoters and Supporters. So when selling to a Controller-fast-paced, no-nonsense, achievement-driven-successful sales people will use a give 'em the facts, no small-talk approach. But when selling to a Supporter, the emphasis has to be on acceptance, on patience, communication, sincerity-on feelings, much more than facts.

Many sales people fit the Promoter profile. They're aggressive, driven by ideas, constantly seeking stimulation. And CFOs are the Analyzers, focused on the process, valuing accuracy far above speed.

In fact, it's not just about sales. Recognizing these four personality patterns will help in communication with family members and employees, as well as customers.

When dealing directly with a client, face to face, salespeople who understand these principles are at a decided advantage. They know that the words they say are only a small part of what's being communicated-only 7%, according to Bellows' research. They grasp the importance of tonality (tone of voice, including representing 38% of the message received) and physicality (body language, appearance, breathing, eye movements)-which make up a whopping 55% of the input the customer receives.

Over the phone, that 55% is out of the picture. The importance of the words goes up to 17%, but impressions are overwhelmingly based on voice: 83% of the total message is communicated by the tonality, not the words.

The point: establishing genuine rapport is far more important than what words you say. However, if you choose your words carefully, they can oil the wheels of perception. words like "Naturally", "Obviously", and "Typically" can provide a smooth, flowing method of moving the conversation toward a sale.

One of the most interesting parts of the Sandler approach is that the goal isn't always to get a yes. The goal is to establish whether there's a good fit, and if there isn't, to move on quickly to a more likely prospect-while leaving room to come back if needs change and the fit improves. You want to find prospects who:

  • Have a problem you can solve
  • Can afford and commit to the solution
  • Have decision making power
  • Answer their own objections, point by point

Finally, Bellows reminds us that a sales call is NOT the place to get your own needs met. Your focus should be on identifying and meeting the client's needs. Once you get the commission check, THEN go out and meet your own needs.

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