Sales tips and tactics
Welcome to The Digital Brew, a podcast about making your business more awesome online.
Your hosts are Angela (a copywriter) and Stew (a web designer). Pour yourself a cuppa and let’s get started with today’s episode…
In this episode, we’ll be talking about sales.
But not from a sales expert perspective. There are plenty of sales podcasts out there you can listen to if that’s what you’re looking for. And we would seriously muddle it up and provide you with bad sales advice if we tried to do that!
But from the perspective of two non-salesy humans who rely on selling their services to support their family (scary stuff)…
And also from the perspective of being sold to. Because we’ve recently made a pretty big purchase for our family and been through an interesting sales process ourselves. And we’ve also purchased a few big things for our businesses in the last few years.
This’ll be useful for you if you’d like to take a look at your own sales processes from a buyer’s perspective and get some ideas for what to do and what not to do. Or find out what works to get buyers (like us) over the line. We have stories!
I (Angela) am actually super interested in sales. I find it fascinating to watch and be part of someone’s sales process because I want to understand what’s happening and where things go right and wrong.
Which makes sense – as a copywriter, I am essentially a salesperson but instead of calling people and knocking on their doors, I write websites and content to help get poeple over the line.
But it wasn’t always this way. I used to be pretty anti-sales just a few years ago… probably back when I worked as a marketing manager in a busy sales office. Lovely people, but it wasn’t really my vibe. Sales calls, prospect lists, KPIs, contracts, follow ups. Actually, maybe it was the open plan office space that was the real issue here! *Major introvert alert*
After that job, I went straight into working for myself. Which meant that I had to become comfortable with sales and selling myself VERY quickly.
I did a lot of reading, wrote a lot of notes (especially for calls with prospects), and did a lot of meetings. And I gradually got more and more comfortable with selling.
What I’ve realised is that selling is not about getting someone to do what you want them to do.
In the beginning, you’re so desperate for people to say yes. And I think they can tell, which makes the sales process that much more… needy and awkward.
Selling is actually just about finding out what someone needs, recommending a solution (and pricing it up) if you’re a fit, and then leaving them with the information they need to make a decision (and the opportunity to ask any questions).
You have to become detached emotionally.
In fact, I expect every prospect to say no – not that I’m negative – I’m a very positive person! But I have no expectations that anyone will sign up until the proposal is accepted and I have the first payment in the bank.
Okay, so this was a bit of a ramble… but what I mean to say is that the way I think about sales has changed a lot, and I think it’s had a huge impact on outcomes.
I’ve increased my prices significantly over the years and yet I think my acceptance rates have gone up. I feel like over the last few months, at least 75% of my proposals have been accepted (it could be more or less because I haven’t looked at my numbers).
And they say that usually if over 50% of people say yes, that means you’re too cheap (and that may still be the case with me!) but I suspect it’s also because I’m making the process smooth and I’m taking all pressure off clients when they make decisions. I try to make it as unsalesy as possible for them and just respect that they’ll make the right call for their business. And I’m confident that they will.
What’s really interesting about that is that it’s so different to how so many people sell. I don’t go looking for sales techniques to try and persuade people and get them across the line. Unlike some people…
This might be a good time to talk about our recent experience of buying a new car.
(Okay, so it was new to us, at least, but not brand new from the factory because I think it’s a better use of money to buy slightly used cars… but that’s a whole other topic.)
Back in October, our only car died suddenly. It had been getting to a point where if something big broke, it’d cost more than the value of the whole car to fix it. Which means you may as well buy a new car. Plus we needed to upsize because things were getting squishy in a sedan with two small kids and all their accessories.
The car breaking was inconvenient, but the timing felt right in a lot of ways, especially with our 2-week holiday coming up – we could really do with the extra space.
So with our only car towed away never to be seen again, we borrowed Stew’s mum’s car and visited a couple of car dealerships in Brisbane to look at some cars we’d found online.
Oh yes, if you haven’t already guessed, this story is about used car salespeople.
At the first car dealership we visited, we tried one particular car. The salesperson was very busy and hard to get hold of. Eventually, he opened up the car and then let us take it for a drive. It drove okay. The seats were leather and it was black, which isn’t great in the hot Brisbane climate, but not a total dealbreaker. It was a reasonable price and in good condition.
Before we moved on, they asked about what other cars we were looking at. We told them honestly that we’re off to look at the exact same car, same age, but it’s white and diesel.
That’s when they gave us a funny look. They got us to come inside and speak to the other people there, because according to them this particular diesel model has a bit of a bad reputation. We hadn’t heard this but apparently an unusually high portion had issues with the DPF needing to be replaced – pretty expensive stuff. And they also mentioned they don’t stock any diesels because they cause too many problems. Apparently.
Of course, we were a little suspicious. It was in their best interests for us to buy their petrol model, after all. But we smiled and nodded and thanked them for our advice.
We did have an appointment to look at the other car, though, so off we went. On the way, we did our research and it turns out that yes, there were reports of issues that they mentioned. So we were basically off to waste our time looking at a car we would never buy. Oh well.
We turn up and go find the car in the yard at the dealership. It’s lovely. White. Much more our type of colour. Just feels right. Looks nice and clean.
The dealer offers to take us for a drive. We tell him…
Honestly, look, we’ve heard about the DPF issues. What do you think?
He looks a bit taken aback. Clearly he was aware of some issues, but said that he didn’t know of any issues with this batch – only earlier ones. But while we were out here, we may as well give the car a try?
So we did. It was lovely and smooth. Drove better than the other car, which was surprising.. The seats were comfy. It felt right. But we were hesitant.
So we did some more research and found issues were only mentioned for the older models.
We want to make a decision quickly. After all, we didn’t have a car. In fact, we really wanted to take a car home today or tomorrow if possible (and mentioned this to the salesman).
We left with all the info in a pack and headed across the road to talk over lunch.
We very quickly decided to get the diesel car. Stew umms and ahhs over everything. But I’ve decided. We need to act. Sitting on the fence hurts my bottom so I’m all in.
Then we talk about finance. We could just stretch our budget enough to pay outright… but do we get finance? It sounds as though finance might slow the process down and we want that car ASAP! So outright it is.
We call the dealership and say we’re in. We put down the deposit immediately and head to our bank to get a cheque made up for the full amount. Racing to get it in before COB.
Just after we get back to the dealership, we hear that the admin people go home (at like 2 in the afternoon!?). So that means we can’t do all the registration transfer today, unlike what was promised. Still, we’re excited. We’ll get our car tomorrow… right? Saturday? Then we can get back into normal life with our own car in time for daycare dropoffs on Monday? Yeah, hopefully.
And then the salesman says, “Have a chat to this chick. She’ll run you through how it all works.”
She waltzes on over, big smiles, asking us questions about our family, our kids, what we’ve got going on in life, what’s coming up. So we talk to be friendly, answer her questions, and wonder where this is going.
*Sales tactic alert – find common ground, pretend to be interested in your prospect.*
At this point she has found her lead in. Kids in a hot car going on a long trip.
She says, “Well you’ll be really interested in this then.”
And she proceeds to say, “We like to do this to all of our vehicles here.”
*Sales tactic alert! Make it sound like everyone gets it because you want to be like everyone. And in fact make it sound compulsory, like they’ll hold your car hostage if you don’t do it.*
And then she talks for 15 minutes nonstop about paint protection and window tinting.
At first we’re like… oh this is covered under what we paid? You know – no more to pay! But as she continued it became more obvious that she was trying to sell us on something, and hard.
Eventually, we got to the point where we’re like, “Yeah, okay so how much is this?”. Because that is a major factor, right? You don’t want to take up any of your brainpower even thinking about a product or service that’s not in your budget. And remember – we’d just made our a check with nearly ALL our savings to pay for this car outright and we were feeling good about that. Proud about that. And a bit poor. We just wanted to drive our new car home!
Finally, she shows us the prices. Thousands of dollars. Hah! Yeah, no.
And some stupid package deal where it’s basically tricking you into thinking you’re getting a good price because window tinting is almost nothing if you get paint protection.
*Sales tactic alert! Make it sound like a deal you can’t say no to…*
And we have to decide today. It’s gotta be today. So it can all go through with the “paperwork”.
*Sales tactic alert – add time pressure.*
And then she asks “so which one would you like?”
*Sales tactic alert – make the options between A B or C instead of “yes” or “no”*
We’re like… ummm can we talk about it, please? Because we make financial decisions together and we don’t like to have those discussions in front of anyone else. (Married couple tip… also a good idea to apply the same rule to any topic you are likely to disagree on!)
So anyway, straight up, we’re like. LOL what is this? Haha no way as if we’re getting this. It’s so expensive. We don’t need it. And at this point, Stew’s SO ANGRY. But we’ve made up our minds and we talk politely amongst ourselves until she returns.
We says, “No thank you, we’ve decided not to get it for now.”
She says, “Oh why?”, sounding as if she doesn’t get a lot of nos.
We’re completely honest with her.
“Well we really haven’t budgeted for anything extra over the drive away no more to pay price. We’ve just paid for everything upfront and we don’t want to add any other costs right now. Also, we don’t feel like we really need those services – it’s not a priority for us.”
Seriously, chipped paint is not a big deal – we buy cars for practical reasons, not to look pretty. And also we’ve lived without tinted windows for our whole lives. Pretty sure we can survive a bit longer.
And suddenly the alternative offers come out.
“Oh, we can do up a payment plan for you? What if we give you until Monday to think about it? We just like to make sure it’s done so you’re covered when the car leaves this place?”
(Hang on… we’re getting our car tomorrow… aren’t we?)
“No thank you.”
(By the way, did our own research later that night. Turns out the dealership prices for these services are massively inflated. We ended up organising a lovely mobile glass tinter to come to our place and sort out the tinting a couple of weeks later for much cheaper. And again, we don’t care about paint protection but it IS much cheaper to get it done independently.)
She gives up. Finally. And then hands us back to the original car dealer who informs us that the admin people have gone home and we won’t be able to get registration transferred until Monday so we’ll have to wait until then. Even though we were really clear about our expectations and they could have told us this earlier. Arghhh.
*Sales tactic – keep the truth from your prospect if it might add friction to the purchase process. After you’ve got their money, there’s not as much you can do about it.*
Wow. What an experience.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some other sales experiences. Actually some positive ones where we’ve chosen to buy a product or service in our businesses.
We buy a lot of small stuff – subscriptions, LTDs, and SaaS products. Sometimes computer gear. But also memberships and courses, which can be up to a few thousand dollars.
For me, Angela, most of the stuff I’ve bought just by knowing what I need (or what I think I need), Googling it, doing some reading online (sales pages, reviews, etc.), talking to friends/colleagues to find out about their experiences, and building trust with the seller. Basically, I gather info, make a decision, then buy.
Pretty much all my best experiences involve landing pages that really addresses the problems, benefits, features, and inclusions. And ones that are really transparent about the pricing, so I can decide without pressure whether to buy or not.
I’ve experienced a more high-pressured selling environment for an online program and it was so uncomfortable. I kept wanting them to get to the point. Tell me what’s included. Show me the price. I don’t want to waste my time or the salesperson’s time if I can’t buy or if it’s not right for me. And sure enough the price was WAY over my budget I had set aside for business expenses.
Recently, I looked at two similarly priced 4-6 month memberships or masterminds. All the info was there including inclusions, testimonials, and pricing. I was able to think about it carefully and make a decision. I decided not to buy. Not because those programs weren’t good (the people running them were all quite brilliant in their fields), but because I couldn’t see myself committing enough to get an ROI. If the price was a lot lower, the risk would have been a lot lower, and I might’ve picked one of them
I’ve already picked a program I’ll sign up for early in the new year. It’s a lower monthly cost but it’s with someone who I’ve gotten to know online over the last few years and more recently, we’ve chatted personally about things and I’ve read his book. And he and I see things very similarly only he’s much further ahead in business. Seems like a great opportunity. I have the info I need to invest. If the program was more costly, I might need more proof, more inclusions, more details. But for the price, it’s right.
What’s all that mean for sales tips and tactics?
I think the new way of selling that works for people like us is to facilitate the sale – don’t push it. That means presenting the right information at the right time, and then taking a step back (while still being available for questions).
Be transparent, be trustworthy, build long-term relationships, and have a strong brand.
If you do all those things, your sales will happen smoothly.
And hopefully you’ll get more of the right people enquiring (people won’t waste your time because they’ll self-disqualify) and you’ll convert more of them into paying customers.
That’s it for today. We’ll catch you in the next episode, which is all about big bad website crimes!
Thanks for tuning in to The Digital Brew with Ange and Stew. Make sure you head over to thedigitalbrew.com for more episodes, detailed show notes, resources, and our newsletter. And if you feel like this episode has helped make your business more awesome, pop us a review. We’ll catch you next time!