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How to Sell Anything in a World that Says you Can’t

Dr. Ranjit Nair
Dr. Ranjit Nair Founder and CEO

Keys to unlocking behavioral selling skills

Have you ever wondered why some people are really great at selling while others – also doing sales jobs – just do not appear to have the wherewithal to close a sale? I see this all the time especially at auto dealerships. There are always many different types of salespeople trying to close deals with eager prospects. Even though most of these salespeople do in fact sell cars eventually, only those who understand and deeply behavioral style selling will always close the deal.

Before we get to behavioral, I’d like to take to bring up one of the most famous movie scenes about sales and sales training: Actor Alec Baldwin’s speech from the 1980s movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Those of you who have seen this iconic movie will remember it as one of the most beloved about sales—and one of the most vivid Hollywood portrayals of the dark side of being a sales person. In the movie, a group of desperate Chicago real estate salesmen are driven to commit unethical acts when a hotshot corporate sales trainer, played by Baldwin, threatens their jobs. The most popular scene in the movie when Baldwin’s character is brought in on a dark and rainy evening to work as a motivational sales trainer for a group of underperforming salesmen and gives an poignant but ruthless verbally abusive speech to persuade them to close more sales.

"ABC: Always Be Closing" is the notorious quote for salespeople from Baldwin’s speech where he repeatedly calls the salesmen insulting names and tells them, “We’re adding something special to this month’s sales contest. First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.” This scene in the movie rocked the world of sales and it is often referred to in sales seminars and conferences—even to this day. Still, the sales training speech is a controversial topic among salespeople—is it motivating sales advice, or not? Does the aggressive approach depicted in the movie really help salespeople perform better, or does Baldwin’s character’s attitude create more harm than good? And most important, is that the kind of sales person you want representing your brand? Of course this is a scene from a movie and we must treat it as such and the highly aggressive attitudes and insensitive remarks portrayed by Baldwin’s character are out of step with the business world of 2018—but many salespeople took away deep insights about which types of sales tactics are truly helpful for the selling process.

I am here to state that there is and should be only one type of sales approach and this one works for real—every time and all of the time. It’s called behavioral selling. So what is Behavioral Selling? It is a process during which the salesperson recognizes behavioral traits within a potential customer—fundament signs gained from observing and asking potential customers questions that lets the salesperson know how and when to adapt the sales pitch—and his or her presentation style—to that prospect’s preferred behaviors. The big idea here is quite simple: People actually purchase things from people they like and most people will not buy a product if they do not like the person who is selling it. This is a fact. Test it out for yourself. I know I have never bought anything from someone I did not like or appreciate.

One of my clients is a General Manager at a car dealership. Actually, I bought a car from this dealership and I followed up with the GM and asked if he would be interested in a new sales seminar that I could offer his sales team. I went through the aforementioned points I made about selling and what works and what does not. I pitched the idea of behavioral selling to him and he was very interested. And what I shared with him and eventually to his entire sales team turned the business around and, to this day, they are successful and that team practices this sales approach on a daily basis. Once a year, I return to the dealership to do a refresher course for them.

The behavioral selling style is easy to learn and implement but requires sophisticated personality and behavioral assessment tools as a starting point. People tend to buy from salespeople with behavioral styles similar to their own. For example, if a customer is detail-oriented or analytical, he or she will likely buy from a salesperson who provides them with lots of data and information. These types of customers crave knowledge—they’ll want to know everything they can about the car, the model, the specifications of the engine and other parts and also the detail surrounding the administrative process that ensues the deal. A salesperson also will tend to naturally connect with customers who have a behavioral style similar to their own. That means that you might erroneously label a customer as unqualified or likely not to buy a car from you, when what is really happening is that that prospect has a different behavioral style than that of the salesperson.

Therefore, if salespeople could easily identify or recognize a behavioral style in their prospects and adapt their own behavioral styles to that of the prospect, sales will increase. The reason for this is simple. People buy from people they like. If you learn to communicate well and effectively with people, they will like you because when you enhance the communication with prospects, they feel heard, appreciated, respected and, as a result, their comfort level rise and the likelihood of closing a sale is extremely high. Once you learn to recognize your customers’ behavioral styles, you will be able to adapt faster and sales will increase.

So how do we learn to recognize the behavioral style in others and also how we can change or own communication style accordingly? One of the most effective ways to determine this is through the use of the DISC Assessment. DISC is the universal language of observable behavior. It gives us powerful insights into the preferences of normal people and helps us learn more about one another. By understanding common characteristics in people (and there are only four types to remember), we can enhance relationships and understanding. DISC gives us insight into four observable behaviors:

D = Dominance – How humans respond to problems and challenges.

I = Influence – How humans influence others to their point of view.

S = Steadiness – How humans respond to the pace of the environment.

C = Compliance – How humans respond to rules set by others.

It is also critical that the salesperson know what their own behavioral style is. They’ll usually “be themselves” when they meet a prospect that are just like them in style. That will be a natural dialogue but not all prospects are the sale. In the example above where the prospect is identified to be a detail-oriented (in the DISC language this prospect is a “C”), the sales person must:

  • Give the prospect data
  • Not be pushy
  • Not hog the conversation
  • Provide brochures and flyers
  • Be patient and deliberate in speaking
  • Be in control
  • Not talk about himself
  • Not touch the prospect physically

These are the critical ways in this example in how to build an effective and valuable conversation and communication with this type of prospect. Similarly, there are specific things to do and things not to do in dealing with other types of people. Herein lies the essence of behavioral selling. There are also other assessment vehicles that look at the motivators of people (why they do what they do and why they behave the way they do) can also give deep or additional insight into how to improve communications with customers. Combing the understanding of both behavioral styles and motivators is a powerful 1-2 punch in effective salesmanship.

The dealership client I mentioned earlier trains its entire sales staff using Behavioral Selling Skills. In the first six months after the very first session I had with them, the GM told me that sales went through the roof and later that year, they topped their historical best annual sales record. That said, like any profession, selling has a body of knowledge related to its successful execution. Although dealing with the issue of whether a person can or cannot sell is an essential component in predicting or improving sales success, it is certainly not the only one required for optimum sales performance. Salespeople must implicitly understand the sales process and its machinations. However, behavior, attitude, and personal interests and values possessed by their prospects are real focus areas to consider to close deals. Understanding effective sales strategy can help lead them to success but taking the sales process to a whole new level by building relationships with their customers and communicating effectively with them is the ultimate path to success.

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