December 19, 2012

Brian Tracy — “Sales Is Essential”

Brian Tracy

“Sales is human-based and absolutely essential. It’s connecting with the needs, the wants, the desires, the hopes, the ambitions of the prospect, and showing them that your product or service can enhance their lives.”

Brian Tracy
Best-Selling Author
International Speaker

Brian Tracy is an inspiring man.

In 1981 Brian began teaching others the principles that led to his incredible success in business.  Today he is one of the top professional and personal success speakers and authors in the world.

Brian has a gift for communicating complex ideas simply, engagingly and effectively.  I have learned so many valuable things about sales, leadership and time management from reading his books and attending two of his seminars.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sales is about helping people.  Sales is the communication process of showing people how a product or service can help them to achieve their goals and make their lives better.
  • Sales is a defined process.  Great sales people always follow seven steps in order: 1) find the prospect, 2) build trust, 3) identify needs, 4) show that your product fills those needs, 5) answer questions and objections, 6) ask for the order, 7) take great care of the customer so they buy again.
  • The human element is essential.  At its heart sales is about connecting with the personality and emotions of the customer.  Before learning about the customer and his needs or talking about his product, a sales person must connect personally with the customer to build trust.
  • Sales is learnable.  Anyone can learn to sell effectively with study and practice.
  • Sales people must love their product.  Great sales people believe in their product and the value it creates for customers.  Customers buy a sales person’s enthusiasm in the product as much as they buy anything else.
  • Sales is a weak spot for many technology companies.  Technology executives and engineers often make the mistake that their cool technology will sell itself.  It won’t.  No matter how great the product a sales person is still needed to connect with the customer and explain how the product can benefit the customer.

I spoke with Brian at his office in California via Skype on 7 December 2012.

[Thank Brian by sending a tweet and follow him on Twitter here.]

Chris: Hi. I’m Chris F. Harvey. It isn’t often that you
get to interview one of your heroes. But that’s exactly
what I’m doing today. It’s with great pleasure that I’d like to
welcome Mr. Brian Tracy, best-selling author, motivational
speaker, and inspiring business coach. Welcome, Brian.

Brian: Thank you, Chris. It’s just a real pleasure to be with you,
again, after our time together in Saigon.

Chris: It’s great to see you again. Brian, today I’d like
to talk about sales. You are one of the world’s top experts in
the science — some might say the art — of sales. I found that
there’s a lot of confusion out there about what sales is. How
would you define sales?

Brian: Well, if you look at the psychology of it, the reason that
people do anything is to improve their lives or work in some
way. The reason that companies produce products and services is
to improve the lives and works of their prospective customers.
So, basically, sales is a form of professional information.

It’s showing people that there are products and services that
they may not have been aware of that can enable them to achieve
their goals, to improve their lives in a cost-effective way.
Ultimately, sales is the process of persuasion. But it is
persuading people who already have a want and a need and a
desire, by explaining to them, by teaching them, that this
product or service can enhance the quality of their life and
work.

That’s why selling is a wonderful profession because, basically,
good salespeople see themselves as helpers. They find people who
were not aware that their lives could be improved with a product
or service that now exists and they show them how it can be
improved and, very often, the sale takes care of itself.

Chris: So, in other words, you’d say sales is more like understanding
someone’s problems and offering them a solution that they need.
It’s not tricking people or fooling people into buying
something?

Brian: No, no. It’s actually helping and teaching. The very best
salespeople are salespeople who have a really strong desire to
help people with their product or service. Of course, since
there’s always sales resistance, because people are approached
with sales offers all day long, the salesperson has to be
charming, has to be friendly, has to be persistent to break
through, basically, the noise in the customer’s mind.

The most valuable commodity in business today is attention and
people’s attention is overwhelmed by so many things. The
salesperson’s job is to break that attention by communicating
that there is a new product or service that can dramatically
enhance the quality of the life or work of the customer and they
explain how it works.

Chris: Brian, I’m in the technology space and I’ve been in technology
for a while. A lot of people in technology are very smart and
they create really amazing products. They put them on the web
and they expect people to come and buy and they don’t understand
why people don’t. What are they missing? Are they missing the
idea that people need to be sold or need to be explained why
their product can solve problems for them?

Brian: Well, I work with technology companies here in San Diego, which
is a bit of a hub, and it’s amazing how many of these companies
are started up by engineers or technicians who have never been
in sales. They don’t realize that every single customer is
beset, on all sides, by every type of message saying, “Buy me.
Buy me. Buy me.”

For you to get the attention of the customer, you have to really
think through what is it that my product or service offers that
is so attractive that the person will stop and pay attention?
It’s interesting, they’ve done all kinds of studies on attention
and they find that the number one draw for men is a picture of
an attractive woman – is you show a picture of an attractive
woman, with or without clothes as men instantly looked straight
at it. For women, it’s a baby.

Chris: Okay.

Brian: Women are more quickly fascinated by babies. The reason I tell
that is that if you have a product or service, you have to be
able to convey, very quickly, that there is a real benefit or
advantage that the customer wants and desires to using this
product or service, which catches their eye.

Chris: Okay.

Brian: It has to catch their eye from the first headline, the title of
the advertisement, to pull them into even being aware of it.
This is a real art. We say marketing is the business of getting
people’s attention. Then selling is the business of showing them
how the product or service can help them and then encouraging
them to buy.

Chris: Okay. Brian, there seems to be a human element here a lot, not
just having clear in your mind what problem your product solves,
and getting their attention quickly. But I’ve found, at least in
my old company – we sold online jobs – that we needed the human
component. We could bombard them forever with the great message
that say, “Hey, we can solve your problem.” But until we had
human contact, it often didn’t work. Why is that?

Brian: Well, because human beings are completely emotional, Chris.
They are not activated, even to thinking about you, until you
connect with their emotions, until there’s something in your
offering. Now, if they have a very strong need it and you show
that your product or service will satisfy that need that
connects with their emotions. But the most important part is
that they like you and trust you.

Chris: Okay.

Brian: Yes, because every customer has made bad buying decisions, and
therefore they’re skeptical. They’re suspicious. They’re
cautious. They have less money. They have more choices. So, they
won’t even pay attention to you unless there’s some kind of
connection, which means that they like you, they trust you, and
they’re open to your message.

Chris: So, the human connection is often a connection that’s missed by
technical people in selling a product?

Brian: Yes. They don’t realize that virtually everything they buy is
triggered by emotion and it never occurs to them that everything
that anybody else buys is triggered by an emotion, even if it’s
a technical product. You see, for example, all high-tech is
aimed at accelerating the process of achieving a particular
result. That’s the whole purpose of every new advance is to
speed up the process, and time is extremely valuable to people.

So therefore, when you show that your product or service will
enable them to achieve a desired result faster and more
predictably, they’re instantly interested. It connects with an
emotion. It connects with a desire and, if they like you, and
you tell them that your product or service will help them do
this, then you have two for one.

Chris: So, what I’m hearing here is that sales is like the missing
link. You can have the best product in the world, but if you
don’t have someone who can communicate that value proposition
and make the emotional connection, you’re going to have a tough
time in business.

Brian: Absolutely. I work with companies here that are just on the
verge of dying. They have what they consider to be outstanding
technology but nobody in the company knows anything about
selling. When we had the .com boom, then the Dot Bomb boom in
the end of the 90s, it was because none of these people knew how
to sell anything. They were running around developing products
that either nobody wanted or that they could not convey the
benefit.

You should be able to convey the total benefit of your product
or service in 12 to 15 words so strongly that a person sees the
12 to 15 words, or fewer, and says, “I want that. I want that
now. That’s for me.” Again, using the example of a beautiful,
half-dressed woman is the happiest married man who’s 75 years
old. His pupils will dilate and he’ll be distracted when an
attractive woman walks past.

You have to get the attention of your customer by focusing in on
how your product or service can really help to improve the
customer’s life.

Chris: Okay. Brian, what separates a good salesperson from an average
or mediocre one?

Brian: Well, there are several things. First of all, the salesperson
really loves the product.

Chris: Okay.

Brian: And really believes that this product can really help people
and they’re excited about. An example I like to use is if you go
to a good movie and you really enjoy the movie. The next day,
you tell people, “Geez. You’ve got to go to this movie. It’s
just such an excellent movie,” and that’s how salespeople feel.
They feel that their product or service is really excellent. It
can really make a positive difference in the lives of their
customers and they’re very excited about telling people about
it.

Of course, they’re friendly, they’re charming, they’re extroverted,
they’re persuasive, but it comes from a depth of conviction. They
own it themselves. They use it themselves. Walt Disney once
said, “You must know your product. You must love your product.
You must love your customer.” Those three are the keys. You have
to really know how your product works. You have to love your
product. You have to really love the customer, really care about
your customer.

Chris: Yes. I found that you can’t fake that. You can’t fake the
passion.

Brian: No.

Chris: People can feel it. Yes.

Brian: They can feel it and there’s all kinds of research that shows
that people buy your conviction as much as they buy anything
else. They respond to your emotional conviction that this is
good for them because, if they like you, they automatically are
influenced by the depth of your conviction.

Chris: Okay. Brian, last, one thing I learned and I learned it from
you is from your books and your videos, especially “The
Psychology of Selling”, which is fantastic, is that sales is a
process. There are certain steps that salespeople follow, which
a lot of people think, “Oh, yeah. Sales is just talking.” It’s
not just talking. It’s a defined process. Could you speak just
for a minute about that and what that means?

Brian: Well, imagine meeting a new person, and sometimes – you’ve
heard my examples in my courses – when you meet a new person,
the first thing you go through is a casual introduction, “How
are you?” You ask questions. You get to know the person. As you
talk about subjects, deeper and deeper, you can then make
suggestions to that person, “Have you ever thought of doing
this?”

But there’s a process and you know the seven steps is first of
all to make sure that you’re speaking to someone who can
genuinely benefit from your product or service. Second of all,
to build trust and rapport with that person by asking a lot of
questions. Third of all, to ask them questions to identify their
exact need for what you sell.

Fourth of all, to show them that your product or service is the
ideal choice to satisfy that need. Fifth of all, is to answer
any questions or objections they may have. Sixth of all is to
ask them to make a decision and seventh is to follow up and take
such good care of them that they buy again and they tell their
friends, and this leads us back to the top of the funnel again.

These seven steps are so logical. But they’ve shown that if you
don’t follow the seven steps or you follow the steps out of
order, you actually kill the sale. If you jump in and start
talking about your product before you have qualified the person
to find out if they need it, or build rapport with them or ask
them questions, you kill the sale. So, there’s a time and a
place for each part of the process and sales professionals are
taught this.

I’ve worked with 1,000 large companies. 100% of them really take
the sales process seriously. They very carefully select their
salespeople. They train them thoroughly. They manage them
excellently because they recognize that sales is like the blood
to the brain. They’re like oxygen. Without sales, the company
founders will very quickly – many companies in business for 50
years, will go broke in a year because the sales effort stopped
working.

Chris: So, sales is often the missing link, especially in technology
companies. It’s a process.

Brian: Absolutely.

Chris: It’s human-based.

Brian: It’s human-based and it’s absolutely essential. It’s connecting
with the needs, the wants, the desires, the hopes, the ambitions
of the prospect, and showing them that this product or service
can enhance their lives.

Chris: So, Brian, there are probably people watching this right now
who are thinking, “Gosh. I have a great product. I’m excited
about it. But I don’t know how to sell and I don’t know how to
hire salespeople to build a sales team.” What advice would you
give them?

Brian: Well, two things. First of all, as you and I know, Chris,
selling is learnable. I didn’t know how to sell when I started
off. I found that the best salespeople and sales trainers were
terrible at selling when they first began and then they began to
study the craft. Like, you wouldn’t expect to be able to speak
the language without studying it or to repair a piece of
machinery without understanding it.

Selling is a learnable process. As you learn the process and
practice it, you become excellent. Now, if you’re a business,
and you’ve got a business and you don’t have sales, the smartest
thing you can do is get a professional salesperson and/or sales
manager, depending upon the size of the business. Get someone
who’s got the years of experience, who can step in and is ready
from day one.

Every company, to survive, needs at least one excellent
salesperson. They call this, in one of the books I read who’s
called an outperformer. This is a person who is absolutely
outstanding at selling. My favorite example, Chris, is Hewlett-
Packard. Hewlett-Packard began in the garage in Silicon Valley.
It was the beginning of Silicon Valley.

The garage is now a national landmark. Hewlett was an excellent
engineer and Dave Packard was a fabulous salesman. The two of
them together, built one of the biggest and best companies in
the world. But they had a sales guy from the first time, from
the first day, and that’s what companies need.  Without
that, they haven’t got a chance. They’ll be trying to sell
against competitors who have great salespeople and they
haven’t got a chance.

Chris: That duality has occurred many times in business. I think of
Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, same thing.

Brian: Absolutely. You’ve got to have a sales guy.

Chris: Yeah.

Brian: You’ve got to have a person who just loves to tell people about
the product and show them how much better they can be with it.

Chris: Great. So, sales is learnable. That’s great and, for anybody
watching, I’d really suggest going to www.BrianTracy.com, some
wonderful resources there, Brian, about sales.

Brian: Yes. Especially closing the sale. I just came from the studio,
Chris, where we just recorded all 24 closing techniques in five
separate videos and they’re training tools. It’s just
astonishing how many people all over the world have transformed
their sales organizations with those closing techniques.
Because, if people know how to ask for the order, they have far
more confidence in actually calling on people in the first
place.

Chris: Brian, when I was working at my old company, our salespeople
had a real tough time closing. They could get in the door. They
were passionate about the product. They could identify needs and
identify the customer really needed the product. But they
couldn’t get over the hump of selling.

When we taught them one of your techniques, which was asking the
customer, “Do you have any other questions or concerns I haven’t
addressed yet?” The customer says, “Yes,” and you address the
concern, and you ask the question again. “Do you have any other
questions or concerns?” “No?”  “Well, then, the next step is
we do the order.”

When our salespeople learned that started using it,
it was like a light bulb went off and they couldn’t believe
how well it worked. It was really exciting.

Brian: That’s a very professional approach. It’s low-key. There’s no
pressure. It’s just focusing on helping the customer and making
sure the customer has no further questions.

Chris: Great. Brian, I really want to thank you for your time today.
We’ve learned a lot about sales and it’s incredible to share
these valuable learnings with my viewers. Thank you so much.

Brian: It’s a real pleasure, Chris. Thank you. I look forward to
seeing you again soon.

[Thank Brian by sending a tweet and follow him on Twitter here.]

  • Khanh Tran

    good job Chris. This is exactly the same thing i will do on my show next year. Via skype!!! Its great seeing again this morning. I actually thought about you right away when we plan for a new show. The thing is if i do it with you, we must do a Vietnamese subtitle. It’s 5 days a week and it is just time-consuming for the limited amount of people we have. But i will work it out. Keep in touch!

  • Excellent interview. Thanks for sharing!

  • How does your product/service improve the customer’s life in 12-15 words?
    What buying emotion (need / desire / hope / fear) does your product inspire?
    Attention is paramount. How can you break through the noise in your customer’s head (without showing an attractive woman or baby!)?

    Those are my takeaways from this interview. Thanks Chris for sharing and getting Brian Tracy (!) to share his wisdom with us.

    • Thanks for commenting Darren. Brian Tracy is the real deal and a class act.

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  • Brian is always great.

    I used to focus on online marketing, and now I start a company. With my experience, sales is crucial to a startup, not marketing because you have no money for marketing initially.

    I love sales and dealing with people. Please have more awesome posts, Chris.

    • Thanks Nang – I’ll do my best. What’s your company?

  • Thanks Chris for this interview! I still believe that we should help the potential customer firstly and politely answers on all questions before the purchase. Only after that we can get the credibility.

    • Yes — it’s all about solving the customer’s problem. I’ve found, though, that often they don’t know the right questions to ask. We have to show them.

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