The Ancient Art of Selling

In January 2011 David Gilroy, sales & marketing director at Conscious Solutions delivered a talk about selling.

David, an accidental salesman, challenged us all to see ourselves as salespeople, whether in the dating game or in our day jobs. With real generosity and many a personal anecdote, David shared the techniques that have built Conscious a strong business, and a steady pipeline:

1) Don’t sell, let people buy. Nobody likes the hard sell. But, everybody needs stuff from time to time, and can enjoy buying it. Make it clear what you do and how to buy, and if it’s something they want, they will buy from you.

2) Risk reversal. A technique we encounter every day, and yet may not have thought about it in our own businesses. This is where you, the sales person, take all the risk. Can you offer a meaningful guarantee? Software vendors are doing this well, 30-day free trial. David’s line for lawyers was “If you do what I say when I say you should do it and you don’t get the results I said were possible, I will give you all your money back”.

3) Where’s the pain? Good old-fashioned advice here. Being the person who can take that pain away.

4) Afters. With reference to Andy Bounds, and his book ‘The Jelly Effect’, here’s a take on the ‘benefits-driven’ thing. Make clear what people could expect after working with you. For Conscious, they describe the effects in accessible human terms like ‘You will get compliments on your websites’, ‘You will get people calling having found you on Google’, ‘You will find it easier to have a conversation because people have already read something interesting on your website’.

5) Be friendly, not friends. With a compelling story about a project won off the back of taking an interest in a passion for F1, by sending her a £1 each way bet, David highlighted the importance of friendliness. People will find you interesting if you are interested. Ask what people are up to at the weekend, be interested in their response, and do something that shows them you heard and remembered.

6) No cold calling. Defined as calling people who aren’t expecting your call, who don’t know who you are, and don’t care about what you have to say. Conscious has a full-time telesales person, but a call is never cold. There’s always a reason to call, like following up a website download.

7) Posture. Establish your own value. For example, he advised to never let yourself be kept waiting more than 15 minutes – leave. He also talked about never accepting the first meeting, a technique that can work if you get the tone right.

8 Puppy dog close. If you’ve ever been on a sales course, you’ve probably been told to ‘always be closing’ – David disagrees. Avoid the ‘puppy dog close’ e.g. ‘So, if I can do that in red could you sign the order form today?’ For David, if you have to do this, then the run-up to this point has probably been wrong.

9) Follow the numbers with caution.  But don’t be a slave to it, David pointed to numbers as indicators, but not a crystal ball. Particularly in highlighting any barriers or blockages, like drop-out between one stage of a sale and the next – that’s a flag to make some improvements.

10) Follow-up. We all know we should do it, and yet most fail to do so. You need to maintain a presence with existing clients, old clients, and potential clients – when they’re looking to buy what you have, that they know you’re there.

11) The blink test. And the one for luck – which David doesn’t use himself, but likes conceptually. This is where you say a price, and then keep adding to it, until the other person blinks – you’ve now reached the ceiling on what they’ll pay. Or, so the theory goes. He also gave us a great example of a warm call technique, in what he calls his ‘coffee letter’ – but I will let you ask him about that one when you come along to the next event in Bristol. It’s one worth hearing from the horse’s mouth.

Thanks to Bryony Thomas for these notes