CategoriesSales Consulting

How to handle Objections & Close

Do you fear objections? On the contrary, you must embrace objections! Because, an Objection shows that the client is interested. The customer who has no questions to ask has no desire to buy!

What is an Objection?

Objections are doubts/ fears that customers need to resolve before taking a decision in your favor. Objections often are fears. You just need to handle them!

Objection = Fear. Objection handling = Fear Handling!

Why do customers raise objections? Customers raise objections due to one or more of the following doubts/fears: 

His fear/doubt What it means What you need to do
Do I really need this? You may not have discovered his real needs(Missing Step : AG) State your understanding of his needs; ask if you have got it right; ask more questions to find real needs
Is this the right solution for me? You have not convinced him about how your solution best meets his needs (Missing Step : AG) Confirm needs & Explain persuasively how your solution meets needs best
Is this priority for me now? Customer does not experience a sense of urgency to address his needs (Missing Step : AG) Ask Ramification and Value questions to create a sense of urgency
Am I getting the right price/terms: value! Customer has not understood or accepted the value added to his business by your offer (Missing Step : AG) Present the objective of you proposal; the likely impact on his business; & ask if it is important to him
Can I trust this guy & his company? You have not Achieved Rapport (Missing Step : AR) Achieve Rapport first!
Are they capable of delivering on their promise? You have not Achieved Rapport (Missing Step : AR) Achieve Rapport first!

If you take a hard look at these 6 doubts/ fears, you will see that the underlying theme is:

“Can I trust this Salesperson’s intentions & capabilities to do what is right for me?”

Can you see that your fundamental solution lies in building trust- through A-RAGA?

How do customers raise objections?

Customers show their objection in 3 forms:

  1. Through Questions
  2. Through Indifference: They look bored & unenthusiastic. They may redirect to someone inconsequential
  3. By conveying skepticism: ‘I don’t believe you/ your claims!’

Just because they have said all or any of this does not mean they don’t have a need

How do we handle these 3 forms of objections?

Questions reveal what is in the customer’s mind. (Refer the table above)

Indifference is to be handled by making a Statement that provokes him out of it. : e.g. “If I have a solution that could reduce your downtime by 25%, would you not be interested?’

Skepticism – When a customer conveys ‘I don’t believe you/ your claims’: First: Probe into the real reasons why he feels so

Next: Tackle in 3 steps:

  1. Pre-empt: State that you can substantiate your claims with proof. Don’t show them any documentation unless specifically asked for
  2. Ask: ‘What type of proof do you prefer? ‘: This will prevent him from later stating that the proof you present as inadequate
  3. Provide proof that the buyer believes in. These could be:
    • Testimonials from influential people in the same industry
    • Trade published articles
    • Reports from independent companies or
    • Your own R&D trial reports, customer list, reference,

When to Handle Objections?

  1. Pre-empt before the issue comes up: (This builds credibility and trust) State: ‘You may have a question in your mind: whether…..” Go on to state your solution
  2. As soon as the issue comes up: (This conveys empathy & respect for his concerns) Customers don’t like to be ignored, so the safest bet is to answer questions when asked.

3.  Postpone it to the end: Particularly useful if the customer is jumping the gun on a point that you plan to cover later in your presentation. Price discussion, for example should be at the end after agreeing on the needs and agreeing on the solution. Note it down and handle it in the end, positively

The 4-Step Plan to Handle Objections

(1) Listen carefully. Don’t interrupt! Listening is half the objection solved!

(2) Check your understanding: Paraphrase to convey & check your understanding. Seek clarification thro simple, open-ended questions

(3) Address the issue: Speak clearly and to the point, don’t beat around the bush. Sometimes prospects cannot see their own business dilemmas. It is your job to clarify issues and help them overcome their fear of investing money or making decisions

(4) Confirm agreement: Always ask the prospect if he is completely satisfied with your answer

Techniques to ‘Address the Issue’

  • ‘Feel, Felt, Found’ technique: Say: “I understand how you feel about… I have had other customers who have felt the same way until they found out that…..”
  • ‘Feel’ conveys understanding
  • ‘Felt’ assures him he is not alone – others like him have been in the same boat before!
  • ‘Found’ reassures him that this common misgiving becomes unimportant when additional information is considered
  • ‘Compare Apples with Apples’ technique: Use this technique when the customer compares your product/services with another which does not meet his stated criteria; or, he suddenly emphasizes a new element in the criteria
  • Boomerang Technique’: This technique requires very good rapport with the customer. Here, you return their excuse for not requiring your services as the exact reason why they should go for it! ‘Insure nahi karoge toh mehanga padegaa!’

To make your argument completely sound, back it up with hard evidence. Use charts, graphs, statistics, case studies, and testimonials to show how much time or money will be saved or earned by your proposal.


Closing is the stage when you call for an answer from the customer and seek an agreement from him on your proposal. A professional close is a natural and logical extension of involving and getting agreement of the customer at every step of the selling process. When done this way closing is a matter of when, not if! In a way it is similar to asking someone to marry you if you were worried about the answer, you wouldn’t ask. The question will be premature

How will you know the right time to close? From Signals!

Verbal signals: If the customer

  • Uses phrases like “That sounds good” or “That makes sense to me”
  • Asks a lot of detailed questions on how and by when
  • Calls his trusted advisor for a second opinion
  • Repeats the key words you have used to explain the value of the solution

Non-Verbal signal: If the customer makes a change in posture which reflects interest such as:

  • From sitting back to leaning forward
  • Starts nodding his head when you make a key point
  • Widens his eyes

How could you close?

  • The Assumptive Close- Where you are fairly confident the buyer has taken a decision but you avoid asking a direct question (as it is painful to the buyer). Speak as if a decision is taken g. ‘When do you wish to kick start the project?”
  • ‘I Recommend’ Close- Where the buyer requires a little gentle nudge to close: Start with ‘I Recommend that the right thing for you is …..’ If the customer feels that you have really understood his needs, then he will follow your recommended course of action
  • The Alternative Close- Offer two options in such a way that the buyer chooses between two positive alternatives
  • Recurrent Yes Close- Here, you ask a series of questions that the buyer says yes to. You are getting the momentum going and having the customer say ‘yes’ to a number of questions, and you can use this to lead him to a close

If the customer is closing, don’t interrupt. Let him close the deal for you! Talk Less, Listen more, Close more!

Act! Have a Bias for Action!

Some things you have read here you may already know. You may have been doing a few of these already. My question to you is: How many of these are you doing, not just once in a way, but Always! i.e. How many of these are now your habit? If you have not made these your habits, your knowing is of no help!

Let’s see an example Do you remember the warning on cigarette packs, cigarette hoardings? What does it say? I am sure everybody remembers it: ‘CIGARETTE SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH’. Billions still smoke, after reading this slogan, knowing it is injurious. So, knowing is not enough. If you do not act on the Knowledge, it’s a waste. Why this Knowing-Doing gap? Because they have not decided to take action. No intention- so no decision- so no action!Ask people who have given up smoking how they did it: You will invariably find that one fine day- they took a decision- to stop

When is your one fine day? I am not now talking about smoking. When are you going to decide to become a Powerful Persuader? Some other day? Today? How about today? Start, now! I promise you dramatic success- if you have decided. If you have not, you are wasting your potential! Indecision is also a decision-to not use your potential! Winners have a Bias for Action. Losers are ‘trying’ to take action– they try to meet targets- they try to convince customers about a price increase, they try to read this book. When you say ‘I will try to do…’ you are giving yourself a backdoor to escape.

If you have a backdoor, you will use it – Old Alchemists Saying!

If you have decided to become a wonderful persuader, you have made a decision to:

  • Make your customers trust you and live up to it through right actions. You have committed yourself to A-RAGA! , the Trust-Building- Cycle
  • Work towards a Partnership of Equals! With the Empowering belief: The customer needs us as much as we need the customer! Because, nothing from what you have read so far will help you if you lack  conviction about your products, company & yourself!

Everything you have read here will work for you if you believe it will work and act on it: you will create enduring relationships- you will become a Powerful Persuader. Best of luck

This is concludes our 4-Part Series on Powerfully Persuading Customers. The other parts are 1-Persuasion, 2-Building Rapport, and 3-Effective Questioning

CategoriesSales Consulting

A Real Skill: Effective Questioning!

Listening becomes extremely powerful when combined with the skill to ask the right questions.

By Effective Questioning, you can get the customer:

  1. Reveal his Real Needs
  2. Realize Ramifications of not solving the problem
  3. Realize the Value he will gain by solving the problem
  4. Feel a sense of urgency to solve the problem/opportunity

Questioning has a Sequence!

Questioning is effective in doing all these, if it’s in the right sequence. At a broad level, it’s useful to think of the questioning sequence as a funnel: Open Questions to start with >> Narrowing down with Probing Questions >>Narrow using Closed Questions

The sequence can be seen as B-S-C-R-V: Background -> Symptom -> Cause -> Ramification -> Value

The BSCRV Technique of asking questions is a more structured representation of the Funnel Technique in which you start with open questions and then get more and more specific. Towards the end, you ask questions which create a sense of urgency to go for a change

B-S-C-R-V Sequence

Background questions are to get the customer to open up. They lead to long, descriptive answers. Start with Open Questions: They build rapport! You will come across areas of concerns, dissatisfaction, new priorities, aspirations of management, etc.

Symptom questions are Closed Questions(generally Yes/No questions) that help pinpoint the real issue to be addressed:

  • For the customer: They help him recognize the problem he  faces
  • For you: They ensure you address problems of high importance for the

When you ask a Symptom Question, it provides the customer the opportunity to agree, disagree or change whatever he considers as the problem. This ensures a better understanding of the issue and prevents potential waste of time.

Cause Questions are open questions that help find out the customer’s opinions/ info from the customer on what could be causing the symptom. The customer has an in-depth understanding of his own business and can hence shed light on the possible causes. In addition, Cause Questions help us know what all steps he has already taken to resolve the issue and their success

Ramification Questions are Open Questions that reveal the possible impact or implication of not solving  the problem. They thus help your customer recognize that the problem is more serious than is apparent, thus creating a sense of urgency in the customer to address the problem, intensifying their desire to buy a solution

Value questions help the customer see the value they gain by addressing the problem faced. When your prospects tell you the desired results, they are, in effect, telling you what capabilities the solution must have. This is their ‘vision of value’. Value Questions help you create the right comparison of price and value later on. Open- ended value questions are more effective.

Using this Questioning Methodology: Using this methodology is a learning process. In order to learn, you must ask questions and listen. By focusing on what you want to learn, the questions will come naturally. The goal isn’t to ask the perfect question, it’s to learn about your prospects’ problems and how those problems affect their companies’ bottom line.

Selling or Persuading is an urgency-creating process. The more momentum you generate early in the buy-sell process, the greater the probability that a sale will be made. The questions you ask in your role as a sales professional will increase your prospects’ perception of the value of what you have to offer and, therefore, will reduce the number of objections you hear. This is objection prevention rather than objection handling. An increased perception of value, combined with fewer objections, spells sales success!

Present your Win – Win Solution, Persuasively!

There are at least 2 ways to present a solution/ your proposal:

  1. Writing
  2. Presentation

You probably use option 1 most often. But in the light of the learnings regarding the Preferred Thinking Modes – VAK- Visual / Auditory / Kinesthetic do you still think written proposal fulfills its objective? A Presentation is the way to go.

When you do a presentation of your proposal:

  • You can use all 3 modes– Visual (Slides), Auditory (Your speech) & Kinesthetic (The way you shake hands; you can hand-over the proposal docket, show samples, etc, etc)
  • You can get all people involved in the decision together
  • You get the opportunity to handle objections/ fears/ misinterpretations in person

Presenting a Proposal is easily the right thing to do. Many people dread Presentations. First, let me give you the good news. You have already learnt many things that are necessary to do a good presentation! How? Because, a Presentation is also a Conversation!

 The 4-step formula to ace any presentation:

Step 1: Tell them what you are going to tell them!

Step 2: Tell them!

Step 3: Tell them what you have told them!

Step 4: Ask for Action!

Structure of Breakthrough Presentations = Structure of Breakthrough Conversations! (Refer this post in case you haven’t already)

A. Before: 1. Prepare like a Professional
B. During
Beginning 2. Achieve Rapport with an Energizing Starting Statement (ESS)
3. Summarize Status
4. State the Presentation Objective (Tell them what you are going to tell them!)
Middle: 5.  Achieve Common Objective! (Tell them!)a.  Identify the Customer’s Needs through Questioning! b. Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs c. Handle Customer Doubts/fears/objections d.Close with an Agreement
End: 6.  Summarize Agreements (Tell them what you have told them!)
7. An Energizing Ending Statement (EES) (Ask for Action!)
C. After: 8. Meet Commitments! Like a Professional!

You must structure the main body in a way that:

  • Make it easy for the audience to understand and
  • Logically directs the audience to your desired close

What should the body of your presentation include?

  • Summary:  The current situation: Where are we now?
  • Agenda: What do we want to achieve by this project?
  • Ramification of not resolving this issue
  • Offer: What our company can do for you?
  • Value: The likely outcomes and benefits of this project/proposal/solution
  • Action: How we plan to go about this project/proposal/solution?

Some Tips:

Tip 1: Meet as many members of the audience before the formal presentation starts and build rapport with them

Tip 2: Use all 3 Preferred Thinking Modes Each member of the audience should think: “This presentation has been created for me”

Tip 3: Keep it Short and Simple (KISS)

  • One major idea/message per slide
  • Avoid jargon the audience is unlikely to know; use jargon that they will know

Tip 4: Keep your slides readable & visually appealing

  • Use a simple slide layout; don’t be garish- Keep background non-distracting
  • Use maximum of 2 to 3 colors
  • Only bullets- not full sentences
  • Contrast the fonts with the background for readability
  • Use 24 size font for title and 20 for the text below (Slide should be readable from 15 feet)
  • Use Animation, Graphics, Clip Art for enhancement. Don’t overdo them to distraction!
  • When dealing with numbers, try to use graphs or other visual forms of showing data

Tip 5:  Add Spice!

People have high attention and interest level at the opening and at the close of the presentation. Attention level drops during the main body of the presentation. To sustain and keep alive the customer’s attention level, use appropriate humour, add spice to the presentation. Every few slides connect the sub story to the main story.

This is concludes Part-3 of our 4-Part Series on Powerfully Persuading Customers. The other parts are  1-Persuasion, 2-Building Rapport, and 4-Handle objections and Close

CategoriesSales Consulting

Build Rapport through Mirroring & Matching

Rapport is the ability to create and hold the other’s positive attention and create a sense of trust

Rapport makes the other person feel comfortable with you. It gets the person thinking & feeling: This guy is like me. He understands me. I can trust him to do what is right for me’. If you are in rapport with your customer, he is comfortable enough to open up and share with you, his deeper concerns, needs and expectations. Without rapport, you are just communicating information. You might as well be a brochure!

When 2 persons are in rapport their body language automatically matches, they adopt the same posture, move in similar ways and use the same style and pace in their speech. Without their knowledge, they ‘mirror’ or ‘match’ each other! Why does this happen? This happens because; the mind & body are part of the same system. If 2 persons are thinking the same way, they will feel the same way and their body language also ends up being similar. Now let me tell you something which is very interesting. Researchers have found that the reverse also is true! i.e. When you match your verbal and non-verbal language, you will start feeling similar emotions as the other: you will achieve rapport! This is a dramatic new insight, very valuable to you: By mirroring or Matching the other, you can achieve rapport!

How can you use this insight: That by Mirroring or Matching, you can Achieve Rapport? By Mirroring or Matching 3 things:

  1. Customer’s Body Language
  2. Customer’s Key Words
  3. Customer’s ‘Preferred Thinking Mode’

A.    Mirroring or Matching Customer’s Body Language

Body language is not just your posture-how you stand/use hands. It is any of the following:

Posture – Position of the body:  Legs & feet / Arms, hands & fingers / Weight distribution
– How the shoulders are held: Up? Drooping?
– Inclination of the head: Straight? Tilted?
Expression – Direction of the look / Movement of the gaze
Breathing – Rate of breathing: Fast? Slow?
– Position of the breathing: Shallow- from the chest? Deep- from the stomach?
Movement – Pace: fast? Steady? Slow? Still?
Voice – Pace: Fast? Slow? Measured?
– Pitch: High? Low?

B.     Mirroring or Matching Customer’s Key Words

The next time you are with a customer, note some words/phrases the customer repeatedly uses. Customers attach special meaning to these key words/phrases. When you reply to them, use the same words/phrases they used. (Don’t try to change her word/ phrase. Use it exactly the same!) You will make them feel you deeply understand them! You will cut through resistance!

C.     Mirroring or Matching Customer’s ‘Preferred Thinking Mode’

Richard Bandler & John Grinder, two remarkable people, have done some path-breaking work by observing people. One of their key findings is of great relevance to persuaders is this: Most individuals have one preferred mode—Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic (Touch/Feel) in which one prefers to think and communicate. This preferred mode/style is what one finds easier to understand and to respond in. So, to achieve rapport, you should communicate with one in one’s own style. Sell to customers the way they want to buy, not how you want to sell to them!

  • A Visual makes pictures in his mind. Represents ideas, & imagination as mental images
  • An Auditory thinks in sounds, voices. One’s voice, pitch, pace & modulation matter to them
  • A Kinesthetic gets information from touch, taste or smell; represents thoughts as feelings

So, the question arises: How do you find a person’s Preferred Thinking Mode and to strike rapport?

(1)    Visuals:

Words they use often Other clues To Persuade them
Speaking Speed: Fast Use Visual words/ phrases to paint a picture. For example:
The future is looking brighter; I am looking forward to see you
Telephone  conversations: Short
Remembering names: Poor Describe processes using flow diagrams, charts, presentations
Remembering faces: Very good Show brochures; pictures (of your products, plant, machinery, etc)
Spellings: Very good Show samples of your products
Like to: Keep their workspace clean & organized Explain by writing on paper; painting pictures in the air
Send proposals in writing, Present in slides
E-mail regularly

(2)    Auditory:

Words they use often Other clues To Persuade them
Speaking Speed: Rhythmic & deliberate Use Auditory words/ phrases while explaining. For example:
How does this sound? We are in tune with each other; Does this ring a bell?
Telephone conversations: Love!
Remembering names: Poor Explain product brochure,  proposal, aloud
Remembering faces: Not good Discuss things with them in a detailed manner.  If required, help them think through
Like to: Think as they speak, Hear self! & others talk & Listen to music
Get confirmations on phone

 (3)    Kinesthetic

Words they use often Other clues To Persuade them
Speaking Speed: Slow, frequent pauses. You wonder if he’s disconnected the line! Use Kinesthetic words/ phrases while explaining. For example:
The sweet smell of success; Get in touch with reality; I’ve got a grasp of what you mean
Remembering names: Poor
Like to: Touch people & things (e.g. pens, clips etc. on desk, brochures, reports, samples etc) Give sample/ product in his hand so that he can feel it
Give Brochures/catalogs in his hand so that he can feel it
Describe the experience of using the product
Get them to do something: e.g. to write on the handout you gave
Take them to the place where the action is e.g. visit a customer where you’ve succeeded

 To Mirror / Match, we need to be Observant. We must talk less, get the Customer to talk and listen. Listening sounds simple, is simple, but many of us don’t! It is time we learnt to Listen Actively

Active Listening: The Key to Persuasion

For a moment, think of the human being called Customer. His (or her) spouse doesn’t listen to him. His children don’t listen any more. The last thing he is looking forward to is his Service Provider not listening to him!

Listening achieves two things first, People feel good when they are truly heard, it Builds Rapport, Second, It helps to truly understand customer needs

If it is so important, why is Listening in short supply? Because of 2 reasons:

  1. Many have a mistaken impression that Listening means Agreeing to what is being said. Whereas, when you listen, you are just considering what the other person is saying.
  2. We think 10-12 times faster than we talk. When you are expected to listen, your mind is on overdrive: making assumptions, reaching conclusions, carrying impressions, making judgements: all in preparation for what to say next! Listening is not waiting for your turn to speak; or, nodding while processing your own thoughts!

So, what is Listening? Listening is Active Listening:

  • Being mentally, physically & emotionally ‘present’ to the speaker
  • Understanding the contents without judgment, and
  • Understanding the emotions expressed by the speaker

Listening is a choice, an action, a gift to the other. It shows your customer: I care for you!

How to Listen Actively

  • Don’t judge the speaker
  • Talk to make the other feel understood, encouraging her to speak more openly
  • Paraphrase, Paraphrase, Paraphrase

Tips to what you will say so others feel understood!

  1. Paraphrase – a short summary of the essence of what the customer has just said
  2. Use Customer’s Key Words/ Key phrases
  3. Use Customer’s ‘Marked out’ words – most people slow down the pace of their speech when they use words which are special to them. They often pause right before and after the word: these are ‘Marked Out’ words

This is concludes Part-2 of our 4-Part Series on Powerfully Persuading Customers. The other parts are  1-Persuasion3-Effective Questioning  and 4-Handle objections and Close

CategoriesSales Consulting

Persuasion: The Real Business we all are in!

Let’s start with a question: What business are you in? Your Company might be in ‘Products’ or ‘Services’. But, my question is: What business are you in?

My answer is: the Business of Persuasion! Come to think of it, this is not just a work-skill: Persuasion is a Basic Life Skill. Without that, you wouldn’t be able to get yourself a spouse; your kid to listen to you; your Bank to give you a Housing Loan; the School Principal to give your child a seat in your preferred school! Not just you, not just me, everybody: We are all in one business: The Persuasion Business!

You and I have chosen Selling for our livelihood: We better be very good at Persuasion! Definitely much better at it than the Software Programmer or the Accountant or the Bank Teller; or your competitor’s Salesperson!

My work connects me with some of the best CEOs, Sales & Marketing Heads, Sales Managers, Sales Specialists. And we have read, some of the best writings on Persuasion. Our distilled wisdom is: The best persuaders have the wonderful ability to make their customers trust them

How will you build trust?

So, how do you make your customers trust you? Trust is something you create. And live up to, through your right actions. Now, let me reveal to you a 3-step Trust-Building- Cycle to make Customers trust you fully: It’s called A-RAGA!

  1. Achieve Rapport
  2. Agree Goals that are mutually satisfying
  3. Act: Do all that you need to, to meet these Agreed Goals!

By repeatedly & always following the ‘A-RAGA! Trust-Building-Cycle’, outstanding persuaders produce such positive feelings in the customer and themselves, that it becomes an Enduring Relationship: i.e. a relationship which lasts through good and bad times. Persuasion is easy and powerful when we have built such an enduring relationship

Relationship is a much-misused/misunderstood word. There are some customers we fear will stop buying from us, if we increase prices or change credit terms! Even that is a relationship. But that’s like a relationship between a master and his slave. Most often: You slave, He master! Sometimes, e.g. in a crisis or shortage situation, you Master. But, not for long! This is Wear & Tear Relationship: you wear each other till one day it tears! That’s what we get if we think of the Customer just as a means to achieve our own ’goal’- Sales Target! We reap what we sow!

  • If your actions are only to meet your Goals, it will deteriorate to a Wear & Tear Relationship
  • If you act to meet Mutually Satisfying Goals, it will grow to an Enduring Relationship!

So, how does one implement A-RAGA!? It’s simple. Notice that, in this 3-step A-RAGA! :

  • The first 2 steps (Achieve Rapport; Agree Goals) happen through interactive Conversations
  • The last step (Act) is about taking Actions

By bringing spirit & discipline to just 2 things: our Conversations and our Actions, we can implement A- RAGA! to build enduring relationships and persuade powerfully!

Conversations: The Real Way we all use to get things done!

Let me begin with a question for this section. What do you do in a typical day? Your answer may be one or more of these: I meet customers/ make reports-mails/ talk over phone with my customers-prospects /do meetings-telecons with my Distributor-Sales Reps-Boss/speak to Supply Chain etc

Take a hard look at the above list. What is the underlying thing that you are doing in all this? It is this—You are having convs, your conversation has to be Energizing: Energize the other into actions that lead to the desired result!

To fully appreciate these wonderful insights, do this Quick Mental Exercise (QMA):

  • QMA-1: Think about your most recent business lost where you were personally involved. Recreate mentally the full sequence of the last conversation between you and the customer when it became clear to you that the deal was as good as lost

Rate the Conversation: Energizing- Average- Poor?

  • QMA-2: Think about your most recent business breakthrough where you were personally involved. Recreate mentally the full sequence of the conversation between you and the customer that clinched the deal
    Rate the Conversation: Energizing- Average- Poor?

Isn’t it now obvious- that the quality of the results you get is fully dependent on the quality of the conversations you are having! So, Have Energizing Conversations!

The Structure of Breakthrough Conversations!

Breakthrough Conversations have a Simple Structure; Failed Conversations have poor structure! At a broad level, you will see that a Conversation is not just about what you do during the Conversation. What you do before often determines what we achieve during the Conversation. And, what you do after the Conversation could determine what you can achieve in the next conversation! So, broadly all Breakthrough Conversations have 3 important parts:

     A. Before the Conversation B. During the Conversation C. After the Conversation

A. What you do Before the Conversation: Prepare for the Conversation like a Professional!

  1. Have a Clear Objective—what is the outcome you want from this Conversation?
  2. Communicate Objective & agenda to the customer when fixing the meeting
  3. Develop a Clear Plan (Plan A) on how you intend to achieve the objective of the Conversation
  4. Develop a n Alternate Plan (Plan B) to achieve the objective, in case Plan A does not work
  5. Take Actions you promised in the Previous Conversation

B. What you do During the Conversation: A Conversation is like a One-day Cricket match! Begin with a bang, build in the middle, end with a bang!

  1. Begin with a bang: In the very beginning, you must build rapport. Your Starting Statement should be such that it energizes your Customer to talk freely and helps you engage with her/him—Energizing Starting Statement

What do you do next? You must first set the context for the conversation, so that there is focus, you both are ‘on the same page’. Just like TV Shows give a recap to ‘prime’ us before an episode. Let’s call this Summarize Status

Having summarized status, you should not leave the customer in suspense as to what this conversation is for. He/she should know the destination: Make the objective clear, i.e. State the Objective—the outcome that you want from the conversation

  1. Build in the middle: In this part of a conversation, you are to working towards Achieving the Common Objective. Imagine each of your customer conversations like a jugalbandi, between equals. The first musician sets the pace, as if he is asking a question: ‘Can you match me?’ The other musician comes with a glorious response. Musician 1 then goes to the next higher level to ask: ‘Now, can you match this?’ The second does it! Thus it goes on, till both reach a crescendo, a big bang end with both playing in unison!

This middle part, ‘Achieve Common Objective’ has some sub-steps:

  1. Identify Customer’s Needs
  2. Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs
  3. Handle Customer doubts/fears/objections
  4. Close with an agreement
  5. End with a bang: While you end, it is best to Summarize Agreements reached in this Conversation. And, your Ending Statement should be such that it energizes the customer to act on the agreements—Energizing Ending Statement

C. What you do After the Conversation is: Meet Commitments made during the Conversation!

  1. Immediately confirm by mail/letter the agreed Next Steps
  2. Act to complete your agreed Next Steps on-time

So, here it is: the Structure of Breakthrough Conversations!

A. Before: 1. Prepare like a Professional
B. During
      Beginning: 2. Build Rapport with an Energizing Starting Statement (ESS)
3. Summarize Status
4. State the Objective
      Middle: 5. Achieve Common Objective
a. Identify Customer’s Needs through Questioning
b. Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs
c.  Handle Customer Doubts/fears/objections
d. Close with an Agreement
      End: 6. Summarize Agreements
7. Energize with an Energizing Ending Statement (EES)
C. After: 8. Meet Commitments! Like a Professional!

You have learnt something powerful: The Structure of Breakthrough Conversations! In subsequent Sections, we will address the skills required to follow this Breakthrough Structure!

Skills to Through learning on
1. Build Rapport Mirroring & Matching
2. Identify Customer Needs Active Listening & Effective Questioning
3. Present a Win + Win Solution Persuasive Presentations
4. Handle Doubts/fears/objections Objection Handling.
5. Close Closing
6. Do everything to meet commitments Action Orientation

The Spirit: It’s a Partnership of Equals!

Before we arm ourselves with the all-powerful method, let’s get the Spirit right. Nothing of what you have learnt so far / will learn will work if the spirit isn’t right!

So, what’s the Right Spirit?

The Spirit is of a Partnership of Equals! By equality, we do not mean similarity in social or economic Status. We mean Mutual Respect for each other, for what both bring to the table. And, the belief that will empower you to deal with the other as an equal is:

The customer needs us as much as we need the customer! This belief will give you the confidence to aim for mutually satisfying goals that build an enduring relationship

If you hold a belief: ’We need the customer more than he needs us’, you have lost the battle through submissiveness, even before you start any conversation. If you hold the other extreme belief: ‘The customer needs us more than we need him’, the customer has lost the battle already through your arrogance; you lose the war later! Such Limiting Beliefs cause win-lose, wear & tear relationships

Simply put, you need to see yourself as an equal partner with your customer. You need to believe: The customer needs us as much as we need the customer!

This is concludes Part-1 of our 4-Part Series on Powerfully Persuading Customers. The other parts are 2-Building Rapport3-Effective Questioning and 4-Handle objections and Close

CategoriesSales Consulting

Does 50% of your Sales happen in the last few days of the month?

As the CEO or COO or CFO; or the Head of Sales or Marketing or Logistics of your company, this article will ring a strong bell for you. It is about something which is a deep malaise and most people don’t even recognise it as a problem! I call it the sales-skew problem. I promise you the next 10 minutes will be very well-spent

Shocking is the number of companies where 50% or more of the sales happens in the last few days of the month! Managers are clueless till the last moment of the last day on whether they will meet their target, or how huge a shortfall they will have. In many companies, the last day ends at 11.59 pm. That full day, warehouses become invoice- printing presses, printers spewing out invoices at break-neck speed. Does this happen in your company? If yes, do you recognise sales-skew as a problem? If you do, you are among the few who do so. Most companies don’t! It’s a way of life for them! Many of them even don’t realise that it’s bad, because Sales-skew is something everybody experiences, everybody thinks ‘my boss also knows about it, so it’s okay’. But, it is not at all okay! It’s a very inefficient and ineffective way of utilising our plants, our people, our working capital, our brands, our distribution network. Let me explain the anatomy of a Sales Skew

What’s a Sales skew: A Sales skew exists if a large part of your sales gets bunched over just a few days; for example, if your measuring period is the month, and say 50% of your sales happens in the last week (or in any one week.) I see this in many companies selling through Distributors. I see in many Project Companies huge billing in the last week of the quarter. If your measuring period is week and say half the week’s sales happens on Saturdays, that too is skew

How does a Sales skew get created: A Sales skew gets created mainly due to 2 reasons:

  1. Dumping of stocks to meet sales targets
  2. Bunching of purchases by customers to take advantage of promotion schemes, credit terms, transportation savings, etc.

Can you see that both the reasons are company-created? Whereas, the common myth is that this is due to the market?

Why is a Sales skew bad: Because it negatively impacts every element in the supply and delivery chain, every aspect of a company’s operations. To understand this fully, it will be useful to see what exactly happens in the field in the last week, in your & your Distributor’s Warehouses, in your factories when there is a huge month-end skew

Let me start with the last guy in the chain: Distributors’ Sales Reps. In the last week, they are running helter-skelter for orders-begging, pleading, cajoling to somehow get an order. Offering higher credit or discounts, quite often without authorisation. And for the moment, not even talking of payments. He collects orders on phone, on pieces of paper, on anything and conveys them over phone so that the Distributor’s printing presses can go on overdrive

Let’s see what happens to the next guy in the chain, the Company Sales Executive. He or she, starts pushing his Distributors, bullying the small ones, cajoling the larger ones. And if none of these works, forcing them, i.e. dumping stocks on them. Tremendous wear and tear happens as resentment gets built on both sides. The company person thinks the Distributor is not co-operative and must be cut to size. The Distributor resents that every rookie Sales Executive thinks he can dump on him just to meet his own targets or incentives

Now let’s now see what happens at the Distributor’s end. The Distributor has double-trouble. On one side, trucks are arriving from the company at a furious pace, he has to unload them. And on the other side, orders from customers are also being fed in large numbers by his Sales Reps and they have to be invoiced and dispatched. Often, an item that a customer has ordered is not in stock but is in transit from the company. Also, to dispatch all the orders in just a few days, his own trucks will be insufficient and he will have to hire trucks from the market. For the first 3 weeks, his trucks idle but still incur cost. Come last week he has to hire extra trucks!  The Distributor’s warehouse will become a madhouse if he manages such skewed arrivals and dispatches at the same time. So, what does he often do? He simply prints all invoices but dispatches to his customers over a week, so that he can utilise his own trucks better than hire costly trucks from the market. His dispatches happen in Week 1 of the new month. If your company does all its measurements and incentives on secondary sales from Distributors, this means the Distributor’s Sales figures and market outstandings are grossly overstated. And, Inventories are grossly understated! So, the 3 most important measures every Sales team discusses are wrong! Weeks 2 & 3 are for Operation Collections, he is after his Sales guys to collect money. And, his Sales Reps are back to cajoling, begging, pleading, but this time it is for money!  Sales is forgotten for the first 3 weeks. Suddenly, it is the last week of the month, and it’s back to begging for orders for this month. And so, the cycle continues!

This cycle has its impact on production plants too. Since warehouses are full and Distributors are not ordering in the first half of the month, plants are on go-slow then. And suddenly, orders go up to meet targets and they have to work overtime to produce, to dispatch. Truck sourcing also becomes difficult and more expensive. Trucks reach late, incur demurrage

Sales blames their favourite whipping boy—Supply Chain—for loss of business. Supply Chain blames their favourite whipping boy—Sales. Sales then blames Marketing that prices have become too high and consumers are shifting to competition in droves. Under pressure, Marketing declares a big bang trade scheme or Consumer Scheme. If it delivers more volumes, Sales claims “I did it!’. If Sales doesn’t achieve higher volumes, whatever be the real reason, Sales blames Marketing and puts pressure for higher schemes. This hit the bottom-line. And, Finance blames Sales & Marketing for poor realisation, and skewed cash flows, making a case for yet another price increase as ‘margins are under pressure’. HR is put under the wringer for not getting or creating Sales people with the right competencies. Under pressure, HR gets the nearest training company and creates a ‘Comprehensive training program’ over many man-days; and a Team-building program at the nearest hill-station. And, so the saga continues, to next month, to next year. Sounds familiar?

A Company with Sales skew is wonderful only for Banks. When more than 50% of sales happens in one week, companies & Distributors have to utilise high working capital limits to survive the spikes in inventories and outstandings. It’s the Company that ultimately bears the cost of these inefficiencies through interest costs and higher trade or Distributor margins; or more promotions. All this is big value lost!

Want to extract this value? Yes, you can!

Actually, Sales Skew is just a symptom, the root cause is something else. As I mentioned earlier, it is a myth that this is due to the market. Most skews are company-created! The root cause for Sales Skew is nothing but wrong Customer, Sales & Trade Promotion Policies of a Company. To correct Skew these have to be set right. Setting these right is a Top Management decision as there may be some short term pain, for permanent, recurring, month after month, year after year gain

To get the best out of skew-busting, you need to take two steps:

Step 1: Correct skew through identifying Skew-buster policies tailored to your company and industry.   This will make the entire value chain lean & efficient, extracting great value for the company. Thus, improving the bottom-line directly

Step 2: Define and train on aligned, simple new ways-of-working for the Sales team. This is because, skew–busting will free up time for the Sales force to do their real job—market development & pull creation. It will lead to much improved sales, sales productivity. Thus, improving the top-line and the bottom-line further

And, work-life balance for all employees across Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Finance

Unleash the power of your brand, people and partners by banishing Sales Skew! Want help, call us


Copyright © 2024 Alchemists Ark