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Do Y’all Remember the Mall?

There was a time in the late 2000s when you couldn’t walk through the mall without getting your hand snatched by a saleswoman at a kiosk.  “Do you have a natural nail?” she would ask, buffing and examining your cuticles.  I practically threw my money at her every time she looked at my nail bed with the little “tut tut” of disappointment.  

I shame-bought more than one nail kit.  

Also the hair straightener
Scalp Massager
Dead Sea Minerals Lotion

Every time I was handing over cash I knew I didn’t want to but I felt trapped into the sale and too scared to speak up to get out of it.  I want to hear your confessions, what have you been tricked into purchasing with high pressure sales?

We all love buying but hate being sold to.

If you want your next lead phone call to be your best sales discovery call yet the first step is to let go of every cringe sale you’ve ever been on the buying side of.  Shake off that gross feeling you associate with sales.  

You have been sold to a lot, several times today at least, and most of those sales were so well executed you didn’t even know it was happening.  It’s only the really uncomfortable sales transactions we remember.  The Sales-Cringe-Holy-Trinity: Cars.  Kiosks.  Cruises.  When the memory of bad sales is all you remember,  it is difficult to think of yourself as a salesperson.  The truth is every business owner is a salesperson.  Your best sales discovery call doesn’t have to make you shudder.

It’s only the really uncomfortable sales transactions we remember.  The Sales-Cringe-Holy-Trinity: Cars.  Kiosks.  Cruises.  When the memory of bad sales is all you have,  it is difficult to think of yourself as a salesperson.

Teresa S. porter

Sales is just seeing if you’re a good fit for what someone needs.  That is all. 

As a photographer my best sales aren’t the ones with the highest invoice total, they are the ones where the client and I were in harmony.  I brought to life something they wanted but couldn’t completely articulate and they were prepared for the investment and valued it (whatever the dollar amount).  In short, we were a good fit.

Stop thinking about selling.  Think about buying.  

I don’t think about selling my artwork.  I focus on creating what my buyer can’t live without.  I am thinking about what can make this purchase have value.

Do you know why people buy from you?  

Do you have a sense of why your clients chose you? Your best sales discovery call starts with understanding why others have said “yes.”  If you don’t know, ask them.  Seriously.  Pick up the phone, call a few of your best clients and say: 

“Hey Barbara, how are you?  I know this is a little random, but I’ve been working on understanding my clients better so I can serve them better.  Do you mind if I ask you a question?  What was it that made you decide to work with us?”.  

People want to be helpful.  I promise they will answer your question.  If you’re the anxious type, reward yourself with a coffee for surviving the awkwardness.  I had several days in a row of reward coffees when I actually did this myself.  Do you know what shocked me?  Of the six clients I called, everyone’s answers were pretty much the same.  They all said some version of “You show who people really are.”  With that knowledge and the understanding of how having the message they gave me is repeated throughout my photography website.  “Be You. With Us.” became our official tagline.  After 10 years of business it is the first one that hasn’t felt trite. 

The clients gave that information to me, I just had to ask.

What Problem Does Your Business Solve?

To really have the best sales discovery call the next step is to write a list of problems your business solves.  Get to the heart of why your business exists and why clients choose to work with you.

My friend, Lyn Hawks, who is a college essay consultant doesn’t just help students write essays.  She saves feuding parents and teenagers from having another conflict in the most stressful time, during the most stressful year.  I am not a parent of a senior but I have seen the look in the eyes of many parents and one less conflict in a high-emotion time is priceless.  She also gives confidence parents confidence they are doing the best thing for their child.  She gives the student confidence they have presented themselves well.   

List five to ten problems that your business solves.  These can be functional (the essay gets submitted on time) or emotional (one less argument!).  I know you like lists, Lyn, so consider this your head start on this week’s homework.

If you cannot articulate for yourself why someone should do business with you . . . then you certainly can’t expect them to do the work for you.  You are not ready to do your best sales discovery call if you aren’t convinced yourself.  Do not take another lead phone call until you are prepared to answer “Why do people buy from me?”

Write a Script for the Hard Parts

Write a script for the most difficult or unnatural parts of the conversation.  Some people choke at the beginning and need time to get warmed up.  If that’s you, write down a few different options for starting a natural conversation. If it’s hard for you to make small talk try the FORD method. For easy small ask about Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams.

For me, I struggle with how to explain my pricing.  I know from experience that I will have problems later if my clients and I aren’t on the same page.  To fix this I wrote a few different paragraphs of a script to explain my pricing and tweaked them a few times until they felt right.  Now when I do my best discovery sales call it is easy for me to express the range of investment.  My clients like it because they can start to pinpoint their own investment on the scale without being overwhelmed by a list of numbers.  I describe the cost of “a few select pieces” versus “the sun, moon, and stars.” I still sometimes need my script as a security blanket.

Now that you have:

  1.  Understanding of why your clients work with you.
  2.  A list of 5 – 10 problems that your business solves both tangible and emotional.
  3.  A short script for the most difficult parts of your discovery sales call or lead call.

You are prepared to have your best discovery sales call ever.  

Eight Bonus Pointers You Need

Now here are the eight pointers no one is going to tell you to make your next lead call especially successful.  

  1. Work within your own crazy and set yourself up for success in your environment.  Make sure this call happens in a place you can have quiet and people can’t hear you.  My car in the driveway has often been called my “mobile studio” because of how frequently I use it as my own business phone call isolation chamber.  As an anxious person, knowing that no one can overhear me automatically makes me more comfortable. 
  1. Match their energy.  If they talk slowly, you do too.  If they are loud and speak like an auctioneer, well smack you on the butt and call you Sothebys becausehereyougotoo.  If they are in a hurry, you are too.  If they are sharing stories of childhood, well you have follow up questions!  This subtle way of building rapport makes people instantly feel more comfortable.  You might even do it already and not even know it.
  1. Smile.  Smile while you are talking.  It changes how you sound and it improves the mood of the entire conversation.  
  1. As they talk, write or type notes about phrases they use:  “would tolerate costumes”, “chicken treats”, and “sleeps upside down” are recent client notes from discovery sales calls for a purebred dog model call.  There are no words a person can love, more than their own words.  Repeat them and they will think you are a genius.  If you keep all of the notes in one central place from all of your conversations you will have an easy time writing a blog post about their experience.  I can’t think of a single industry that wouldn’t benefit from having blog posts about your customer’s experience.  

Bonus tip – I make sure my clients know I care enough to take notes because I always add in “excuse me if you hear me typing like crazy over here . . . I’m taking notes” or “sorry if I got weird quiet, let me just finish writing this note.”  I’m not thinking about the sale, I’m thinking about encouraging a buyer.  What better way to say “I’m listening” then to take notes?

  1. Tell a story.  A quick story about anything you can find in common.  The ol’ “how’s the weather?” can be expanded to “I know this weather has been crazy, I don’t know why I keep rain boots under my desk when where I really need them is trying to get to my mailbox at home. It’s a swamp!”  Make it a quick story. It should take less time to put frosting on a Toaster Strudel. 
  1. Not sure how to brag without bragging?  Say “what most people say about us is . . .”  You can also say “other people with that same problem have found . . .”  
  1. End your call by listing all the things they have said to you about what they need, briefly explain how you can meet those needs, and then tell them if they are interested, what to do next.  

“It sounds like you are looking for help getting those college essays done and bonus points for accountability and willingness to be the bad guy . . . I got it!  Other clients have been relieved that I believe in encouraging accountability.  It must have been all those years as a high school educator.  So if you’re ready to move forward the next step is to schedule a call for all three of us to get started, what days and times work for you?”.  

8. Don’t push off scheduling the next thing.  Open your calendar and start looking for dates.  Give a few specific options or if you’re having trouble just give them the criteria “we are looking for a weekday, in the evening after 5:00”  Once you’ve selected a date you can get their email address to follow up with any extra information and, of course, the link to your invoice.  Don’t sell it and buy it back.  Ask if they want to move forward and then shut up.  

The main goal of the best discovery sales call is not to make a sale, it is to encourage a buyer.  How do we encourage a buyer?  Build rapport by matching their speaking style.  Show your comfort and friendliness by sharing a quick story – chat it up like you’re already friends.  Most importantly reassure them that you have the same goal for the best sales discovery call.

The goal for both of you is to see if you’re a good fit.  Position yourself as the expert that understands and can solve their problems.  Take the time to make sure they know what to do next and assume it’s going to happen.  

How to Get Started Today

Remember, you’re not ready for your best discovery sales call or lead call until you understand why clients have chosen you above the competition in the past.  Be sure you are able to explain 5 – 10 problems your business solves and why you’re the best at it.  Finally write a script for the hard parts so you can get better at delivering the lines.  

Sales is not the sum of all your worst fears. Let go of that timeshare salesman experience you had trying to get free tickets to Blue Man Group in Las Vegas.  Let go of the neighbor kid who sold you Cutco knives.  Banish the thought of that 1975 encyclopedia salesman who stopped by the house.  That’s the worst form of sales.  You can be different.  No shame-selling nail kits, you’re just here to find out if you’re a good fit.