In a recent post, I suggested that having a script for a phone call with a prospective client is a good idea. The comments that post generated reminded me not everyone agrees. Let me lay out some thoughts I have about sales in general. I’m curious to see your response.

A System
For many years I resisted the idea of having anything approaching a sales system, as I thought it made more sense to see what happens and decide what to do on a case-by-case basis. I actually thought the marketplace determined the gross margin I could sell at. Worse yet, I had no idea what “gross margin” meant!

A call would come in and I would try to deal with it as quickly as possible so I could get back to the “real work”—estimating and managing production. To me, sales was a pain. And I was stupid.

Eventually I realized that sales provided the fuel the business needed, which was money. How could I handle sales as efficiently as possible? I needed a system, a methodology to follow.

Working with Sandler Training, I got better at figuring out who I would allow to play in our sandbox and who did not deserve us. That is when we started making more money than I ever thought was possible.

We developed a lead intake sheet that included questions to let the caller know two things: 1) We had a good idea of what a desirable client is for us; and 2) We had a process that clients were to follow.

Over time, the sheet became like the melody line a jazz player uses. As long as one played the melody and the tune was recognizable, you could pretty much say whatever you wanted to.

Great clients for us loved the intake process. It prompted confidence in them that we knew what we were doing, in turn lowering their concern about cost. Those who bristled at the intake sheet questions did us a favor by saving us the time and grief of working with them on a project.

Being a Detective
All the questioning that we did through all stages of the sales interactions was based on the goal of being in control. The more we could discover about the client’s true motivation for going through the living hell of helping plan a remodel and then living through it being done, the more likely they would feel smart having had us work with them. Those who did not like being questioned would not allow us to be in control, so we did not work for them.

All the above is driven by getting to the goal: Making the sale to the right client.

Some might call it persuasion. I think it actually it’s manipulation—in a good sense.

Think about a sales interaction you have had where the salesperson makes you feel she has been waiting for you for her entire life. It’s an interaction where you are kind of swept along and you find yourself feeling good about spending more money than you intended. When you use the item or service you purchased, you are reminded of how good the interaction was.

Call it what you will. If you have happy clients writing checks with your company’s name on it for amounts with lots of digits in them, does it really matter?