In the last post, we raised two questions that emerge from the closing scene of the film, Wolf of Wall Street. In it, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is introduced to a small group as the world’s greatest sales trainer. He approaches a front-and-center attendee, pulls a pen from his pocket, and demands, “Sell me this pen.” With little hesitation the pen-holder launches into the Features-Advantages & Benefits (FAB) of the pen. DiCaprio shakes his head in disapproval, takes the pen away, and hands it to another front row participant. We get the same result: a FAB pitch, disapproval by DiCaprio who then hands the pen to someone else.
Question One – Why did the Wolf of Wall Street disapprove of Features – Advantages & Benefits responses to Sell Me This Pen?
Answer – Research by Rackham and others shows that all forms of persuasion, including selling, focus on the other party and begin with good questions. We want to emphasize that there is research that supports this position. This is not some guy’s opinion whether he is the Wolf of Wall Street, or even the real life Best Sales Trainers responding here.
If you want to persuade, whether it is negotiating or selling, plan and ask excellent questions.
Question Two – What is a good response to Sell Me This Pen?
While Rackham and others provide the science, there is also an art to asking good questions. It should flow like a dialogue and not feel like an interrogation. Each good question needs to be followed by empathic listening. If not, it is a wasted exercise.
While planning good questions is imperative, that process serves as a guide and is never used as a rigid script. The course of the dialogue is shaped by the responses and can never be fully anticipated. At the end of a good sales conversation, the prospect or client should feel like the interview was totally focused on them and never like a sales guy pushing a product.
PfP Consulting partner, Harry Koolen, writes, “I’ve never been a big fan of “leading with the product” in any sales conversation, but especially in cold prospecting situations. So I would advise against starting the discovery with questions about pens or pen usage. Perhaps a good lead-in could be to get the prospect talking about their personal organization habits. Have they gone digital in everything they do, or are some of their habits and routines still grounded in pre-smart phone / pre-tablet ways of doing things?”
Once the opening conversation becomes more specific, here are some questions to consider:
When was the last time you used a pen?
Is that representative?
When was the last time you used a pen in the presence of others? (unnecessary if previously answered)
Tell me more about the kind of work you do.
Are you looking to climb a career ladder? Is there a position you aspire to in a few years?
Have you ever heard the expression, “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”?
What have you noticed about how people dress in the positions to which you aspire?
Have you noticed anything about the accessories successful people use or wear like watches or pens?
Have you ever watched or seen photos of an important ceremony like signing a bill into the law?
Ever notice the commemorative pens they hand out?
Are you familiar with Malcolm Gladwell? One of his best-selling books is Blink. Its main premise is that we make decisions on two planes. One is the deliberative and rational. The second is known as the adaptive unconscious where we form opinions in the blink of an eye.
Have you ever had the experience Gladwell writes about where you formed an opinion based on a product or person’s package?
Now, depending on the dialogue that evolves above, a transition is made to the pitch. Here, Harry suggests drawing upon the means-ends principle. The pen is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end.
There is a reason presidents, governors and the like don’t sign bills into law with throw-away pens. The blink of the eye message they want to send is that this is important and so is the person signing it.
They also dress for the occasion. You never see a government leader doing an important signing wearing jeans or business casual. Nor, do you see them using cheap pens.
Our research on this pen shows that the blink of the eye associations it elicits are exactly those you are seeking.
Further, of all the accessories that go into the brand you desire, it is the most reasonable. Consider the three digit investment for this pen compared to the thousands required for an upscale watch often hidden by a sleeve.
Would you like to use this pen by signing here making it an important accessory to the brand you desire?