Interactive Selling Blog
Interactive Selling is how the world’s best salespeople guide and close more sales and bigger sales—by integrating the selling process and the buying process into one. It’s a system that’s common sense, real world, and highly ethical. Stay in touch with the author of Close Like the Pros, the book about Interactive Selling, and get involved in the dialogue, right here!

A reviewer illustrates his review!
Steve Marx
Many thanks for the generous praise heaped on Close Like the Pros by the UK’s Ray Collis, a fellow B2B sales consultant, who has been recommending the book to his clients. In a recent blog entry, he called Close Like the Pros “a must read for all B2B sales professionals.” This, in spite of the fact that he didn’t like the title of our book one bit! (Ray, I largely agree with you on that—it was the compromise that emerged from a drawn-out battle with the publisher.)

I do believe Ray is the first reviewer to illustrate his review! I don’t simply mean that he offered up an image of the book cover. That’s commonplace. No, Ray (who must be a secret-graphic-design-guy like me) actually created some illustrations based on concepts in the book that struck him especially strongly.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

     

Ray and his business partner John O’Gorman have a very active and meaty blog called Accelerating Sales Growth. I’m subscribing. You may wish to as well.
© 2009 The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc. All rights reserved.

No forms, no checklists, no templates
Steve Marx on what readers of Close Like the Pros are telling him

“This book is just so real.” I can’t tell you how many times readers have told me that, using almost those very words. Most have read other books on sales—haven’t we all!—and found too many of them idealistic rather than realistic, found them filled with tactics that look good in print but don’t work so well where the shoe leather meets the carpet.

“I really liked what wasn’t in the book,” one reader told me. She went on to say there were none of the usual forms, checklists, and templates. She couldn’t find any magic lines to memorize and drop on her prospects. She was surprised—delightfully surprised—that there were no ways offered to trick or trap the prospect. Other readers admitted they had their guard up, wary about finding a lot of stuff they already know or stuff they’d already figured out for themselves… but found little of it in this book.

“You’ve described exactly how customers think and behave and decide,” said another reader. That observation gets at the essence of Close Like the Pros. Yes, it’s a book about selling, but in many ways it’s a book about buying—or buyers. There’s an old definition of selling that is simply “making buying easier for the prospect.” But that’s been misinterpreted over the years to mean you should just do everything for the prospect, lift every burden, complete every task, make everything turnkey. That doesn’t really make buying easier—but interactive selling does. When you truly understand how buyers think and behave and decide—in steps and stages and increments—that suggests a whole new way to move the sale forward. You make buying easier by making decision-making easier.

“I can do this.” I asked that reader just what he meant. For starters, he told me, “there’s nothing weird in here, nothing I’d be embarrassed doing.” More importantly, though, he said that interactive selling doesn’t require him to change everything he does… it’s not a total selling system that demands you dump your current system. He said he had added most of the practices of interactive selling to what he was already doing, and prospects were responding just as I had promised. They were participating more in the selling process and letting him participate more in the buying process.

“I’m a professional buyer and I’m giving copies of this book to the reps who call on me.” She was serious. “Working collaboratively—or interactively as you say in your book—reps can get bigger orders at better margins and I can better solutions that save me money in the long run.”

© 2008 The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Truth About Closing
Steve Marx on why closing should be a process, not an event

Salespeople often work themselves into a frenzy about The Close. The run-up to The Presentation involves revision after revision and rehearsal after rehearsal. The Day is preceded by sleepless nights and The Hour by sweaty palms. The bigger the price tag, the sweatier the palms and the more preemptive is the entire process of preparation. And, sales managers who ask about it every day for a week serve only to amplify the anxiety.

Okay, so maybe I oversold it. But you know there is a lot riding on the submission of a big proposal, and you take it darn seriously. It takes a lot of your time and attention—your bandwidth, to use the latest jargon—and you know that a big-enough mistake could deep-six the whole thing. Where might the mistake be? The price? The delivery schedule? The payment terms? The third-party supplier? The measurement or monitoring? Who knows?

You should know. You can know.

The truth about closing is that it never happens all at once. Your effort to make it happen all at once—to focus all the decisions into one document and one day—is like trying to push an elephant through the eye of a needle. You’re defying nature, asking for the impossible. It’s why the prospect almost invariably says… all together now (because all of you know what the prospect almost invariably says)… “I need some time to think about it.”

The prospect knows what you too should know. You’re not asking for A Decision; you’re asking for A Set of Decisions. Unless all you’re selling is a simple commodity, for the prospect to give an overall Yes to what you’re proposing, he has to be able to say yes to each element, each aspect of it. He has to think through all the angles, not just the pieces and parts you presented so clearly and persuasively in your formal proposal, but a lot of other issues and considerations known only to him. These little decisions are interdependent and many of them must happen in sequence in order for you to get the Yes you’re seeking. So, of course, he “needs some time to think about it.”

If you looked at closing as a process rather than an event, you’d have fewer sleepless nights and sweaty palms, and your prospect would need a lot less time to say Yes. The truth about closing is that it never happens all at once. The notion that it does is a myth that probably developed because we put all the pieces and parts into a single document called a proposal. But the world’s best salespeople know that the proposal document should not be a collection of decisions to be made, but rather a summary of decisions already made!

The world’s best salespeople have relocated the proposal from the middle of the sales process to the end. Rather than gather up all the decisions to be made at once—as if that were even possible!—sales pros work shoulder-to-shoulder with their prospect in building the plan. Important decisions begin life as half-baked ideas or trial balloons, and they occur at natural points in the discussion. They take the mystery and the risk out of the process—for their client and themselves. They turn The Close from a looming giant mountain into a series of no-sweat molehills. They sell interactively, and often get their Yes before ordinary salespeople get their Maybe. For them, selling interactively often happens fast, with frequent conversations and collaborations, some in-person, some by phone, some through email. By the time it’s all on paper, the prospect has already vetted, problem-solved, and approved everything.

Your sales life can be like this, too—when you decide to sell interactively. It's all explained in Close Like the Pros. Download Chapter One for free right here!

© 2007 The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc. All rights reserved.

Are You a Bulldozer, a Gofer, or a Partner?
Steve Marx on Three Sales Relationship Types

Most B2B salespeople are either bulldozers or gofers. I’m not talking about style. So when I say bulldozer, don’t be thinking of some guy who’s obnoxiously aggressive, in-your-face, never taking no for an answer. Yes, some are like that, but more are not. I’ve known plenty of sales bulldozers who are immensely charming and lots of fun to be with. And they would be shocked and disappointed to learn that their approach puts them solidly into the bulldozer category. Worse yet, they’d be really unnerved to learn how much business they leave on the table because of their bulldozer ways.

Similarly, not all gofers are meek, or shy, or fawning. Gofers I’ve known include many who are the life of the party, or are stars on the company softball team, or are relentless in ensuring that their clients get near-perfect service. These gofers would be no more pleased to learn the sales relationship category they fall into than would the ’dozers. And they too leave a lot of money on the table, a lot of client relationships not fully developed, not maximized.

As you might be expecting, there’s a third sales relationship type. It’s called the partner. The pros who close the biggest deals… the people who create business relationships that endure the longest… nearly all of them are partners. These three sales relationship types are a totally new way of thinking about and categorizing sales relationships and approaches. Again, it’s not a matter of style. The difference here are in the salesperson’s fundamental approach to the sales process and the business relationship.

Would you like to know what group you fall into? I’ll tell you—for free! That’s right, while I’d love for you to buy my new book, Close Like the Pros, you don’t have to buy it just to learn if you’re a bulldozer, a gofer, or a partner. I’ve put a Self-Assessment Survey online, and I’m offering it free of charge to any and all. Click here to take the Survey now. Most people complete it in 3 to 5 minutes. And our speedy servers crunch the numbers and send the results back to you in 3 to 5 seconds, Web traffic permitting. It’s fun, it’s educational, and it’s probably going to make you want to read the book!

After you complete the Survey, feel free to pass it along to friends, team members, and business colleagues. We’ve made that easy, too.

A Sales Book You Won’t Feel You Have to Hide from Your Clients
Steve Marx on Selling with Ethics

Unethical salespeople drive me up the wall. I cut them no slack, just because they’re a fellow salesperson.

There are so many ways to be unethical. By what you say… and what you conveniently forget to say. By what you do… and what you conveniently forget to do. By misrepresenting the problems your product can solve or the tasks it can handle. By making banner headlines out of the good news, and hiding the bad news in the mouse-type disclosure or disclaimer you hope they never read. By leading the prospect to believe that your staff has the capability to deliver a service, and waiting until the ink is dry to even bother figuring whether they do. The list goes on and on.

There’s another way in which millions of salespeople are unethical, but it’s rarely spoken of. I believe it’s unethical to put a prospect through a sales process without letting them know what’s going on, without disclosing just what you’re doing. If you’ve ever been on the butt-end of that sort of sales approach, I’ll bet you felt taken advantage of—and what better definition of “unethical” is there?

What’s scary is how common, how pervasive, such selling approaches are. It’s not just the proverbial used car salesmen and time-share resort-condo salespeople. Leaf through a few sales books on the shelf at your local bookstore. Would you proudly present a copy of any of them to your clients and prospects and say, “This is how I do business”? Probably not, because mixed in with a lot of good advice you’ll find too much that’s manipulative, shady, or downright unethical. Even one or two pages in a 200-page book would be enough for you to hide that book from your prospects.

You would be embarrassed to have a prospect see the way customers are described, and how those selling systems encourage their disciples to trick or trap the prospect into the sale. Worse yet, if a prospect read about those tactics, he’d be in on the joke and easily able to neutralize every gambit, outwit every ploy.

Close Like the Pros is different. This may be the first sales book you don’t have to hide… not from your prospects, not from your family, not from your pastor. There’s nothing between the covers here that any client or prospect shouldn’t see—you might even want to buy them a copy! Sales pros don’t abuse their clients, so there’s nothing abusive in Close Like the Pros.

That’s one reason why Marty Schaffel, CEO of Audio-Visual Innovations, Inc., told me,

“I only wish that all the salespeople who call on me used Interactive Selling as described in this outstanding book! They and we would be doing a lot more business.”

The First Book on Sales that Doesn’t Go from Soup to Nuts
Steve Marx on Why He Left Out the Soup and the Nuts

Unlike most other books on the sales shelf, Close Like the Pros does not present a total sales solution. Between its covers you won’t find an answer to every question you’ve ever had. This book is not an A-to-Z comprehensive selling system with forms, checklists, and templates. (Just one of many things to smile about, by the way!) The problem with those books is that they’re telling you all kinds of stuff you already know, stuff you figured out for yourself or stuff you picked up in seminars and books. Worse yet, those soup-to-nuts books are asking you to dump everything you’re doing now, everything that’s brought you the success you’re having today.

You don’t need another book like that. Which is why I didn’t write another book like that. You don’t have to trash most of what you’re doing today in order to adopt the strategy of Interactive Selling—you can simply stir it into the successful systems and practices you’ve got going now.

My company, The Center for Sales Strategy, has been perfecting, teaching, implementing, practicing, and consulting on sophisticated and comprehensive needs-based and solution-oriented selling systems since 1983. But I’ve written this book for all of you who already understand why and how you should focus on customer needs and let those needs provide the focus, power, and direction for your sale—those of you who have mastered the basics, but still want to grow, those of you who see the super-pros create powerfully strong client relationships and who want to deliver the kind of numbers they do.

If that’s not you, then don’t purchase Close Like the Pros quite yet! First, pick up any of the hundreds of books out there that delve deeply into assessing and responding to customer needs. The shelves are filled with them. But if you’ve got those basics down, then you’re ready for Close Like the Pros. This book moves beyond the basics, takes you to the next level, and focuses only on how to make your sales process interactive.

Interactive Selling means making the buying process as important as the selling process. It means the salesperson is taking responsibility for the buying as well as the selling, and yes, is giving responsibility to the prospect for the selling process in addition to the buying. Interactive Selling is the full sharing of control, decision-making, and accountability between seller and buyer. As the pros know, magic happens when you work that way! The prospect helps improve the proposal in ways that would otherwise have been unimaginable. And at the same time, the proposal—technically, the proposal-development process—helps improve the prospect, in other words creates a prospect who is more likely to say Yes.

As Jim Zimmerman, CEO of Media General Broadcast Group, says, “This stuff just flat works.” To read more endorsements for Close Like the Pros, click here.

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