The £1,000,000.00 Chewing-Gum

If you landed on this article without having gone through The Sales Masochist and the £1,000,000.00 I strongly recommend that you do read that first or this article may not make all the sense that it can make.

Doing things that hurt us but we still do them for pride, fear or whatever other contorted reason, reminds me of an episode which happened during a short sales training that I was giving to a group of very good and proactive business owners not long ago. I have decided to be brave and illustrate the entire 6 Step Sales Strategy that I personally use when selling medium-low cost services/products in 3 hours. Normally I would go through this in 2 days with loads of practice, role play and even real telesales calls when possible. This time I only had 3 hours though and so I have delivered a very decent short introduction to the concept.

Even if I was to illustrate the 6 Step Sales Strategy superficially, it would be necessary to include more details and information in each of the following steps. However, for the purpose of this article, I would only limit myself to list the 6 steps; these are:

  1. Appointment setting
  2. Build rapport
  3. Find the needs
  4. Associate Value to the Needs (solution of/to)
  5. Link your product/service with the needs (Get commitment to go ahead if the prospect sees that your product/service can satisfy the needs)
  6. Close

The group of attendees was very small, about 25 and so I was able to let people ask questions as we went along. Although the presentation was rushed in places, the overall outcome was more than satisfying, the delegates seemed happy and the feedback that came afterwards was certainly good. Yet, there was one woman in the group who clearly did not find one or more parts of the mini training of her liking – at all. At one point, she manifested her disagreement with one of the points illustrated.  More specifically she did not agree on step 5. Step 5 is when we link the prospect’s needs to our offering and get a committed answer before we invest the time in the pitch. This is not set in stone and, as everything else in life, must be put into the context of your business. During step 5 the conversation would be something like this:

  • You “So, your company’s main goal at present is that of getting 40 new clients by the end of the next quarter right?”
  • Prospect: “Yes that is correct”
  • You: “And that would be really valuable right? I mean, that would make a real difference would it not?”
  • Prospect: “Indeed it would Mr You! That would be amazing!”
  • You: “Excellent. So, if you were able to see that our Sales Training can absolutely help your team get those 40 new clients by the end of next quarter, would you be happy to take up the program now?”

At this point, I advised that we get a committed answer or else there is no point in proceeding. This is simply because the prospect has told us what they need, he told us that if they could get 40 new clients by the end of the new quarter it would be really valuable and so if they are not prepared to tell you that, as long as they see that the program can definitely help them achieve their goal, they will sign up, it must mean that they are not convinced by something; it must mean that they have an objection which we have failed to address. So, it is our job to address that objection before we proceed in showing how our program can in fact help them achieve their goal.

Depending on the prospect’s response, there are several ways of handling this kind of situations; one could be:

  • Prospect: ”Hmmm, no, I could not give you an answer now.”
  • You: “I understand… And what would you need to be able to give me an answer now?”
  • Prospect: “Hmmm, I don’t know, I don’t like deciding on two feet like this”
  • You: “Hmmm, I can totally understand.  Of course, I would not want you to take up the program now unless you can definitely see that it would absolutely allow you to achieve your goals. And if, after I illustrate the program, you can see that this will most definitely help you get there, what would you need to feel comfortable in making that decision?”

At this point you are likely to either get the real objection (which most likely will be one of the following: I think it costs too much, I do not have the time to do it, I do not trust you, I do not think it will actually work) or you would get a committed decision. You could of course get a valid or firm reason for not committing and that is fine because it would allow you to get a “no” before you spend hours illustrating the whole program to someone who would not have purchased anyway. You are better off saying something like:

  • You “I totally understand that you need to wait until you know whether you will be merging with that other company before making a decision and I really would not want to waste your time now as I know that you are busy. How about I return once you know whether the merger will go ahead or not; would that be better?”
  • Prospect: “Yes actually, that would be much better”
  • You: “Excellent, when would that be?”

The lady in disagreement, argued that if we refuse to pitch when the prospect says that they would not buy we may lose the opportunity. I have replied that, while it is totally true that we may indeed lose an opportunity, selling is often a numbers game and so I suggested that at that point it would have been better to take my advice. I have explained that statistics show that if we were to invest the same amount of time with each prospect without constantly filtering the conversation so to better understand when is time to “pull the plug”, we would not be successful in sales because we would be spending too long on “will not buys” and “maybes”. After a few objections of her own, other delegates started to attempt to explain to the disagreeing lady that she missed a point which, I think, might have been the cause of the £1,000,000.00 chewing-gum phenomena.

I have ended the debate by saying something along these lines: “Okay, let’s perhaps move on as the time is against us. I agree with you Lady X that it would be great to give people all the time they need to make up (or down) they mind, unfortunately though, in my experience, sales seems to be a numbers game but, maybe I am failing to understand your point and so it may be good to go through the rest and see if your point is satisfied by the section about objections; okay?”

She nodded.

I finished the presentation and, after answering to a few questions, packing my laptop and talking with a few people thirsty for more information or simply kindly congratulating, I made my way toward the exit of the venue. A few yards before the main exit door I see Lady X and so stop to say goodbye; she turns to me and asks:

  • Lady X “What is your hourly rate?”
  • to which I reply “It depends for what”
  • and she says “To do these kinds of presentations”
  • so I say “It’s £270+VAT”
  • and then she says: “Would you still have chewed gums if you were being paid that mush today?”

I was surprised about the sarcastic comment but I quickly understood that the problem was never the chewing-gum; if anything, the humiliation of 3 delegates almost babysitting her to silence was the fire behind that sarcasm. So I looked at her with a smile and said:

  • “I would have even if the rate was £5000 per hour because that is who I am, it is part of me”.
  • In reality what I felt like saying was: “Don’t worry, if you work hard for the next 30 years one day you will be almost as good as me and then you will also be allowed to do things like this” but chose to be nice instead.

At this point her remark was that the first impression is what counts and you know what, she is right! The first impression is what counts and I believe that the first 30 seconds are the most important which is good for me because I only started chewing gums after about a minute 😉

Beside jokes, when I discussed this with my business partner he said that he did not even notice that I was chewing. It is true that I have a very discreet chewing style and so I do not think that any other delegate made anything of it; in fact, I remember at one point, while Lady X was elaborating on her objections with one of the delegates, I have taken the infamous chewing-gum from my pocket and she noticed me doing it. I did not make anything of it at the time though.

This however is not the real point of the article. The point is the following: having had the opportunity to talk to Lady X on another occasion, I knew that her goal is that of making £1,000,000.00 in her current business. I am not for a moment suggesting that my 3 hour 6 Step Sales Training would directly earn her that, not at all. What I am suggesting however is that if there was even only one concept in that training that could have helped Lady X to increase her chances to sell more it would have been wiser to use the opportunity she had to ask me a more constructive and useful question instead of complaining about something that had no effect on the information provided. If my answer to an intelligent question could have helped Lady X increase the sales in any way, I feel that it would have been wiser to ask that question instead of going for that sarcasm and, whilst I may be wrong here, it makes me think that the small insignificant power battle over a chewing-gum is more important to her than her £1,000,000.00 goal.

On the other hand, I can’t deny that for a moment, during which I felt particularly amused (not) about the whole thing, I thought of advertising the fact that chewing-gums is absolutely right when delivering a speech.  I then realised thought that doing so would be a Sales Masochist-like behaviour as, although I do not have any problems with people chewing gums whilst teaching and I do not find it wrong, I understand that some people may be put off and not like it and so, carrying on doing it could only hurt. So, in short, I have learnt that chewing gums is something I do not need as it may compromise the achievement of my goals (whether that is totally true or not).

I therefore decide to take that “never given but implicitly meant advice” of Lady X and I can now publicly declare that I will no longer chew gums when talking. I am now a chewing-gum-free man, I am now reborn a non-chewing-gum man.

6 thoughts on “The £1,000,000.00 Chewing-Gum

  1. Great article Luca, and demonstrates that although we can all experience the same situation we may not always experience a similar outcome.

    Reading through the scenario I’m sure it was a misunderstanding by both parties? I agree that it would be a waste of everyone’s time to make a presentation to someone who had clearly stated they would not be interested in buying, even if you could solve their problems. Yet in my experience, if there is an obvious need but there is still no commitment, as you have pointed out, it’s because you haven’t yet unravelled the true objection and that could be down to the ‘buyer’ not understanding your solution or maybe first impressions have ‘clinched’ the decision process!

    If you are in the fortunate position that your service or product is so desirable or there is limited competition then yes you can afford to be selective. But most small businesses are competing in a very competitive world and going the extra mile can make or break a deal. I personally have experienced that some of my most lucrative deals have resulted from situations I would have been more than happy to walk away from yet found that perseverance and persistence has paid off.

    Agreed sales is a numbers game, but surely it’s the ratio of numbers to closes that determines success.

    I stumbled upon this entry via Twitter and it has certainly brought a smile to my face and brightened up what was just an otherwise uneventful Saturday morning. I think the biggest lesson to be learnt is you can never know how much your words or actions can affect others, I’m sure lady X had no idea she had made such an impact and indeed she also has a lesson to learn from the outcome, but if it has resulted in you not chewing gum when presenting then that can’t be a bad thing!

    Wishing you every success

    Lady X !!!

    • @Rebecca Godfrey, thank you for the great reply and, after reading through it, I find myself in total agreement with the fact that indeed something has been misunderstood. At no point did we say that you should discard any prospect who is not ready to buy. The point here is to recognise the prospects’ real needs and requirements and understand whether they are ready to make the required changes now or not. If the answer is no, there is no point (most of the times) in taking up everybody’s time talking about something that they are not ready to buy. This does not mean discarding the client.

      I would say something like: “I totally understand your current situation Mr Not Ready and, whilst I really value the opportunity of becoming one of your service providers, I respect your decision. May I contact you again in 4 weeks time to see if your circumstances have changed?” or, if you do not want to invest time calling around, which is typically the case when we sell low value goods, I would say something like: “please take my card Mr Not Ready and whenever you feel that you would like to consider taking XandY up, I would be glad to come back again”. You get the point. Most of my “no”s are people that I am still in touch with today. Please take a look at this article which may actually clarify my position.

      I am glad that this made you laugh and I wasn’t (not totally at least ;-)) sarcastic when I said that I have learnt something. I have been teaching sales for a long time and, to date, my closing rate is still one of the highest I know; this might have distracted me from being humble enough to realise that chewing gums may cause me little problems and put some people off. I have seen some supposedly masters of marketing and sales presenting to 1000s whilst chewing gums but this very “conversation” is the proof that not chewing is definitely better.

      I wish you too the very best of success and I hope that your first million can come about very soon!

  2. Luca – I believe the issue to be another numbers one! You can’t please all the people all the time. I believe lady X was not hearing what she wanted to hear and her comment at the end was simply an outlet to vent a frustration as she lacked the ability to communicate her ‘actual’ frustration.
    Well done on giving up the gum though.

    • @Emma Fryer – Thank you Emma for your contribution. Totally in agreement with the fact that we cannot please all the people all the time; in fact, no matter what we do, we are bond to be liked but some people and disliked by others. Luckily I gave up before the chewing addiction got me 😉

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