Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself

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9781591846765: Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself
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Speaker and consultant Tim Hurson presents 12 techniques that benefit both the seller and the client Never Be Closing expands on the principles of Tim Hurson's first book, Think Better, to teach salespeople how to improve their strategy and sell anything to anyone using a simple, repeatable framework. This isn't a book full of mundane tactics for cold-calling or techniques for closing a deal. This is a problem-solving approach that is more beneficial for both the seller and the client. Selling better isn't just a one time thing; it's a way to become a more valuable long-term partner. With their "Productive Selling Model," Hurson and Dunne offer business people a set of 15 tools to pull apart their current techniques, analyze them, and re-assemble them in a dynamic way. The authors include practical advice mixed with helpful anecdotes to build mutually productive relationships between seller and client, including: * The Rashomon Effect, which teaches readers how to bridge the gap between different perspectives. * The Hitchcock Method, which offers readers strategies on developing a script about themselves, their company, and their products. * The Sales Conversation, a three step structure to explore the client's needs, establish credibility, and deliver value. Tim Hurson is the founding partner of Manifest Communications, one of North America's leading social marketing agencies. He launched ThinkX Intellectual Capital in 2004 and is the author of Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking. Tim Dunne is a consulting partner with ThinkX, KnowInnovation, and New & Improved, firms that offer leadership, innovation, and sales training to companies worldwide.

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About the Author:

Tim Hurson is the founding partner of Manifest Communications, one of North America's leading social marketing agencies. He launched ThinkX Intellectual Capital in 2004 and is the author of Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking. Tim Dunne is a consulting partner with ThinkX, KnowInnovation, and New & Improved, firms that offer leadership, innovation, and sales training to companies worldwide.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PART I
Guiding Principles

CHAPTER 1
A Stranger Comes to Town—Why We Sell

All literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.

—Leo Tolstoy

Imagine how life must have been for early humans. They lived in close family groups, probably quite small in size. Because everyone knew everyone else, people wouldn’t have much need for selling skills. Within a community, property was likely shared. Exchanging use of this or that item was easy and clear. You knew your neighbor’s character, skills, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and needs—which were pretty much the same as yours.

Nobody really had to “sell” anything to anyone else.

But then something new happened. One day, a stranger came to town. Your family’s first reaction might have been to drive him off, maybe even kill him. After all, who knew what ills an outsider might bring?

But the stranger had something you had never seen before, something to trade—perhaps a tool, a trinket, a particularly well-crafted hunting stick. Suddenly the dynamic changed. You realized there might, after all, be a reason to welcome the stranger, albeit warily.

It’s not unlikely that that’s how the first sales scenario unfolded.

Of course, the stranger would have had to convince you of several things:

First, that his hunting sticks would be good for you in some way, that they would do what he indicated they would do, that he could be relied on to tell the truth. Ideally, he would demonstrate that he and his “products” were useful.

Second, that his offer was worth whatever he wanted in return. If the stranger wanted that hand ax you had worked so hard to make, he would have had to propose a trade you would see as advantageous.

If your brother or your neighbor needed to persuade you of something, he would rely on his reputation. But the stranger doesn’t have the advantage of reputation or status. He would have to find a way to sell you on his proposition.

Not much has changed since our imagined stranger came to town and offered to trade his hunting sticks for your hand ax.

If you sell, and if you aim to sell better, you need to know about the stranger’s dilemma.

A stranger doesn’t have the leverage of instant credibility. So it’s not surprising that a wide range of sales tactics, tools, and closing techniques have been developed as a substitute for credibility. Their purpose is often to wrangle out a commitment to buy, even when buying may not be in the best interests of the client.

The Productive Selling approach we advocate in this book and the courses we teach are designed to overcome the stranger’s dilemma, but in a very different way. Productive Selling isn’t just a catalog of techniques to wrestle money out of a client’s pocket. It’s a comprehensive strategy that starts with a well-researched process for identifying and solving problems. In our story of prehistoric sticks and stones, the fundamental reason you and the stranger were able to make an exchange was that each of you solved a problem for the other—you saw value in the stranger’s hunting sticks, and he saw value in your hand ax. At its essence, Productive Selling is about helping people solve problems. It focuses the power of a deliberate problem-solving process to help people. It shows you how to access your creativity to establish and maintain relationships that will be truly useful for both you and your clients over time. In a very real sense, this book will show you how to become less of a stranger to your clients. So you can sell better.

Before we start, it’s important to make note of the other side of Tolstoy’s observation—the second basic story in literature is that a person goes on a journey.

Tolstoy could have simplified his analysis even more: “a stranger comes to town” and “a person goes on a journey” are really the same story—just told from different points of view.

If every client sees the salesperson as the stranger who may or may not be worthy of trust, then every person who sells is that same stranger on a journey—having to prove himself to new people, in new places, with new challenges.

So welcome, stranger. This book is about—and for—you. It’s our privilege to take you on a rewarding journey, one that we hope will open your eyes to a new and better way of selling, and that will benefit both you and those you encounter along the way.

CHAPTER 2
Think About It—Think Better to Sell Better

 

Creative thinking may simply mean the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they have always been done.

—Rudolph Flesch

Some years ago, we ran an innovation program for the executive team of a large printing firm. The next week, we debriefed with the CEO, a man named Bert. He’d been a semipro fullback before getting into business, and his leadership style was still to run straight up the middle. Bert said, “That was the best sales training I’ve ever seen. My sales guys need that.”

Bert’s communication style was so direct that it was sometimes hard to tell if he was being serious. “You want your salespeople to take our innovation program?”

“Nah, they wouldn’t sit still for it. But it’s the way you guys think. The problem-solving part. They could use that. It’s good. Put something together. Short.”

The conversation clicked over to Bert’s need to plan for his board meeting. In five minutes the meeting was over. That was Bert.

Later, in our own debrief, we started thinking about Bert’s reaction to our program. We’d been offering Productive Thinking and creative problem-solving services to organizations large and small, at home and abroad, for much of our working lives. We’d applied the process successfully to innovation projects, strategic initiatives, new product development, marketing, conflict resolution, and even political campaigns. Productive Thinking was so much a part of us that we naturally applied it to our own sales efforts, but it never occurred to us to tailor it specifically to the sales process and offer it to our customers. Bert had seen the relationship in an instant.

And he was right. Fundamentally, the best salespeople help clients solve problems. That’s what Productive Thinking is all about. The only difference is the type of problem the client is facing. In Productive Thinking we focus primarily on helping clients with marketing innovations, new product development, process improvements, and so on. Outstanding salespeople solve their own unique set of problems, from cost constraints to supply chain inefficiencies to tight delivery deadlines. But the basic situation is the same: if salespeople can help their clients better understand the challenges they face and offer useful, creative ideas to address those challenges, they are doing their job.

Thanks, Bert.

This book, and the work it’s based on, is a result of that simple insight. We know that by using Productive Thinking tools to think about yourself, your client, and the way you interact with each other, you’ll be able to sell more—and more effectively—than ever before.

In this book you won’t find information about cold calling or qualifying or closing new clients. You won’t find the top ten techniques to overcome client objections. And you won’t catch us lecturing you about how your main job is to get your clients to make a buying decision.

What you will find is a set of easy-to-apply principles and tools designed to help you discover and deliver real value to prospective clients—and transform them into ongoing, productive relationships. Our premise is that selling is not about the art of persuasion. Instead, the best kind of selling emerges naturally from your genuine interest in the person you’re working with and your sincere desire to be of use.

Does that sound naïve? Cast your mind back to the last time you felt you were being “sold”—the last time someone employed disingenuous flattery or transparent repetition or obvious closing techniques, like the drop close, the reflex question close, the inverted tie-down, or the ever popular porcupine.* Did you know the salesperson was trying to manipulate you? How did it make you feel? Even if you eventually agreed to buy, what are the odds you’ll want to do business with that person again?

Productive Selling takes a different approach. It focuses on the long-term relationship you can build with your client and the practical basis for that relationship—your genuine desire to offer value. You’ll notice us talking about delivering value and being useful a lot in this book. We think it’s a great principle to live and work by. In fact, Never Be Closing may be the first sales book you’ll actually want your clients to read.

Since Productive Selling is based on our Productive Thinking model, let’s start at the beginning—with a brief description of what Productive Thinking is all about, and how practicing its key principles can help you sell better.

As we described in our first book, Think Better, Productive Thinking is a structured way of approaching problems and opportunities. Using the Productive Thinking framework, innovators do three essential things:

  • Get a clear and accurate understanding of the issues that need to be resolved.
  • Define the specific questions that need to be answered in order to resolve those issues.
  • Find creative and useful solutions, and refine them so they can be acted on.

In Productive Thinking we break these activities down further into six process steps:

  1. What’s Going On? Rigorously explore the current situation, identify the specific discomforts that need to be resolved, and establish a vision for the future. By doing this, you create a useful context for your further thinking.
  2. What’s Success? Define clear and measurable criteria for success in order to measure the potential effectiveness of proposed solutions. This creates what we call Future Pull—a vision of a future so compelling that it drives you forward, even through the inevitably difficult work to follow.
  3. What’s the Question? Articulate specific questions that need to be answered to resolve the discomfort. Once you find these questions they become catalysts to new ways of seeing your issue and new approaches for addressing it.
  4. Generate Answers. Suggest creative ideas for answering those questions. The result of this brainstorming will be several solution alternatives. These are not yet full-fledged solutions, but possible approaches to explore.
  5. Forge the Solution. Refine the most promising answers into robust solutions. This step selects the most promising ideas and forges them into robust, actionable solutions.
  6. Align Resources. Identify and recruit the resources required to create and execute a plan of action.

In diagrammatic form, the Productive Thinking framework looks like this:

Each step has a set of tools to help people work through the process efficiently, effectively, and creatively.

Productive Thinking is also built on a set of underlying principles—ways of thinking that pervade the creative problem-solving process. They’re what Bert was talking about when he said, “It’s the way you guys think.”

1. Be Aware of Patterned Thinking

The first principle is the recognition that, as creative as we’d all like to think we are, we are impeded by a set of natural barriers that all of us share. We tend to think in patterns. Once we’ve learned a particular way of doing or seeing something, we tend to keep doing and seeing things that way—often in the face of overwhelming evidence that it might be useful to change. You might recognize these sorts of patterns in yourself—that you sit in the same seat at your breakfast table each day, that you take the same route to work each day, that you use the same words and expressions over and over. You’re not alone. We all do it.

This patterned thinking doesn’t cause us too many problems when it comes to putting away the dishes or brushing our teeth, but sometimes following our patterns without thinking can get us into trouble. It can blind us to new perspectives and insights. It can cause us to default to “same old, same old” answers when new answers might be more useful.

The Elephant’s Tether

The first barrier of patterned thinking is something we call the elephant’s tether. Traditional elephant handlers in India prevent elephant calves from wandering by chaining one of the animal’s legs to a stake deeply embedded in the ground. The young elephants aren’t strong enough to break the chain or dislodge the stake. When they pull against it, the chain tightens and causes them discomfort. Soon enough, they stop trying. As adults, these same elephants can be kept in place with a light rope tied to a stake hammered into the ground with a few strokes. Full-grown elephants can easily break these bonds. But they don’t. They become prisoners of a pattern that tells them escape is impossible. For the elephant the pattern of restraint is as powerful as any physical restraint.

Gator Brain

The second barrier is our tendency to defend what we already know and what we already are. We all like to think we think with that big, wrinkly neocortex we see in pictures of the brain, but in reality we do a whole lot of thinking with the more primitive parts of our brains—the limbic system, which produces our emotions, and the stem brain, which reacts instinctively to perceived threats. We call this instinctive part of the brain the Gator Brain.

Science tells us that human beings process just about every experience we encounter first through our Gator Brains, then through our emotional brains, and at the very last through our cognitive, rational brains. That’s because the neural fibers that connect our sensory inputs to the three parts of our brains are of slightly different lengths. When your senses pick up a stimulus, the signal travels through your neural network first to the Gator, then to the emotional brain, then to the cognitive brain. All this happens in tiny fractions of a second. It’s a matter of biology and physics. And the sequence tells us a lot about the way we react to the world around us.

If you’ve ever had to slam on your brakes to avoid an accident, you know what we’re talking about. First you react: your foot finds the break pedal and pushes hard. Then your emotional brain kicks in and you start to experience fear, anger, or relief. Finally, your cognitive brain kicks in and you start thinking “Wow, that was close!” or “What an idiot!”

That’s how we’re built.

And it’s a good thing. Your Gator Brain has probably saved you from hurting yourself countless times. It’s probably even saved your life.

The problem arises when we try to work strategically on a complex task. It’s then that our Gator can often get in the way. Think of the last time you were in a meeting and someone came up with a surprising idea. It’s almost guaranteed that even before the person finished saying it, your Gator was reacting. And a not-so-little voice inside you was saying, “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.”

We’ll see later in this book how the Gator Brain ...

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