Sales techniques generally fall into two distinct camps: manipulative sales and educational sales.
Manipulative sales involve tricks to maneuver your target into agreeing to buy your product or use your service. Most of us have had this experience: You spend time negotiating with a car salesperson and you get down to a price you’re comfortable with. The salesperson says, “I’m fine with it, but I’ll have to check with my manager, who has to approve it.” The salesperson disappears into the manager’s office and comes out, head shaking, saying, “No, my manager will not approve the deal. We just need $500 more.” If you’re already in the mindset that the car will cost $30,000, the extra $500 won’t seem like such a big deal to you.
But let’s step back for a minute here. How do you really think the conversation went in the manager’s office? They probably talked a bit about the weather, a game they saw last night or what they ate for lunch. But they probably didn’t talk about the price of the car you are trying to buy. That’s right. Talking to the manager is a sales tactic, a trick. It allows the salesperson to look innocent when he or she has to deliver the message that the price is $500 more than you bargained for. The manipulative approach to sales is considered old-style. This example may have reminded you how unpleasant it is to be manipulated.
A better sales technique aims to educate instead of manipulate. The educational sales process involves a two-part dialogue:
- Your prospects educate you about their needs.
- You educate your prospects about how your product or services will satisfy their needs.
The sales process is a dialogue. Asking the right questions and listening carefully to the answers is the best way to learn what the person wants. Knowing this gives you an opportunity to show them how you can meet their needs.
You have to get prospects to talk about themselves—telling is not selling! Everything you say should be in the form of a question. Asking questions rather than talking is the key to becoming a great communicator because it holds the attention of the listener.
For example, ask an agent if their current home inspector can complete an inspection within 24 hours of your call. If fast turnaround is important to the real estate agent, you’ll hear about it. You are then in a position to explain that you guarantee a 24-hour turnaround time. This might be your unique selling proposition.
More questions that might lead to your unique selling proposition and then to a commitment are as follows:
- Do all your clients get an inspection?
- How do they find an inspector?
- Do you recommend an inspector?
- Who do you recommend?
- How did you choose that inspector?
- Is your inspector always available?
- Do they have geographical limitations?
- Do they have insurance?
- Do they offer free telephone support for your clients?
- Are they specialists in any area?
- Are you concerned about liability when referring an inspector? (Explain how your insurance policy covers agents, too.)
- Are you concerned that your client would sue you if a problem cropped up with the house at a later date? (You could explain how the liability is transferred to the well-insured home inspector.)
- Is there anything you wish your inspector would do differently?
- Are you satisfied with your inspector?
- Are your clients satisfied?
Some of these questions are open-ended and cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” Here is an example: “What could I do to help your sales go more smoothly?” This question encourages dialogue. Other close-ended questions yield a simple “yes” or “no” response.
Let’s say you ask: “Do you appreciate a home inspector who is sensitive to clients?” You are likely to get a response of “yes.” That’s nice, but you don’t have enough information to offer a list of benefits to the prospect. You also can ask a hypothetical question, such as “What if I promise to make myself available to do inspections on the weekend?” These types of questions open up the discussion and help deal with objections.
Once you’ve engaged an agent by listening to their answers and addressing their needs, why stop there? Here’s an example of how to network, using the educational technique. If you are meeting with a top agent, ask the agent what she needs from the home inspector for her to run a better business. Listen carefully to what she says and then show her how your services can meet those needs.
If the agent is happy with what you say, ask if she can recommend you to another top agent who could benefit from hearing your message. If she says “yes,” then ask if you can use her name when you contact the agent. If she says “yes,” you have permission to contact someone you hadn’t reached before and you have the added bonus of being referred.
When you phone the agent, you can say something like, “Sally Smith suggested I call you.” You have not tricked anyone. Sally said you could use her name as a reference and she gave you the new agent’s name. You asked for permission to make the call.
Keep in mind, the goal here is not to relieve someone of their money. What you are doing is educating the agent about your services and showing how those services can meet the agent’s needs. What you are hoping for in return is a referral.
The Sales Funnel
As you get more comfortable with the education mindset, you should consider another concept called the “sales funnel.” The sales funnel acknowledges that your home inspection service is not for everyone. Imagine a large funnel. At the top of the funnel you have 100 real estate agents. If you phone all of them, 25 of them may say they are not interested in talking to you at all. Another 25 agents may tell you to send them information, but they don’t have time for you now.
Ultimately, you may end up with 25 agents who agree to meet with you. You meet the 25 agents and find that only five of them agree to refer an inspection to you on a trial basis. The sales funnel means you will reach five of 100 agents or have a 20 to one funnel. Put another way, 20 “leads” yield one “sale.”
The goal is to improve the sales funnel. Sales training helps you “change the shape of the funnel” or improve your success rate. If your success rate improves to 10 to one, you will grow your business twice as fast! Remember that small changes in ability can lead to dramatic changes in results.
Even with extensive sales training, you may still get nine rejections before you get one “sale.” Successful salespeople recognize that a certain number of people will say “no” before you get one person to say “yes.”
People successful in sales handle these rejections by determining, on average, how many times they have to hear “no” before they hear a “yes.” Over time, you’ll get to know this through experience. With this knowledge, you are better prepared for rejection. If you expect it, you won’t be disappointed. Rejection becomes part of the process. You must have courage and must not let fear of rejection hold you back.
If you expect rejection, you can measure success just by the phone calls you make. In other words, you know that you are succeeding even when you hear “no” because you know that it’s part of the process toward hearing a “yes.” It means you are on the phone making a call. If you determine that your success rate happens in one of 10 calls, you’ll know that when you make a call on Monday morning and the real estate agent says that he has no interest in meeting with you, you can say, “One down, nine to go until I hear a ‘yes.’” Having this mindset can help you focus on success rather than rejection.