Updated: Mar 26, 2020
People often ask me what the secret is to getting a ‘yes’ when it comes to sales. Many who sell or are trying to learn ‘the biz’ hope to find a foolproof formula or certain way to do things every time.
While proven sales techniques are fine, I place my bets more on what happens well before the ask. So, I’ll let you in on my secret of how to get a ‘yes’ 85 to 90 percent of the time.
My technique is adapted from something I learned from my Grandpa Quinn, who when I asked him for advice on how to train my Quarter Horse, told me, “Before you ask your horse to run, you have to be able to get him out of the starting gate, and you have to make him want to get in it.”
As I got older, I could see my grandfather was essentially referring to how to instill or develop a positive expectation, also called receptivity, whether it be in livestock, a pet, a spouse or a sales prospect. This proved to be very true with my youngest Quarter Horse Nibs Bar McQue, whom I trained from a yearling.
Nibs was a muscular golden sorrel gelding who came from the very Parkers Trouble bloodline of very athletic strong-willed performers. His breeder/owner first warned me, “You have to ask Nibs, not TELL him, to get what you want. Be sure to ask him the same way every time.” When I did that, Nibs was a perfect gentleman, backing or spinning every other horse into the ground. When I got rushed or cranky and demanded, not asked, things quickly became a “perfect storm” of stubbornness on both our parts.
Now let’s apply the concept of receptivity to sales, specifically to the concept often called Layering. The difference in how I coach and practice layering is that my layers begin well before the first ask, not after. For example, say that I hear a new hospital executive named Mary Sellers is moving to town with her husband and two grade-school kids. All I know is that she’s most recently from Dallas and grew up in Wisconsin.
I make a mental note, then watch and listen for the local paper or those around me to say Mary has arrived. I send a personal note, perhaps with a small gift or treat from our Museum Store, welcoming her to town. That is Layer #1.
Next, I find out who is closest to Mary that I already know, like a neighbor, co-worker, church friend, etc. In casual conversation, I mention to a couple of those folks that I have heard she’s in town and that we ‘sent her a little something.’ Even if I don’t specifically ask them to mention my name, they often will, after hearing that I reached out. So, is Layer #2.
When Mary’s job announcement appears online or in the paper, I print and laminate or enclose it in a frame-style card, and mail it with a note. By now, she will recognize my handwriting or may have even written me back from the first time. This is Layer #3.
Within a few weeks, I find a reason to invite her via e-mail or through her administrative staff, whom ideally I already know, to a Museum reception or other event. This is Layer #4. Since it’s the fourth time Mary has heard of or from me, she will likely say to herself, “You know, I really need to meet this Kay person.” So, she is receptive and RSVPs, and joins me at the event.
When we actually meet and chat, this is Layer #5. I will probably send her or her family home with a little memento or will take pictures and provide them in a fun way. Now we’re at Layer #6, and I haven’t even begun to think of what I will ask her for, or if I will. Fortunately for all, Mary and I have begun to build a foundation of affinity and trust that will serve us and those around us, well into the future.
Stepping back, you can see how this approach can easily be adapted to suit just about any situation, because any company, non-profit, church or university is comprised of and led by people. When we take a timely and genuine interest in others, our life is enriched by authentic relationships. You may find yourself 60 percent ahead of the pack in terms of cultivating the receptivity that will lead to a ‘yes,’ once you decide that you are ready to ask.
Kay Quinn is the Marketing & Development Coordinator at Salina Arts & Humanities in Salina, Kansas. She is a veteran marketer, sales trainer and public relations professional. Prior to returning to the Midwest, she owned a boutique PR firm in Gainesville, Florida, served in numerous leadership roles in the Florida Public Relations Association, Gainesville chapter, the Florida Magazine Association and advised students and interns at the University of Florida. Over 25 years Quinn sharpened her decision making and relationship skills as a collegiate rower and US Rowing licensed head judge-referee. You can follow Kay's work on Facebook.