[this is an excerpt from End Malaria, a book we published at The Domino Project where all proceeds went towards buying bed nets to prevent the spread of this deadly disease in Africa. Proceeds still go towards buying bed nets, so if you're so inclined, consider donating.]
A conversation with a stranger typically doesn’t begin with a thirty minute prep session.
You don’t have that option. It’s live, unscripted ,and raw. It’s now or never.
You don’t bump into a beautiful girl on the streets of New York while waiting in line for your ice cream and tell her, “Hold on. I don’t have anything to say to yo yet; let me just go and prepare something witty, serious, and with a dash if sincerity and I’ll be right back.”
What would that do to seal the deal and get her number? It would ruin it. You squashed the magic, the excitement, the joy from a brief and fragile encounter. She would think you’re weird, awkward and worse: fake.
And what fake translates into is a lack of trust.
But we do the same thing with selling. We spoil the magic by thinking that selling is a forced conversation, one that is heavily scripted.
I liken selling to having an authentic, purposeful conversation in which you are yourself, not some “other” version that you save only for sales pitches.
But a great many people overcompensate with unnecessary preparation (stalling) and worry (fear) so that the conversation feels rigid, forces and bottle-necked. They squander gems of opportunity.
They run back to their mental files of appropriate responses and nervously spew off, ‘Thank you. Any further inquiries regarding the cost, vendor location, and/or materials of this scarf can be obtained by emailing me at Iblewthesale@gmail.com”
And just like that, they lost an opportunity. They had a real moment to connect, one where the pretty girl reached out to make eye contact with them to see that they’re real people, and they looked the other way.
The truth of the matter is that the sale (especially in large sales) happens when people trust you and there is a connection. And a great conversation is a phenomenal way to initiate that trust, but it’s difficult to achieve if you are nothing but the reader of a script filled with overly professional jargon. Connection is at the hard of anything we do, and selling is no exception.
Great conversations are natural and unplanned. They’re impromptu. In essence, they’re made up, although we don’t like to call them that because that would seem unprofessional or absurd. In fact, that is what a true conversation is! It’s acting in the moment with purpose and intent while allowing yourself to shine through. And that, you can’t script.
I can prepare only so much for my upcoming talk with Nike, because at the end of the day, humans being make the decisions (not this vague concept of “Nike” as a brand), and until I speak to those people, I will only be able to guess at what they value and who they are. And without that information, I am in a difficult position to understand their needs and thereby sell anything.
So when people ask me what my secret is in sales, my not-so-impressive response is, “There is no secret. I’m myself, I believe in what I do and I make up the rest as I go along”.