Updated: Sep 3, 2022
(The bullet theory is simple: don’t “shoot” all your “bullets” all at once! Continue reading to find out what I mean by this vague statement!)
The following is a collection of sales and general persuasion information I've learned while studying the subject. Enjoy!
Note: I've split this post into two parts. The first part is knowledge essential to sales, the sales cycle, speaking with clientele, etc. Part two is more auxiliary information and tips applicable to those who sell (and other working professionals).
Part 1: Essential Sales Knowledge
Seven Great Work Habits of a Salesperson:
Have and maintain a great attitude!
Be on time!
Work an entire day!
Respect yourself, your company, and the customer!
Understand your opportunity!
The Sales Process
(Image credit: https://blog.close.com/sales-cycle)
Depending on the company, a sales cycle may include additional steps, such as following up and obtaining referrals. However, these six steps are essential to obtain a customer who will pay you for your good or service.
Outline of a Good Sales Process/Conversation
Note: This is a general outline of how a sales process might go for a new client. While no one sales process is ever the same, most completed sales processes will have a number of these elements. Consider this an imprecise formula!
Seek out Potential Clients
As long as there's a market fit for your product, there are numerous potential clients.
Instead of randomly calling potential clients blindly, do some basic preliminary research first (determining the main point of contact, the type of industry, if they are already using something similar to what you offer, etc.).
This will reduce the odds of you looking unprofessional, unprepared, etc.
Introduction of Yourself to the Client
Systematic - General conversations which apply to everyone (the weather, holidays, etc.).
Spontaneous - Conversation tailored to the potential client (you have a cute dog).
Converse with the potential customer and get to know them better (see icebreakers for guidelines).
Qualify the Potential Client
Use questions to determine if they're even a good fit to begin with (if preliminary research didn't turn up anything).
If an individual or group shows interest, spend more time with them. If not, move on.
The Sales Presentation
Present the offer of your product or service and introduce many of the enticing elements.
However, ensure you are not overwhelming the client with too much info at once.
See the bullet theory below.
Address any objections the potential client has.
See the rebuttal triangle I posted below.
There are several different types of sales closes out there. Here are a few.
This refers to a close when you directly ask the client how interested they are in your product, with 1 being something like "not at all" or 10 being "when can we start?"
The gauge close is excellent when you cannot get a good read on the potential client and their thoughts on what you're pitching.
This also allows you to determine potential objections you can overturn, answer questions, etc.
This is when a product is offered to a client with a risk-free trial.
The idea here is that by offering a guarantee of any kind, you're directly and indirectly assuring the client that your product is worthwhile and worth at least trying out.
A trial close aims to get the customer to "fall in love" with your product. If your product is good, they will likely buy it.
Even if they don't buy it, there is still a good chance you'll get a referral for another person or company to whom you may be able to sell.
Assuming The Sale
This is when you proceed under the assumption that the customer will buy your product or service. Assuming the sale may be determined when you are confident they want your service or product.
Even subconsciously, doubting the client will buy in any form will affect the outcome of the close.
Note: Assuming the sale does not always work, nor is it always the best strategy. An assumptive close requires reasonable, conclusive proof that they are ready to close. Otherwise, you set yourself up for looking like a desperate, overly aggressive salesperson.
Follow Up, Upsell, and Get Referrals
Once you’ve made your primary sale, there is a potential opportunity to upsell/cross-sell.
This can be with the customer or someone else (family, friends, etc.).
Leave on a positive note.
A customer is far more likely to recommend your product (and you, as an extension) to friends and family if their overall experience speaking with you was positive.
Tips for The Sales Process
Don’t say more than needs to be said.
Yes, sometimes this is known as "keep it simple, stupid!"
Make it clear what you are providing the customer.
The 3 P's (also known as the 3 Sides to a Sale)
Pitch (technique; knowing how to talk to the customer)
I say this is 5% of the total importance (as long as you're at a basic level of competence).
Most people likely won't care if you occasionally stutter, pause to collect your thoughts, and so on.
However, if you cannot engage the client effectively, then all the product knowledge in the world will not help you.
Pace (speed and enthusiasm; the general flow of the conversation)
I say this is 20% of the total importance.
I say this because a potential client can easily be overwhelmed if you talk too fast.
Sometimes you need to slow down to speed things up. You risk overwhelming the client and carelessly omitting details if you're going too fast.
Conversely, going too slow will frustrate the client, as their time is valuable; you should aim to optimize both your time and theirs during your pitch.
Product (product knowledge)
I say this is 75% of the total importance.
Most people will not take you very seriously if you don't have an excellent immediate understanding of what you're trying to sell (barring the most technical and specific elements). A silver tongue will mean nothing if you cannot answer most of your potential client's questions immediately.
The 3 F’s
“I understand what you're saying. However, Mr. Smith felt the same way until he found…”
The 3 R’s:
Try to understand the potential customer on both a physical and psychological level.
Doubt and Definitive Words
Doubt Words (Avoid these!)
Definitive Words (Use these!)
The 4 Factors of Impulse
The Jones Effect
Everybody wants what somebody else has, though no one wants to be the first.
Name-drop others, such as neighbors or fellow business competitors, to provide a concrete example.
Sense of Urgency
Explain that "it's now or never!" and clarify that they won't have much time to act.
This ties in with the fear of loss.
Be the opposite of salespeople; don’t look and act desperate.
Fear of loss
Casually explain the offer you are making only will be around for a limited time.
F.O.R.D.S. (common discussion points)
Family, Friends, Food
5 Steps to a Successful Presentation
Now = “This is what you have now…”
New = “This is what I will do for you…”
Qualifies = “You/me being out here today qualifies you for…”
Bottom-line = “The bottom line is you will be…”
Close = Clarify all loose ends.
How to talk BIG and Back it Up
Being unorganized will make you appear sloppy and unprofessional to an observer, which applies even more so in a professional business environment.
Have a Strong Work Ethic
To obtain your goals and ascend higher in any organization, your work ethic must be on point and match your goals 1:1.
If you don’t have anything to be motivated by, find something that drives you.
Don't be too passionate, however, as you may risk making the client feel uncomfortable!
Decorate your Surroundings
If you are working at a desk extensively, even if no one can see you, presenting your environment in the cleanest, most professional way will introduce you and your organization in the most favorable possible light.
Dress the Part
Like decorating your surroundings, presenting yourself in the neatest, cleanest way will make you appear professional. You want to appear as if you could own any organization you enter.
Act the Part
You always want to put in 100% of your effort 100% of the time. No one truly wants to work with someone else who puts in no effort to change their environment and themselves.
Don’t Push Any Sales
Consult with customers to discover any possible way to save them money.
In short: do not be overly aggressive.
Act Like Someone Is Always Watching You
…Because at least one person usually is.
Even if no one is, this will help prevent you from slacking off as much as possible, leading to your best possible work.
The Rebuttal Triangle
This triangle shows the general flow of how to overcome objections. Put another way: if someone has an objection, use any relevant rebuttal you know of to overcome it and continue until when (or if) your client has another one.
An Ideal Transition Statement For Closing
Now, this is what I will do for you!
How to Compete Against the Competition
Knowing the best angle to approach a potential client will set your pitch apart. Knowing how to pitch and the best ways to do so are the most effective tools when speaking to others who have a (possibly) better deal than what we may have to offer them on the surface.
"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
The Bullet Theory
The bullet theory is simple: don’t “shoot” all your “bullets” all at once! More specifically, don’t immediately tell every feature of the product you are trying to sell in a row. Tactically mention each point across a period to increase the probability of closing a sale.
For example, a network television provider should not say, “I can give you a 4K quality picture, a direct dedicated line for the internet, NFL Sunday Ticket, a total home DVR…” all in one sentence. They should pace their “shots” and tactically “fire” them as needed.
Here is an example of how a network television provider could pace their shots: while probing a customer, they may casually mention they have a 4K capable television. This is an opportunity for them to interject something like, “Oh, that’s sweet! One cool thing about our product is that it’s the only television service to allow for native 4K programming!”
To tie all of this to your pitch, don’t shoot out too much info at a time; only relay a few pieces of information at a time, as adequately interjected pieces of information will help increase interest in the product to the customer. While seemingly a good idea at face value, providing too much information at once will only overload the customer’s attention span and cause them to lose interest.
Part 2: Fun, Miscellaneous Information
(Not Directly Related to Sales)
The Military Alphabet:
The Law of Averages
This principle supposes that future events will likely balance any past deviation from a presumed average.
While this information is based on an (admittedly faulty) statistical assumption via the frequencies of past encounters with potential customers, it is usually a solid baseline to gauge how long one may take before closing a sale.
Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_pGQBdX55Y for more details.
The ‘Negative Dot’ Diagram
Take a look at this image above. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it related to the small black dot in the middle? Quite frequently, we tend to focus on what is negative and stands out to us, which is what the dot represents. All around this dot, we have a ton of open space. Think of this open space as representing all of the good things in your life. It’s easy to forget all the good in our lives and focus on a very small part of what is negative. Most negative things are temporary or can be changed, so it is in our best interest to focus on what we can change.”
While this may not directly relate to selling a product, this is a good lesson not just for careers in sales and marketing but for all careers in life. Focus your efforts on the open space and avoid dwelling upon the dots which frequently occur in our daily lives.
The Self-proclaimed Best Batter (A Parable About Success)
A young boy goes to the baseball field to play baseball. He thinks, “I’m the best batter in the world!” He walks up to the plate, swings his bat, and gets his first strike.
“Ok, that happens to even the best batters,” he thinks.
He swings at the second ball, and he gets strike two.
“Ugh, this must not be my day,” he thinks while groaning.
He misses swinging at the third ball. With strike three, he struck out and lost the game for his team. The boy throws a fit.
The following week, the boy returns to the baseball field and says, “I’m the best pitcher in the world!”
The moral of the story: success seldom comes quickly and easily, and one will often go through many challenges and struggles before reaching their goal. The boy in this story gave up soon after facing some setbacks. Understanding the critical, longer-term picture (while maintaining a realistic outlook) is key to reaching your goals!
The following are a handful of excellent books which may assist you in your future career growth:
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
While this book is about military strategy and was written in the 6th century B.C., many business and management leaders worldwide have contemporarily applied Sun Tzu's ideas from small office politics to corporate strategy. Either way, I recommend that everyone read this book.
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Think and Grow Rich! by Napoleon Hill
While both of these are controversial novels by a controversial author, these novels have inspired many people, including people in the business career field. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_influenced_by_Ayn_Rand for some examples.