The 30-second no-cost sales secret
By Katherine Vessenes
Can you afford 30 seconds to build your business, improve staff morale, and (I'm going out on a limb here, but only because it's worked for me) strengthen your marriage? I'll bet you can. I call it cheerleading -- and it's not just for high school students wearing micro-mini skirts.
Here's my definition of cheerleading: It's the art of building up a person by saying something positive about him or her that is honest, sincere, and affirming.
To cheer someone is to bring about a positive state of mind in him or her, to encourage or comfort the person. Cheering makes us feel good, and one of the most powerful things we can do for people is to tell them -- and others -- what we like about them or what they are good at. Doing so always brings good consequences -- for the person we're praising, for the person we're talking to, and frequently, for ourselves, too. Read on to see how it works.
A good word changes a relationship
It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I have spent many years trying to get to the bottom of a long-standing health issue. I have seen doctors all over the country -- all to no avail. Last winter, I decided to visit a doctor in Chicago, but based on my past experiences, I wasn't very optimistic that she could help me. I was discouraged and very low on the trust scale. In short, I was feeling exactly like many of your clients are feeling when they visit you for the first time: discouraged and skeptical.
As part of her protocol, Dr. G. asked me to schedule a phone interview with her chief dietitian, Mark. During the first call with Mark, he said something like this: "You are going to love working with Dr. G. -- she's the best endocrinologist in the Midwest." I almost laughed out loud, because I knew he was cheerleading. Now, don't get me wrong. He wasn't doing it for ulterior motives. He was sincere and truly believes Dr. G. is the best physician in the area. He was happy to give me a personal testimony to support his belief.
The result? Even though I was well aware of the power of cheerleading, I instantly felt my discouragement and skepticism disappear. In fact, on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the highest level of trust, I was at a two before this conversation. One little sentence from Mark, and I found my trust level moving into the six range. Yes, Dr. G would still have to prove herself to me, but my heart and mind were much more open to taking her advice.
Mark's one sentence opened a little space in me and planted a seed of trust. Isn't that the state of mind we want all of our clients and prospects to be in? We want the trust level to be so high -- at least a seven -- that clients' and prospects' hearts and minds are ready to take in all we have to say. Getting others to cheerlead for you is a great way to start your sales process, since it lays the foundations of trust before prospects ever meet you.
How cheering works
Cheerleading is very effective, because it is exactly what it appears to be: a short, spontaneous, third-party endorsement. In 30 seconds or less, the listener's fears are dramatically reduced because someone is providing an unscripted reference and recommendation. It breaks down the fear barriers and starts building up trust.
Here are a couple of examples of how cheering works for me in everyday life.
I have the great fortune to be in business with the love of my life, my husband, Peter. Not surprisingly, cheering for him is second nature to me, and I never miss an opportunity to do so. (Of course, you can do the same for your partner, your boss, your staff, and all your business associates, even if you're not married to any one of them.)
Many people -- perhaps thousands -- have heard me say that Peter is by far the best business consultant I've ever seen. In fact, I've never seen a business he couldn't fix or make more profitable, even ones on the verge of bankruptcy. I'm sure there are a few skeptics who think I am just giving them a self-serving commercial. However, most people sense my sincerity and after my endorsement, become much more curious to hear what Peter has to say.
A typical end result: When one of our clients got on a national platform in front of thousands of financial advisors, he said, "Peter Vessenes is the best consultant in the country, hands down." Would he have said that if he had not heard me say something similar? Maybe, but it didn't hurt to have the idea planted in his mind.
In addition to telling others how wonderful Peter is, I also try to send a little personal cheerleading his way every day. I tell him that he is handsome and brilliant. I also tell him I really like the way he accomplishes things, whether it's the way he cooks catfish, handles bad traffic, or deals with a difficult client. He says he is my biggest cheerleader -- and I am his.
After 30 years of marriage, I have found that constantly affirming your spouse does wonders for your relationship. The same principal that works so well in marriage is also good for staff and clients. I try to tell our wonderful staff every day how much I appreciate what they do for us, and I never miss an opportunity to talk them up to our clients. I think they appreciate it. I know they have been willing to work in some difficult situations, and I think that's at least in part because they know how much we value them.
Do unto others
You want people to be cheering for you, but the best way to inspire words of kindness is to first dole them out liberally yourself. The best way to start is by cheerleading about your staff to your clients and prospects. Here are some sample scripts that you can adapt:
- "Suzy, you are going to love working with my assistant, Jim. Jim does not let anything fall through the cracks! In fact, all of our clients would rather talk to him than me!"
- "Suzy, you are going to enjoy working with my assistant, Jim. I was so lucky to get him -- he is great at taking care of all of our clients' service problems."
- "Suzy, let me introduce you to my assistant, Jim -- the real brains in our organization. Jim makes sure everything runs smoothly here, including all of your transactions. He has been with me for years, and I couldn't do anything without him."
Another way to get used to saying nice things is to start on the home front. Start cheerleading for your spouse to friends, new acquaintances, and even your children.
- To Bill and Jane, a couple you are meeting at the Rotary dance for the first time: "Let me introduce you to my wife, Simone. We were childhood sweethearts, and she still thrills me after all these years."
- To your son and daughter: "You are the luckiest kids in the world to have a mother like yours. She loves to put you first, spending 20 hours a week hauling you to sporting events and the orthodontist. She loves you more than you can know, and I am the luckiest guy in the world to be married to her."
- Or here is my favorite when Peter is introducing me: "Meet my beautiful wife, Katherine." That one is a bit of a stretch, but it is endearing every time I hear it.
Once you get comfortable with this and your family and staff have heard you cheerlead for them, it's time to ask them if they will cheerlead for you. Often, it will happen spontaneously, but you can always give others some ideas of what they could say. A little help will work, as long as they keep the sentiments real and you back it up with great service. Here's how we helped one firm become our cheerleader.
One of our clients was a financial planning firm that was so big there were at least four people in the marketing department and two receptionists. We taught all of them to use a script similar to this when anyone called in for an appointment:
- "You are going to love working with Katherine. She's a nationally known CFP, was on the CFP Board of Ethics, and we are thrilled to have her as a part of our team."
- Another variation: "I am so glad you are coming in to meet Katherine. She is such a great boss that I know you are going to find her to be a great advisor, too."
- Another try: "We are all glad you are coming in to meet Katherine. She is an exceptionally good planner -- in fact, one of the best in the industry. I know you are going to enjoy working with her."
I began to use cheerleading -- and training those around me to use it -- early in my career, and what a difference it has made. For instance, when I was starting out as an FA, prospects had not even heard of me. When they called the office to schedule an appointment, they were looking for someone else: the big cheese of my group. However, the staff was taught to use a cheerleading message to influence prospects to book an appointment with me rather than the big guy.
The difference those 30-second commercials made in my sales process was notable the moment prospects walked into my office. The staff did such a great job cheerleading that the prospects were actually looking forward to meeting me. They weren't cold leads anymore; they were moving from warm to hot. I found my closing ratio went through the roof, over 90 percent! Sales were much easier than they had ever been before, because the clients were ready and willing; their hearts and minds were open to the kind of help I could offer them.
Before you get started, there are a few important rules about cheerleading that must be obeyed if you want your endorsements to be effective:
- It must always be true, and from the heart. Cheerleading must be honest. Never say it unless you truly believe it.
- It is best when it is spontaneous. If your staff can't do that, have them practice until it sounds spontaneous.
- Cheerlead for others first. As in networking and referrals, you have to give before you can expect others to cheerlead for you.
- Teach your staff to cheerlead. The younger they are, the more likely they will need some help.
- Check the basics. If your staff, spouse, and best clients are not willing to cheerlead for you, you have a problem in these relationships that is more fundamental than increasing sales. Work on that first.
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