Tuesday, 17 July 2012

How a counsellor like Oprah Winfrey will outsell a sales person

How a counsellor like Oprah Winfrey will outsell a sales person: by Jason Li 2012 ©

I once met a counsellor and told her that a counsellor will outsell a sales person with the right training...

It wasn’t that I just blurted this out at this networking event I went to...

It was just that she was trying to sell me Freedom if I was interested, I just had to go to this entrepreneurs’ event that she was selling for other people.

Telling is not selling

The funny thing is, the people she was lead generating on behalf of for this entrepreneur event had trained her to feature dump me with lots of information.

When I first started in sales I was a blurter, and thankfully I’ve now change. But to help you think of this: Does Oprah Winfrey just speak at people none stop when she is counselling people?

As you know, say too much of the wrong thing and you can lose a sale; and this makes sales scary for many people new to sales as it creates a fear of rejection. It hurts like hell to be made to feel like a snake oil sales person, but being taught bad technique will focus prospective customers attention on your sales skills rather than the value of your offer to benefit their lives.

When selling keep this in mind:

‘Does what you say or do move you closer or away from a deal?’

This is really important in every deal you are involved in. If the prospect has no interest in this, stop trying to feature dump them what you think is right in your mind.

Socratic selling

Then she even employed these shocking Socratic selling tactics on me. Here is an example of Socratic selling, and why some sales people think they have someone right at the end of the sales funnel but are kidding themselves most of the time.

You: “So you know that looking at the sun can ruin your eyes?”

Prospect: “Yes”

You: “You also agree that sun glasses protect your eyes from the harmful sun rays?”

Prospect: “I suppose yes again”

You: “To spend £10 on protecting your eyes must be worth it?”

Prospect:”You’re right it’s not much to spend.”

You:”So it’s sunny today and my £9 glasses will be what you want?” (This is where you think you have an order.)

Prospect: “Let me have a look and think about it.”

What, the prospect said yes to everything. What happened there? Maybe you did not get enough yes’s out of the prospect?

Or maybe the truth is that your glasses are really tacky and cheap looking and a pair of £9 sunglasses do not fit the needs of this prospect? Or it could be that it was impossible for the prospect to not say yes to your questions? And so you fooled yourself because your questions took her down a certain line of answering, and now you believe the prospect is difficult because they said yes all the time but did not buy. How wrong you are in this instance.

Be the prospect now and re-read the dialogue. Is it really possibly not to say yes straight away? Once you said yes, did you feel like you want to buy sun glasses – really?

Now at the same time think of other criteria that you would need to make you buy sun glasses, such as a certain brand or to look good for a first date. If you look back at the questions above, it doesn’t seem possible that getting people to yes works all the time in getting people to tell you what they want to buy.

Done that. So you see, it shocked me when this lady used this method to try to get me to go to this conference. I told her I had done lots of business development already for businesses and her methods were obviously taught by some amateur snake oil sales person.

Now I am going to tell you what shocked me the most. Then I will explain why it shocked me so much: she is a therapeutic aroma therapist. Why is this shocking? These people know how to do a proper consultation. Medical people need to know the problem before the prescribe a remedy.

She kicked all her knowledge and skills out of the window to hard sell and feature dump me, with some Socratic selling added in.

I gave her a few tips to use her counselling skills to find out if what she had on offer met the needs of what her prospects were looking for - which she liked. No one likes obvious trickery used by sales people, and she certainly had a bad introduction to sales.

So why are medical people so able to sell?

Admit a problem

When you are with a doctor, they are trained to ask you a series of questions to found out where you have a problem, while figuring out the best solution for you. At no point do they start off with giving you the answer before you even speak. Even if you have a heart attack and someone was there. The doctor will ask the witness questions while doing their own diagnosis.

The amazing thing about a doctor is that they are taught to have counselling skills too. They have to learn how to and put in practice skills in keeping patients calm and help them to be able to work through their problems.

I once had a friend who liked a drink, we all do. This one was drinking a bit more than most and after some persuasion went to the AA and admitted he needed some help. Now the counsellors there don’t force you to admit anything. People at the AA just keep turning up and are counselled by people they meet, and one day the person just admits they are an alcoholic. Now it has been known that getting an addict to admit they need to change and take action is one of the hardest things to do in the world. I reckon not many great sales people can get an addict of any problem to admit they have a problem and take steps to change. Yet a counsellor can. I’m sure you are getting my line of thought here. That’s why I believe a counsellor has the potential to outsell a sales person.

Black box

All living beings have what marketing people call a black box. It’s the thought centre where all sorts of reasons, stimulus, responses, belief, values et cetera are processed. The job of a counsellor is to get into the black box (inception) or draw information out (extraction) just like the agents in the film Inception.

Now even more impressive is that a counsellor can affect the way a person thinks without the patient feeling any pressure too. How many times has a sales person put pressure on you, or you felt they over stepped the mark trying to “close” a deal, or you’ve heard a colleague saying things like: “this offer ends today. Are you buying or not?” kind of pressure?

Consumer decision making theory

If you have a rush of customers constantly waving money at you, then just ignore everything on this page. However, if you have to compete against other products or services for the same customer then you will need to take on board the information on this page.

If you want a better sales performance, you will need to use a bit more counselling skills to understand your customer. You will have to draw out their objections, beliefs, values, reasons to move closer to a sale or away from a sale.

Open questions

By learning more open questions rather than closed questions, you will help you use your new counselling techniques. As clients feel less threatened and trust you, when their guard drops you will start to know the truth about their thoughts, and where you both go from here.


Facilitation and change management experts also use counselling skills to help management and directors in big companies sit around a board table. I’ve done this often. I might have an end bit of information I want to come away with. But I like to get each person to admit what they want, or what they worry about in working with my company too.


If the decision maker/s don’t trust you then you won’t get the sale. If they don’t trust you then they won’t trust your product, service, company, or what others in their own company think of them for choosing you.

Post purchase dissonance

In marketing, this is the feeling of regret once a product is bought and consumed. The main regret is that the consumption does not equal the expectation at the front pre-sale end. Your job is to ensure that if it is between you and a competitor tendering to a prospect, yours is the one that provides the least regret or downside, as well as most satisfaction.

However, once you ask more open questions and less of a pushy Socratic hard-selling sales junkie, you will get more trust, get more prospects telling you what they want to buy, all their worries, hopes and dreams, and more orders. Think of Oprah Winfrey, trusted by millions and bought by millions.

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