Sales psychology and the takeaway technique, Pt. 1Article added by Steve Lewit on May 23, 2013

Steve Lewit

Buffalo Grove, IL

Joined: February 27, 2008

My Company

Most sales professionals that I coach have a high level of technical expertise, poor acting skills and little understanding of client psychology. That is why so many professionals rely on the old way of selling

TV's Lt. Columbo, portrayed by Peter Falk, was the master of the takeaway. We all remember him looking confused, seeming to stumble and fumble, until the person under investigation just gave up. No closing techniques, no hot buttons — nothing except the false sense of security Columbo transmitted to his suspects until they virtually arrested themselves.

Now we can’t all be Columbo. He had that special personality that few of us can (or want) to duplicate. But we can learn from him and expand his approach into useful, modern-day selling techniques that will close sales for us. The takeaway is easier than you think, and probably more powerful than you know — especially if carefully integrated into your system. Here are my takeaway secrets. I hope they serve you as well as they have served me over the years.

Let’s begin by understanding that selling is a combination of expertise, acting and psychology. Or, looked at in another way, selling is about your ability to solve people’s financial problems, choosing the communication method that will get your point across and understanding the mechanisms of how people make decisions and what motivates them to make those decisions.

Most sales professionals that I coach have a high level of technical expertise, poor acting skills and little understanding of client psychology. That is why so many professionals rely on the old way of selling — gathering data, preparing a plan which they believe will be the cat’s meow for the client (a plan that they couldn’t possibly not buy), answering all the client objections, going for the close, and then chasing after the client when they say they “need to think about it.”

To understand and use the power of the takeaway, let’s first understand a little bit about the client’s psychology and your acting assignment.
Client psychology

Note: I use the word "clients" not "prospects" — I never use the word prospect. To me, if they are in front of me, then they are a client.

Clients have certain thoughts and feelings which are universal:
    1. Every client wants to get information from you without making a commitment to you.

    2. Every client is familiar with your selling game plan and has well-practiced strategies that stall or end the selling process without you getting what you want: a clear yes or no decision.

    3. Every client knows that you are out to make a sale and that you will do whatever you need to do to keep them talking.

    4. Every client will elect the status quo unless they are emotionally motivated to make a change. In other words, people buy emotionally but justify their decisions intellectually. No emotion = no sale.

    5. People work in reverse. The more you push them away, the more they will come towards you; the more you pull at them, the more they will pull in the opposite direction.
The takeaway is designed to short-circuit or capitalize on these patterns of behavior and to bring to light the emotional factors which drive the sale. Without an understanding of client psychology, sales becomes a tug-of-war between you and your clients. You try to pin them down; they try to hide and protect themselves. While a sale may eventually be made, your clients (and especially you) will expend too much energy, and the time spent together will be draining rather than fulfilling.
Your acting assignment

To be an effective proponent of the takeaway, your clients cannot feel the sale coming from you. In other words, if your clients feel you trying to make a sale, manipulating them in your own interests rather than theirs, trying to get them closer to the buy through your use of old-school selling techniques (warm-ups, hot buttons, tie downs, trial closes, etc.), the takeaway will have limited effect or will not work at all in helping your (and your client’s) cause.

Now, here’s your acting assignment. I want you to behave as if you are independently wealthy, that you don’t need any business whatsoever, and that you are an extremely nice and respectful person.

Can you put yourself into this role? Can you imagine what you would say to clients if you were this type of a person? Can you get a glimpse of your behavior, the quality of your voice, the choice of your words and the effect they might have on your client?

If you could truly adopt this acting assignment — which means that when you are with clients, you become that independent, confident, no-need-for-business, respectful person — then you would immediately stop using all your old-fashioned selling techniques. In short, as an independently wealthy person with no need for business, you would elect just to talk straight-up with people, to talk nicely, to tell the truth, because you would have no drive other than to do so — you'd have no need to be a salesperson at all.
In this acting mode, combined with your new understanding of consumer psychology, the takeaway will become a natural extension of you. For example, if your client says that they have been with their advisor for 10 years, instead of trying to convince your client that you are better than their advisor, tell your client that they should be sitting with this trusted person. When your client says that they have heard bad things about annuities, you simply say then they probably shouldn’t use them in their financial planning, instead of trying to convince them how great annuities are. When your client says they like bonds, instead of trying to convince them that bonds are dangerous because interest rates might rise, tell them that bonds are good and they should probably keep doing what they are doing.

The result

Your new acting assignment now presents a different picture to your client than that of a traditional salesperson. They feel no sale. In fact, they feel you pushing them away (subtly and non-subtly). They have never sat down with this type of person and it takes them totally out of their game plan. As you are pushing them away, the roles begin to reverse. Instead of you selling them on why they should work with you, they start selling you on why they don’t want to leave. In other words, they become the salesperson and you become the client. Now your client is doing all the work and selling himself.

Instead of talking the way a salesperson talks to a prospect, you are now talking one person to the other. The old roles, along with all the negative thoughts and feelings about them, have melted away. Ultimately, the sale closes itself.

See also: Psychology of selling, Pt. 1: The first 8 minutes


The takeaway can be one of the most enjoyable and effective non-sales-focused selling tools you will ever use. In part two of this series, I will give you specific words and examples that you will be able to implement into your very next sales call.
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