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The Ten Laws of Competitive Persuasion

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity – Edwin Hubbell Chapin.

You flick the light switch on because you assume that the light will turn on. You strictly follow a particular dietary regime because you trust it will aid in your physical health and shape. You follow the tenets of your religion because you have faith that it will secure your place in God’s good grace. We are our beliefs, they define who we are – they characterize the self. Some convictions are rooted deep in our childhood, taught to us by parents and teachers, and accepted as dogma. Others are learned from peers, books or television and warped or reinvented to suit our psyches. And some beliefs we come by late in life after having lived, made mistakes, realized accomplishments and formed steadfast opinions. Once shaped or solidified, beliefs act as a filter for the way we see the world, they affect the way our brain interprets the endless information we are bombarded with and stands as the backdrop against which we justify action.

It is a profound and complex process the business of forming ideas and beliefs that we both become anchored to and readily act upon. Or is it? Moving forward based on certain notions, taking action on propositions that we feel are the natural consequence of our summations (usually formed over great lengths of time and supported by everything from conjecture and hearsay to hard-core empirical evidence and experience) is not always the natural consequence of belief. And conviction is not always a necessary prerequisite to action. Sometimes, under the right circumstances, a mere suggestion will do.

Consider cold calling sales, an endeavor or process by which an individual is asked to assume and act over the span of a single telephone call or visit. In many instances, the prospect has never heard of the company, product or service they are being introduced to or informed of, yet are eagerly asked to have faith in and commit to a person they have never met or know next to nothing about, all over the course of a lone conversation. No time to collate data or study propositions, no time to “think about it,” just a brash expectation on the part of the closer that the prospect should presume and act. And they do, every hour of every day prospects become buyers, agnostics become apostles.

What causes a man to believe, or to at least become interested enough to act on an impulse? What must you do to convince another human being to take action on an idea that is not their own? How can a state of being that usually evolves over a period of months, years or even decades be distilled and induced in the space of a single sales pitch? To short circuit a process that usually involves teaching, programming and indoctrination over the course of one’s life is no small feat, but it is doable. It is well within the capabilities of any determined individual to stoke the fires of another man’s fascination and cause him to take action on nothing more than a moment’s notice. More so than being doable, it is a workable process that can be modeled, adapted and repeated. However, before this can be done, before you can develop into a proficient closer, you must first understand a bit about human nature, and you must learn the fundamental laws that govern this process, of which there are ten.

Although these ten laws are grounded on fundamental behavioral science and cognitive psychological principles, no deep understanding of human psychology is required to understand the essence of their power over the thoughts and actions of men or the effectiveness of their implementation. Far from being complex formulas or theorems, the laws, as I present them, are as effortless to appreciate as they are incontrovertible; they are common sense, practical and manifest. Your challenge will not be in comprehending the laws, it will be in remaining consistent, in following through and conducting your business according to the full protocol. Although it would be of immense value to merely embrace one, or even just a few of these ideals, as each imparts an extremely powerful advantage in the pursuit of deal-making, in order to ensure that you do not end up a one hit wonder or a part-time champion, in order to yield the greatest possible windfall, the full ten laws should be adopted as creed and code.

The ten laws will ensure your success. If you apply them you cannot fail. It is why I call these principles laws as opposed to rules. Rules are merely customary practices; rules are boring and restrictive. People dislike following rules. Many rules are often defied and avoided. Hell, rules were meant to be broken! Laws however, in the scientific sense (which I firmly believe is the ground on which we tread) are principles based on the predictable consequences of specific actions. Laws guarantee results. Adhering to them means that you are not just working to the custom, tradition or whimsy of another (as is the case with a rule) but, rather, operating under a set of circumstances that ensure a pre-determined outcome. It is cause and effect. You cannot flout the laws of the universe; scientific or physical laws cannot be violated. These ten principles are the science behind selling anything successfully and as such, consistent, large and undeniable success can be the only product of dedication to these ten maxims. Much like two plus two equals four, the forecasted outcome must occur, and the results are obliged to be bountiful.

The Ten Laws of Competitive Persuasion:

The First Law:
Compete to Win (Chase the Championship)

The Second Law:
Know thy Prospect

The Third Law:
Become a Believer – Learn to Love What you Sell (Gain Product Knowledge)

The Fourth Law:
Pitch the Decision-Maker

The Fifth Law:
Stack the Deck (Your Advantage is Their Advantage)

The Sixth Law:
Be Urgent

The Seventh Law:
Close

The Eighth Law:
Be Bold (Moving Yourself and Your Prospect Beyond the Comfort Zone)

The Ninth Law:
Gain Obligation

The Tenth Law:
Always Negotiate From a Position of Strength

The New AIDA

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Angle

Seize the prospect’s attention by opening with an attention grabber, something powerfully relevant or meaningful to their business or person:

A piece of news that will wake them up
An event that will inspire them to sit up and take notice
An announcement that will cause their ears to prick up
A fact that will drive or arouse their curiosity

Inquire

People are more interested in what they have to say than what you have to say; they are more concerned with their needs than yours. If you can help them meet their unique needs or solve their problems, then they want to hear about it.

As a general rule, clients are attracted to products or services which will make their lives easier or their efforts / business more effective and productive.They are intrigued by anything that might give them an edge or help them earn more money / generate additional revenue.

Ask questions that elicit these needs, that uncover such interests or reveal what your clients are focused on achieving or solving.

Determine

Figure out exactly how your solution will help your clients:

Meet their needs
Solve their problems
Resolve their issues
Strengthen their position
Assist them in being more effective
Help them compete with other organizations within their industry

Action

Express the scarce nature of what you have to offer and the urgent need to acquire it and motivate your prospects to move forward, to take action! In lieu of being able to motivate the prospect to take action on the first call, attempt to secure some form of obligation or commitment to green light a follow up conversation.

Lawrence Rosenberg

 

Supercharged With Sales Training

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Is the company you represent, whether you own it or sell for it, sales driven? Just because you are part of a sales team does not mean the company (of which the sales team, in many cases, is but one of many divisions) is sales driven. Does your firm have a “sales culture,” flexible strategies, and a competitive sales philosophy? And, is that philosophy inculcated into the team on a frequent basis and buttressed with external sales materials and training? Hopefully you do not work for a firm that merely dumps you into a vast, high turnover bullpen to sink or swim, your only training provided through “sales floor osmosis,” relying only upon your ability to cannily pick out which sales reps to mimic. This approach does not lend itself to the development of a high performance sales career, and if this is where you currently find yourself pounding the phones, then your tenure at this short sighted organization will most likely be short-lived.

span style=”font-family: arial; font-size: medium; color: #ffd700;”>Best in class sales teams are always part of a sales driven company that invests in the team and put the needs of their closers front and center. The most competitive companies often ensure that all its divisions focus on supporting and empowering the sales team, guaranteeing the reps have all the tools and back-up necessary to generate revenue. And, of the many things a sales team needs in order to compete effectively, one of the imperatives is a sales process which is flexible and always evolving. The fundamentals might remain the same, but as prospect organizations evolve, economies become more complex and technologies change, so must the nuances of your approach, presentation and closing methodologies. The best firms don’t just stand on ceremony and count on one way of getting the job done, they invest in materials, literature, technology and sales training tools that allow the skill-sets of there reps to remain fresh and sharp. In fact, according to an Aberdeen Group study, start-ups, early adapters, and innovative companies were 52% more likely than traditional organizations (the type that cling to the “old ways”) to make use of external forms of sales training. Consequently, these fresh-thinking, supercharged firms outperformed laggard companies in many key areas, from achievement of quota, to year over year revenue increases.

Read the full article here

Seven Minutes

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Are you all about the one call close, or are you more inclined to allow your prospects to put off today what they will never do tomorrow? Do you spend more time sending reams of information and creating pipelines than you do pitching and closing decision-makers?

If you feel that you may be more messenger than closer, then you may want to take a dose of medicine from those who chase the championship and pitch for venture funding (and the leviathans of capitalism they pitch to) the next time you decide to let a big fish slip out of your hands.

Entrepreneurs in search of funding are not pitching for commissions, they pitch for life, limb and future. And, when odds are that the company you are incubating will most likely go stillborn unless you close the deal, every wasted pitch is one more nail in your coffin. Such is the world of the innovator seeking start-up capital; a no holds barred, pit fight with Venture Capitalists and Angel investors (sharp, savvy, opportunity hungry sharks that have little patience for wasted time and useless information). Those with the power to write checks suffer through thousands upon thousands of pitches from all manner of pie in the sky dreamers, all with the next “best thing since sliced bread” idea, and all in a mad scramble for seed money.

When it comes to winning venture funding, bare knuckled entrepreneurs and the tough-as-nails VC’s who hold the purse strings say, when pitching, if you can’t get it done in 7 minutes, then you can’t get it done! That’s a balls-to-the-walls sales training truism that any contender who wants a shot at doing big deals should take to heart. The fact is, you have a miniscule amount of time with which to present your idea (and make it stick) to an impatient heard it all before VC. Under these circumstances you have no choice but to come out swinging and make a big first impression. It’s a lesson that all cold calling hunters should take to heart. Whether pitching for start-up capital or advertising space, chiefs and decision makers (if you have the gumption to call them) can make your month or make your life. And, if you intend to make a real impact and draw first blood, then you’d better steel yourself for the stone cold fact that there are no tomorrows, “tomorrow,” a real closer cashes your check and lives your dream!

In order to put yourself in the right frame of mind to go big game hunting, consider the Elevator Pitch as the only sure fire way to take down an elephant. In VC speak, the elevator pitch has you construct your presentation around the following concept:

Imagine that you are the only one in an elevator at the top floor of one of the best hotels in the city and, before the doors close, in walks a world famous billionaire who you’ve recently read is looking to invest heavily in exciting new ideas and bright, enthusiastic people. As the doors close you realize that you have a private, one-on-one audience with one of the most motivated money-men on the planet, and you have until the elevator gets to the lobby to give that man the pitch of a lifetime. What would you say and how would you say it? How fired up would you be?

Every pitch you deliver should be an Elevator Pitch. Getting face or phone time with a Chief Executive is a battle all into itself. The sheer determination and mind bending perseverance necessary to gain an opportunity just to go head-to-head with a real decision-maker breaks most sales careers. Why bother going through all the hassle and frustration of trying to get a chief executive on the phone if you’re not going to pitch as if your life depended on it. Make no mistake, the elevator pitch is the single most powerful and effective method ever conceived for presenting to those who have the power to decide, so sharpen your blade and be ready to pitch the dream at a moment’s notice. And, when the doors inevitably open on what should be the elevator ride of your life, just remember one thing: don’t forget to close!

Obligate or Terminate

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

I’d like to share with you a conviction I hold that has served me exceedingly well throughout my career:

You cannot blow a deal you never had!

That brilliant little axiom has kept me alert and aware, on-edge and frosty. It has allowed me to cut through the bullshit and consistently separate the prospects from the suspects. Most importantly, dedication to this truism has kept me from wasting my time with time-wasters.

Too many salespeople put their faith in maybes, might do’s, and other various process extending excuses when trying to bag an elephant. Ever concerned that they may ruffle the feathers of their prospects, the mediocre tend to act more like messengers than closers, substituting desperate prayers to the deal gods in place of a zealous effort to gain commitment. Pretenders will go to all sorts of ridiculous lengths to avoid giving their prospects a bold faced ultimatum to “shit or get off the pot,” just so as not to offend, rankle or upset the customer, or rupture the deal.

Do not throw your lot in with this band of cowards. Do not leave the outcome of your deals to luck or worse, fate, as she will most likely kick you in the nuts every chance she gets! Take control of your destiny and dedicate yourself to becoming a first-class finisher. Never mind the namby-pamby, kid gloves approach, remember, “he who dares wins!”

So, when your prospect’s reply to a closing question is a veritable non-answer like “we’ll see” or a vague diversion designed to jog you on and pull their own ass out of the pressure cooker, do your customer and yourself a big favor, ask them to either put their balls on the line and take action or admit that they are just not that interested in what you have to offer. And, when an apparent condition (not an excuse) stands in the way of sealing a deal on the first conversation, attempt to make the deal conditional that will flush out the liars from the buyers every single time. Obligate or terminate!

Here’s the gospel truth, if your prospect is not sold or in love with your idea, if you haven’t managed to get him fired up about what you do and how you do it, then it matters not how relentlessly you close or how delicately you tread, the deal is DOA regardless! Any customer that tells you, after pressing them for a decision or some form of conditional obligation, that they are not going to move forward because you are too “pushy” or because you are “pressuring” them, was never, ever going to do the deal in the first place.

Prospects that cry “high pressure” are, quite frankly, full of it. Blaming a deal’s demise on too much pressure is the last gasp of a “suspect” (not a prospect) who is just as reticent to say “yes” for fear of regretting the decision later, as they are apprehensive about saying “no,” heaven forbid it turns out an incredible opportunity passed them by.

Don’t get me wrong, a clumsy, awkward salesman can certainly turn off a legitimate prospect. Acting like a “bull in a china shop,” full of unqualified assumptions and false sincerity during the sales pitch when you should be full of relationship building passion, relevant angles, and professional needs analysis questions will absolutely leave a nasty taste in a prospect’s mouth. And, if you hard close prematurely, before the prospect is sold lock, stock and two smoking barrels, then you will most likely appear inept and gauche. You will be viewed as a rank amateur, the kind who bunglingly endeavors to ram a sale down someone’s throat when they were never sold in the first place. However, if you have wined, dined and delivered one heck of a pitch, if you have sparked a love affair between the prospect and your concept and confirmed as much by asking strong qualifying questions, then it is incumbent upon you to motivate the customer to take action. You owe it to yourself and the prospect to not only present a clear and decisive path, but to confidently prompt and urge him to act on what it is he claims to be enamoured with. Under these circumstances, you are not going to blow anything by asking a prospect to commit. Someone who genuinely wants to buy understands the way business is done and appreciates a professional and firm approach. At worst, the real prospects and true decision-makers will be happy to offer a clear and legitimate explanation as to why they may not be able to move forward straight away and will be completely open to the suggestion that they put some skin in the game by promising action later if certain conditions are met.

By not going weak-kneed, by not cowering like some chicken-shit tenderfoot and avoiding the tough questions and if/then proposals, you are doing your prospects, as well as those that are suspect, a very productive service. For the buyers, you are showing consideration and respect for their position by offering them guidance and giving them what any true decision maker wants and respects: a clear, no-bullshit call to take action, an opportunity to be a decision maker and decide! And, for the liars, you are giving them the opportunity to either save face by blaming your aggressive manner for the deal’s demise (revealing them for the suspects that they are) or to simply admit what it is they were initially too polite to say, that your concept (or pitch) failed to impress and that they have no interest. Goodnight Irene!

Do not stake your career, your victories or your deals on a wing and a prayer. Count on obligation and commitment exclusively, they are your only true friends in a world rife with fear, political correctness and obfuscation. They will expose the ineffectual, the decision-fakers and the bureaucrats as efficiently as their use will garner the respect and loyalty of solid, tough decision-makers, multiplying your relationships with those that matter most (the power players). In the end the world might not always love a closer, but they will forever admire one.

Lawrence Rosenberg

Comfort Zone Coma

Monday, May 31st, 2010

In business as in war, when faced with pain, confrontation or rejection most able-bodied men and women choose to pack up their bags and retreat. For the majority, the fight or flight response is typically activated in favor of turning around and running for the hills as opposed to wading headlong into the storm. And, as selling for a living involves enough pain and rejection to choke a horse, most avoid a sales career as if it were the plague. The rank and file will readily opt for safe, plain vanilla office work or blue-collar humping and lugging before they will ever consider the maverick, kill or be killed lifestyle of a professional closer. Better the monotony (and mirage) of a secure, stable job, one that guarantees a paycheck (no matter how mediocre) than to suffer through the discomfort of having hundreds upon hundreds of doors slammed in your face, and the frustration of an endless string of no’s to live through all day, every day. Never mind the incredible fortune an unrelenting closer is capable of generating, the sheer unpredictability of it all multiplied by the unease at having to push and cajole impatient and uninterested prospects propels your average “Joe the Plumber” to pursue a common, unexceptional job sweeping the streets rather than risking salary and certainty.

Now, I’m not saying that most working stiffs don’t bust their asses in these unremarkable, everyman jobs, far from it. It’s hard work lifting hundred pound cement bags 12 hours a day in the blazing sun. It’s bloody hard work digging ditches on bitter cold days when you’d rather stay in bed and nurse a raging hangover. I recognize and respect the blood, sweat and tears many a man sheds in an attempt to scratch out a life and I understand just how brutally tough and thankless these blue collar existences can be. However, as ball-busting as manual labor most assuredly is, it is also comfortable, as a matter of fact, it’s as comfort zone as you can get. What?! Did you say comfortable?! Are you out of your mind Rosenberg?! Cleaning up construction sites six days a week or digging holes in the ground until your hands are cracked and bleeding is anything but comfortable I hear some of you shouting, so let me make this perfectly clear: Is it grindingly hard work? Absolutely! Hernia-popping? Without question! Thankless and unrewarding? Undoubtedly. Proletarian toil is all that and more, but it is also comfortable – it is comfortable because it is routine.

Wake up, dig the ditch, don’t think, don’t question, punch the clock, day in and day out – a robot’s existence ad infinitum. And, let’s not forget the money. That unfulfilling, unrewarding, uninspiring remuneration you call a paycheck waits patiently for you at the end of every week, regardless of the heights to which you’ve risen or the lows to which you’ve sunk, that hourly wage is set in stone. No risk of blowing it, no risk of failure, no risk of going hungry if you don’t dig the day’s targeted number of holes, no reward for digging any more ditches than your colleagues because you’re faster, stronger and more ambitious – just follow the routine and all those nickels and dimes are yours, guaranteed! Waiting tables, flipping burgers, sweeping the streets, it’s no one’s idea of paradise. In truth, it’s a tough existence with few prospects or possibility – but it is safe, it is secure, and it is comfortable.

People sacrifice their hopes and dreams every day of the week, selling their souls for the safe road, the routine, the path of least resistance. They sell out at the expense of a future because for most failure and rejection are far more painstaking and heartbreaking in the short term.

Making it as a sales professional on the other hand, well that’s just as hard as laying bricks, but it is also extremely uncomfortable. Risking a paycheck and a safe, routine job in favor of taking your shot and going for broke as a fly by the seat of your pants, gun-slinging, “eat what you kill” closer is anathema to the herd. The resistance and rejection, the struggle to win, is mind-cracking and rife with the type of fear (fear of the unknown) that the common man refuses to face. Fear of loss, fear of rejection fear of the word “no.” No, I do not have the time to listen to your sales pitch! No, we do not have a deal!

No, there isn’t a commission check waiting for you at the end of the month!

That kind of existence is way too intimidating, uncomfortable and unnerving for most. For the huddled masses, mediocrity and invisibility is preferable to a life filled to the rafters with rejection and the never-ending possibility of failure after failure.

Even those with the courage to take a shot at a sales career are not immune to the comfort zone coma. The unwillingness to get uncomfortable and slug it out on the path of maximum resistance is the single biggest reason why most salespeople completely fail in their attempts to generate the kind of income possible from what would otherwise be home-run money-spinning career. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable spending months trying to bash through or find a clever way around a hardened gatekeeper in order to get the real decision-maker on the phone, instead of giving up and pitching the boss’s minions. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable rebutting all manner of objections and closing over and over again well after the prospect has already told you “no,” or worse: “maybe later”. It is so much easier to take the path of least resistance, even if, in the long term, the pain and frustration of not having all the things you dream about far exceeds the short term discomfort you feel when you willingly put yourself into edgy situations with prospects or push yourself beyond the cold calling pain-barrier to work harder, longer and more intensely than your competition.

As a professional closer there comes a moment, often many, many times a day, where you are faced with two roads, one leads you to the comfort zone, the other to pain, frustration and discomfort. One road is safe, easy and comfortably numb, the other prickly and unnerving. One leads to perpetual misgiving and underachievement, the other to glory, money and power. Be that as it may, in the heat of the moment, when faced with the choice of which road to choose most are blinded as to just where these two divergent paths will lead. When the moment of truth arrives and you are forced to decide whether or not to wake up two hours earlier, whether or not to stay at the office a few hours later or whether or not to ask for the business one more time and risk the ire and invective of your prospect, all that most really see is the immediate pain and discomfort that taking the distressful action will generate. However, you don’t have to go down without a fight, this can be your Damascene moment – the instant when you choose to change everything. The very second your mind conceptualizes that your actions will lead to pain and discomfort is the instant when you must walk into the knife pointed at your throat!

The unnerving sensations that a distressing situation produces is not a warning to back away, it is your signal to advance, to move forward. How do you know that your actions will lead to long term achievement or to phenomenal success? If it is bristling and uncomfortable then it is the right path, period, end of! Let the short term discomfort and uneasy feelings that taking overt and aggressive action generates be your guide to knowing exactly what to do and when the hell to do it. And, when an opportunity arises to take the hard way in or the coward’s way out, press on with the tough route, the bumpy road, have the mettle to get hardcore and uncomfortable.

If your job does not present you with unsettling, unnerving predicaments daily, situations where to do might mean to die, then you are wasting your time and wasting away, doing only what it takes to exist. In order to ensure a booming and prosperous future, one where you call the shots, set the terms and reap the bounty, your actions must lead you down the path that the listless are too tired to walk and the gutless too fearful to tread.

Lawrence Rosenberg