Grant Leboff: Nicola, one of the things you talk about in the book, which I don't think I've ever read in a sales book before, is you talk about 'Scooby ears'. Which I think people watching this will be quite confused. So can you just explain to us what 'Scooby ears' are?
Nicola Cook: You must have seen the cartoon Scooby Doo. You're the same age as me, so it's, yeah, you, if you were a child of that, that era you'll remember. The premise of the story was always the same. You always had Shaggy being dragged off into the cupboard by the ghost / slash / evil caretaker, and it was always Scooby doo that sussed the plot first. And he used to do this famous like Scooby grunt to where his ears would go 'Arrruph' like this [indicates her ears stacking up] and he would be trying to tell everybody what's going on.
And I use that to describe in a sales context, having these Scooby ears wired so that you're listening and you're watching out for all those buying signals. So you suss the plot when you've worked out who's the ghost or whatever...
Anyway, in a business context, how can you spot those buying signals? And there's a few things you can watch out for. The first one is, when people really start to ask detailed questions. The more detailed the questioning, the more that they're trying to understand what the value is and how that equates to them. So just welcome those questions and one of the questions that often comes up is about price and people start to worry if people say also, how much is it?
That's a fantastic question to get! Because what they're doing is they're trying to understand what's the value and how much is it going to cost me to get to gain that value, and is it worth me giving up whatever it is that I've got? So you can say your price with pride, because you've delivered the proposition, you've told them the benefit that they're going to get.
The other thing to watch out for that I really love is when they start to ask about next steps. So they say things like, so what would happen if... or if we went ahead, would you be able to do it like this? Again, they're starting to think beyond the point of close. They're starting to think about what actually happens if we do go ahead with this and they are just clarifying that.
The final one is that they start to use language as if they've already purchased. So it's like... so when we do this, or when I'm out on Saturday night wearing my new shirt, or when I've told this person that we're going to do this project or whatever it might be... Again, they've thought beyond the point of close and emotionally they've already made the decision. So all you need to do at that point that is give them the opportunity to clarify that and move into what I call the legal step - the next steps of closing. So those buying signals are body language; if you're face to face with somebody, you'll see them matching and mirroring your body language. They'll be leaning in, often the conversation might revert away from business and into something very personal, they'll want to know a bit more about you... So Grant, have you travelled her far, or how long have you lived in this part of the country... they're looking for similarities between you and them, because they trust you now.
On a business perspective, they'll start to ask more leading questions, more detailed questions, and they'll start to use language beyond the point of close, as if they've already made the purchase. Those are all really good positive buying signals. If you get a stony face and you get no questions and you're doing all the talking, that's the opposite. They've not bought into it and if that happens, then you need to really start back-pedaling and start working on building rapport and reopening them with more qualification questions. Whatever it is that you've said, it's not hit the right hot button for them - if you get the 'stone wall' response.
Grant Leboff: So as a sales person, you get a buying signal. How do you deal with that and how do you know where they are in that process? Because someone can ask about price, but actually they're not quite ready to purchase yet. So how do you start to see where they are in that buying process to make sure you aren't going to try and get into a full close before they're ready? How do you start to ascertain that?
Nicola Cook: Well the first thing is just relax. Okay. Because especially if you're a young more inexperienced salesperson, you start to see these buying signals and it's like the cartoon - we were talking about, you see the £ sign starts go around in the head - because you thinking: I'm going to get them, I'm going to get them, I'm going to get them... and they'll pick up on that energy straight away. So the first thing is, you need to take a deep breath and you need to just relax and let them think through the process.
Hopefully you've already qualified that budget and I always, in my qualification, distinguish between budget and cash flow, because those are two very different things. Sometimes people can have the budget, not the cash, or they can have the cash, not the budget. So whatever price it is that you stated you should be on a par. If your price is over what they've given you as a budget, then you can sit back and perhaps wait for a mini objection to come along because they might think I really want it, but it's a little bit more than what I wanted to pay, or if it's within budget then hopefully there won't be any objection.
And whatever it is I've said, when I'm particularly when I'm stating prices, I'll state price and be quiet and be calm and be still. And if it's on the telephone as well, I used to literally put my hand over my mouth when I was younger and let them be the next person to speak. And whatever it is that they say next, you can then respond. Because they're either going to give you a perfect answer and say, okay then. Or they're going to hesitate and if they hesitate at that point, then you would start your objection handling process, which normally starts with a question. If they don't give you an answer, that's a straightforward; okay, that's great, how do we move this forward or an answer like that, which is essentially they've led you into the close. If they start to hesitate than I would normally start to say; is that what you were expecting me to say? Or, how do you feel about that? And start to redefine it a little bit more.
Grant Leboff: So really, once you've got that buying signal, you're asking one more qualification question and you're then using that answer to know whether you can go into close or you or somewhere else in the process?
Nicola Cook: Yes, exactly. And there's more than one way to close as well. So there's a lot of test closing that you can use as you're going through observing buying signals. Test closing is really just asking for an opinion. So anyway in which you ask a question to ask for an opinion, you know; so.. um, how does that sound is that what you were hoping I was going to say? Or have you got any more questions? If you were going to move ahead, what do you feel will be the right next steps? All of those are just easy.
Ask, share your opinion, share your opinion, share your opinion, which allows you to keep reading those buying signals... until you're absolutely certain. You should only ever lead somebody into a close when you are a hundred percent confident that you're going to get a positive outcome. If you not, stay in that zone and keep building the rapport.