I do a lot of “stand up” training for dealerships, and I was thinking about how communicating in front of a room (which most people are terrified of) has a lot of parallels to communicating to a single customer.
1. Credibility is everything
If you don’t have credibility when dealing with a customer on the showroom floor, you might as well give them a card and turn them loose. They aren’t going to buy from you, and if they do it will be because your manager has intervened with, “How cheap do I need to sell this vehicle to make this make sense?” Likewise, my credibility in front of an audience has to be established early, or I end up speaking to the backs of everyone’s smart phone. Lou Holtz says that customer’s have to answer 3 questions about a sales person before they will make a decision to do business with them. Those 3 things are, Do you know what you are talking about? Can I trust you? and Do you care about me?
Whether I am speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000 for me to be successful, they each need to be able to answer “Yes” to those 3 questions.
2. You have to have good timing
The best stand-up comics are good at what they do because they have good timing. They respond to their audience, and they space the jokes and the punchlines appropriately.
A successful sales person has good timing as well. They respond to their audience, and they don’t try to force the “punchline” (the close) on the customer too early.
There are a lot of little closes in a sales transaction, before there is the big one. There is closing that I am the right sales person to help the customer achieve what they are trying to achieve. There is closing the needs-analysis conversation, then the product presentation and demonstration. The timing of those closes has to be perfect, or at some point the customer becomes disconnected from the sales person, or the process.
I had a sales person who rarely ever had to negotiate. When this person brought me a deal, it was a deal. I asked him once how he was so successful closing on the first offer and he told me, “Some sales people close the customer on paper, I just don’t go to paper till the customers are closed”. He timed his closing right so he didn’t have to negotiate; it wasn’t a matter of “if”, it was a matter of “when”, “how” and “how many times”.
3. You have to close with impact
Simply put, if I get to the end of a performance or the end of the sales process, I need to have earned the right to ask for commitment. This means that the previous 1, 2 or 3 hours had to have been spent building value in me, my message and my conviction. For these things to be true, I need to have been in touch from the start with what my audience/customers expectations were, and I should have spent the balance of my time meeting those expectations.
Credibility, timing and impact are 3 things that effective communicators have a handle on, whether they are communicating with an audience in a stadium or a customer in a showroom.