Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Shari Levitin. Shari Levitin is an internationally known sales strategist, writer, speaker, entrepreneur, and author of Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know.
SmallBizLady: YOU TALK ABOUT ADOPTING THE 10 UNIVERSAL TRUTHS TO BUILDING A SEVEN FIGURE INCOME. WHAT ARE THOSE TRUTHS AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Shari Levitin: The 10 Universal Truths are:
1) Success Starts with the Growth Equation, 2) Emotions Drive Decision Making, 3) Freedom Lives in Structure, 4) In Business, No Never Means, No 5) Trust begins with Empathy, 6) Integrity Matters, 7) Anything That Can Be Told Can Be Asked, 8) Emotional Commitment Precedes Economic Commitment, 9) Removing Resistance Takes Persistence, and 10) Looking for Wrongs Never Makes You Right.
Entrepreneurs need to think like salespeople from day one. Today’s customers are overloaded and overwhelmed by too much information, so making a decision is a challenge. No matter how great your product or technology is, you won’t succeed if you don’t understand your target customer’s decision process. Every aspect of your business must be aligned with sales. The 10 Universal Truths are about selling and the customer decision process, which every business needs to address in their product, pricing, and entire customer experience.
SmallBizLady: YOU CALL THESE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS. WHY NOT KEYS OR PRINCIPALS? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THE TERM “UNIVERSAL TRUTH?”
Shari Levitin: I’ve spent the majority of my career developing systems, models, and templates, but I’d never tell you that there’s a one-size-fits-all method for business. People are different and complex. Products are diverse. And markets are ever-changing. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions, but I do know this:
There are a few powerful principles about human behavior that apply to everyone, everywhere, every time. (Whether you’re building a business, selling or even parenting). There are truths that help you not only connect with others, but also with yourself and your deeper purpose. They will help you build a 7-figure income effectively and authentically, and live a richer and more fulfilling life.
SmallBizLady: I’VE HEARD OF A GROWTH VERSUS A FIXED MINDSET, BUT WHAT’S THE GROWTH EQUATION?
Shari Levitin: Top business people share a willingness to take responsibility for their weaknesses; a deep curiosity about their customers and their world; and a desire for mastery. They commit to using what they’ve learned about their mistakes and their processes to continue improving. People stuck in a fixed mindset on the other hand say things like: I’m not good at math, I don’t remember people’s names, I’m not a natural salesperson; and I don’t do technology.
People who have mastered the Growth Equation are energized by learning and invigorated by overcoming failure. To them, life is a journey of gathering new information, making new connections, asking for constructive feedback and learning from painful lessons.
SmallBizLady: YOU SAY EMOTIONS DRIVE DECISION MAKING. WHY IS THIS KNOWLEDGE IMPORTANT IN BUILDING A SEVEN-FIGURE INCOME?
Shari Levitin: The most important question you can ask yourself is, “Why would my customers buy from me?” Yet many business people never define the problems their products solve and the emotional motivators that their products satisfy. Emotions are a powerful thing. Customers make decisions based on potential ROI, ease of use, and likelihood that a product will help them solve their problems. But emotion is the undercurrent of those decisions.
Once you understand what drives your customers, sales come much easier. Urgency is created by desire, not price breaks and manufactured pressure. But here’s the tricky part: These desires are often hidden. They’re subconscious or invisible.
SmallBizLady: SO WHAT ARE THE CORE EMOTIONAL MOTIVATORS THAT DRIVE DECISION MAKING?
Shari Levitin: A just-published Harvard Business Review piece featured a “standard lexicon of emotions,” including 300 emotional motivators that contribute to purchasing decisions. Focus on these seven emotions below (not all 300!) and watch your sales go through the roof. The core emotional motivators are: 1) Safety, 2) Adventure, 3) Significance, 4) Relationships, 5) Health and wellness, 6) Success/sense of purpose, and 7) Growth and education.
Ask yourself what are you selling? Which emotional need will it satisfy and what problems will it solve? Focus on benefits rather than features of your product. Sure, you may be a coach, an accountant, or a content marketer, but your customers are more interested in the problems you solve than in the business you’re in. Show customers how they’ll feel as a result of using your product or service, and they’ll buy from you today, tomorrow, and forever.
SmallBizLady: YOU TALK ABOUT HAVING A PROCESS. ISN’T THAT TOO RIGID FOR A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER?
Shari Levitin: Pilots run through preflight checklists. Free-throw shooters develop rituals to help them hit the same shot time and again. Bakers adhere to time-tested recipes. So why should it be different in business? Each step of your sales, servicing and marketing process should have a unique goal, specific strategies, and must-do’s that, if performed correctly, will ultimately win and retain the customer.
I also recommend adopting the No Matter What Rule. “Non-negotiables, or “no matter what’s,” are foundational must-do’s that contribute to the sale and customer experience. Here are some ideas to get you started: Always answer inquiries within 24 hours, ask for customer feedback, solicit referrals from every new customer, collect client testimonials and make them visible on your website. Non-negotiables deliver a consistent message to both employees and customers.
SmallBizLady: WHY DO BUSINESSPEOPLE AND SALESPEOPLE NEED TO HEAR THE WORD “NO” AND WHAT SHOULD THEY DO WHEN THEY HEAR IT?
Shari Levitin: People are often taught that No’s are a necessary evil, or a hurdle to overcome. But top performers think of them differently. Setbacks are inevitable, but good businesses and good sales people always bounce back. Both should assume that “no” never means “never.” A good entrepreneur actually gets stronger as he or she learns from each growth failure, and responds ever more effectively to customer needs and expectations.
Working smarter and not harder means getting out of your comfort zone and summoning the courage to face your fears. Remember this: The call you’re afraid to make is the call you must make. The question you’re afraid to ask is the question you must ask. The conversation you’re most afraid to have you must have. Make a list of the ten people that you are most afraid or embarrassed to contact. The big accounts, the ones you’re not ready to call, the scary ones. That’s the easy part. The hard – but most satisfying part – comes next. Pick up the phone, knock on the door, reach out to those people and go for the sale!
SMALLBIZLADY: YOU SAID TRUST BEGINS WITH EMPATHY. WHAT ELSE DOES IT TAKE TO BUILD TRUST TODAY?
Shari Levitin: Trust is born of empathy, integrity, reliability, and competency. You need all four traits; but without connecting on an empathetic level, you won’t have a chance to demonstrate the other three.
Empathy is the first building block of trust. We can’t pretend to have empathy. It is not about shifting the conversation to what you want to say or judging your customer. It’s about being fully engaged and present to someone else’s emotions.
SmallBizLady: HOW CAN A BUSINESS PERSON BUILD A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH A PROSPECT YET BE ASSERTIVE AT THE SAME TIME?
Shari Levitin: Top-performing businesses know when to turn the heat up or down, depending on the emotional reaction of their prospects. In my experience, many people either try too hard to build relationships or are too aggressive. They don’t have the structure, the mastery, or the confidence to make it… as Goldilocks said, “Just right.”
You know you’re too accommodating if: You create strong relationships but when it’s time to close the sale, you cower or keep hammering the same tired leads and markets instead of focusing on the next prospect. You know you’re too aggressive if: You sense prospects are losing interest and you start blathering about the features and benefits of a product, or when you lose a sale, you invent excuses but you never take a critical look at what you may have done wrong.
SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “ANYTHING THAT CAN BE TOLD CAN BE ASKED”?
Shari Levitin: In the past, it was sufficient to merely provide information. But today, buyers can find all the information they need online. So, today’s business people need to interpret that information, ask questions, and then spark an emotional need for their product. You will make far more sales by asking a series of targeted, thoughtful, and empathetic questions than delivering a perfectly practiced presentation.
I developed a methodology years ago called “Third Level Selling.” It involves asking questions that reveal the Big Four, which include: 1) Get the facts about your customer’s current situation with First and Second Level Questions; 2) Discover the dominant buying motive (emotional motivators) with Third Level Questions; 3) Find the problem, then dig deep to determine the implications of the problem; and 4) Uncover hidden objections or concerns.
SmallBizLady: MOST SALESPEOPLE INCORRECTLY ASSUME THAT THEY CAN CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY BY THREATENING SCARCITY OR APPEALING TO GREED. WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF CREATING A SENSE OF URGENCY?
Shari Levitin: I’ve seen countless salespeople ask poignant sales questions only to deliver a generic presentation. Your customers want to know one thing: What’s in it for me? (WIIFM). They want to know you can fulfill their desires and solve their problems.
One of the best ways to do this is by using evocative stories. Our minds love stories but our hearts cherish them even more. Create a story bank about other happy customers who had similar concerns or motivations. Even if your prospect is interested in the facts of your offering, he won’t be inspired to act without his emotions leading the charge. Your customer may think your solution is right in his head, but he’ll only take action when it feels right in his heart.
SmallBizLady: YOU SAY RESISTANCE TAKES PERSISTENCE. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?
Shari Levitin: These days, your customers are busy and on information-overload. If their first response is “no,” it may not be that they’re not interested; it’s just that your priority isn’t your customer’s priority until you make it so. When prospecting, approach the client in new and interesting ways. For example, send them a message on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn in response to something they posted to let them know you’re listening. Send them a thought-provoking article that you think may benefit them or their business. Make friends with their assistant or co-worker and secure an appointment through them. When sending a follow-up email, make certain you align with their motivators or business objectives. I landed my biggest deal ever sending a customized poem on a pizza box.
Selling not only takes tenacity, but also creativity, a sense of humor, and an innate sense of how and when to change the emotional state of the customer to get their attention and earn their business. Businesses and entrepreneurs that act like top-performing salespeople will create better products and respond quicker to customer needs. Putting someone else’s needs first is a truth that is timeless and universal for success in any endeavor.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz