David Sandler said, "If you live a straight life in an unstraight world you're going to get killed." Yet salespeople get (metaphorically) killed daily by selling in a straight line. Salespeople sell in a straight line when they are attached to the outcome of their interaction with their prospect, typically closing a sale, instead of being attached to the process of (dis)qualifying. In one of my recent President's Club sessions we role-played uncovering the compelling emotional reasons that would cause a prospect to take action. In this scene the salesperson is a commercial insurance agent selling to a trucking company. Here's how the scene unfolded. Salesperson – what's your biggest issue with your current provider? Prospect – we get a different person every time we call their 800-number Salesperson – well we pride ourselves on local, in-person service…. Pause. What is the real issue here? Is it the 800-number? Is it getting a different person each time? Both? At this point we don't now, but this salesperson has their happy ears on so they assume that the 800-number is the problem so they head straight to a solution instead digging deeper to uncover their prospect's real issue. Let's run that scene again. Salesperson – what's your biggest issue with your current provider? Prospect – we get a different person every time we call their 800-number Salesperson – I appreciate you sharing that with me. I'm curious, is it calling an 800-number or getting a different person each time that is the issue? Prospect – its getting a different person each time and having to explain who I am and who I'm with every time. Salesperson – tell me more… In this scene this salesperson uses Sandler's Rule of 3+, which states that it typically takes three or more questions to get to the real issue your prospect wants to solve. We clipped this scene before we got to the real issue, but this salesperson is more likely to solve their prospect's real issue that the salesperson in the first scene. The cure for straight line selling is to treat an interaction with a prospect like you would a conversation with a friend or family member. A typical conversation does not follow a straight path. It meanders and loops back on itself as each person seeks to understand the other's stories and points of view. While you definitely don't want your interactions with prospect to meander you definitely want to loop back to clarify your prospect's statements. As Sandler clients hear frequently: "What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness."
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