Are you afraid of rejection?
No doubt — we all are!
Nearly every social fear we have seems to be tied, in some way, to the fear of rejection. Fear of speaking? Don’t want to be rejected. Fear of dating? Don’t want to be rejected. Fear of networking? Don’t want to be rejected. Fear of selling yourself, your services, or your products? It’s all about rejection. I could go on…
That is, in essence, what we’re going to talk about today.
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Here’s today’s question…
Could you speak about the importance of addressing your prospects’ state of mind when you establish initial contact with them?
So for example, I market and try to close high-ticket items in select retail outlets — this requires cold approaching the public in real-time. I know my product lineup can solve their floor care problems, but what about the problem I created the moment I cold approached them?
A personal story, to start my answer…
I don’t talk about it often, but I have very similar experience. In college, I worked for our local newspaper. Not as a writer, or in advertising. But in the subscription development department. In other words, telemarketing.
But at the time I was working there, we decided to launch a new program.
We made arrangements with local stores. We got to set up in the stores (or sometimes in front of them), and sell subscriptions to the paper.
It was an effective way to sell subscriptions — and good for commissions. And for a while, I was working seven-days-a-week selling subscriptions around town.
We had a shtick. We’d have a stack of the day’s newspaper, sitting on top of our cardboard kiosk, that we brought ourselves. We’d hold one in our hand, and to each passerby, we’d offer…
One of three things would happen.
The first was immediate rejection. They’d give us some variation of “no,” and simply walk on by.
The second, they may not take the paper, but they’d engage us in a conversation. This was pretty rare, but occasionally we got to be the “face” of the newspaper, and help with subscription issues, and so on. This would rarely turn into a sale.
Every so often though, someone would take the paper. At which point we’d press the conversation. “Are you currently getting the paper delivered?” “Which days of the week do you prefer to read, when you do?” “We’re running a special…” And so on.
It was rudimentary. It was rough. But the newspaper, even still then in the early 2000s, had enough of a required reading reputation that we sold subscriptions pretty consistently with this method.
It was often painful. I’d sometimes stand in front of Walmart for three hours on a hot afternoon, offering free papers to hundreds of people who had very little interest in talking to me.
I tell this story not because it provides a particularly superior model, but rather to share the reason why this question hits me in a soft spot, and to suggest why I’ve thought about similar situations quite often.
So let’s dive in.
I can tell from the tone of the question that our friendly correspondent, F, is probably well-aware of the need for this.
In-person, cold-approach selling is a numbers game. That doesn’t mean you can’t get better numbers — and you should strive for them. However, the vast majority of people that you interrupt with a sales pitch will not be interested.
So you have to learn to protect your mental wellbeing against rejection.
Because you’ll have a lot of it.
First, remember they’re NOT rejecting you. They’re usually rejecting the interruption, because they’re busy and thinking about something else and may not have been in a good mood before you were even a blip on their radar and a million other reasons.
Second, you can remember that in a numbers game, every NO is another one down on the way to a YES. This can be helpful. If you know 9 of 10 people will reject you out-of-hand on even starting a conversation, you can simply consider every NO a step closer to the next conversation. It’s a silly little mind game, but it can be helpful.
Third, use rejection as a learning opportunity to get better. Test different things. Track your results. Consider it a scientific endeavor where you’re looking for the best possible opening. Use rejection as a tool that you lean on to help you learn what will reduce rejection.
Okay, enough generics and general sales platitudes (as much as I believe in them)…
The best thing you can do is to lead with value…
Why did we give away free copies of our newspaper when we sold the paper?
In short, because we believed it was a relevant piece of value that would be appreciated by our target audience. If you already got the newspaper at home, you’d reject the free gift because you already had the day’s paper. If you didn’t want to read the paper, you’d reject it as well.
But every person who accepted the free newspaper had at least a passing interest in the newspaper that had not been fulfilled on that day.
Your goal then in opening a conversation is to find a nonthreatening way to deliver genuine value to people who are your best prospects.
Lead with that.
Start the conversation there.
Get them interested, engaged, and talking.
Then and only then do you start to dive into what you’re selling.
Giving value by giving a relevant gift…
This is the most obvious and overt, and our free newspaper gift is a good example. As are the million-and-one examples of “free reports” given online.
Since you’re talking about cleaning floors, let’s lean on a known example in a kissing-cousin industry, carpet cleaning.
World-famous marketer Joe Polish got his start in marketing his own carpet cleaning business. After doing what everyone else did and failing, he decided to go a different direction. Rather than trying to hawk his services, he offered anyone who wanted it a Free Consumer’s Guide to Carpet Cleaning.
This guide helped his prospects make a decision about getting their carpets cleaned. Like, it legitimately helped — it wasn’t just a veiled sales pitch. It helped them understand options in carpet cleaning technology, and what they’d get with DIY options, as well as carpet cleaning services. It explained the need to get your carpets cleaned, and the dangers of not doing so. It revealed slimy practices of some in the industry, and how to avoid getting ripped off.
And, importantly, it made an offer. In this case, for a Carpet Audit, with a free room of carpet cleaning.
It delivered over-the-top value to people who were in the market for cleaner carpets — and did so in a way that it delivered the value FIRST, and then had a process for turning those people into customers.
So, I don’t have a clear answer. But my question back would be…
“What value could you deliver in the form of information that would be incredibly enticing to the best prospects for your service?”
I’m not necessarily telling you to print and hand out brochures, because I’m sure you need to close some sales on-the-spot and that would likely just give many good prospects an opportunity to leave (but you shouldn’t underestimate its power, when done right, to bring buyers back as well).
Rather, consider how you can help them make a good decision about floor care whether or not they purchase from you.
And then figure out what first question is most effective for getting people interested in talking to you about floor care.
And don’t hesitate to think outside of the box…
“Do you host parties at your house?” Curiosity piqued.
“When people come over, do they admire your floors? I mean, you know they pay attention, but do they complement you on the clean and finish of your floors?” Benefit communicated.
“Can I share with you three tips of what you can do before your next party to make your beautiful floors a point of conversation for your guests, and pride for you?” Conversation started.
Give them a couple things they can do WITHOUT you, and then include the pitch for your product as one of the big ways that they can have the best floors.
So, that’s one way. Here’s another.
Giving value by letting them be heard…
Most of us spend most of our lives just wishing others would hear us and pay attention.
Appealing to THAT is much more subtle than the above. But if you can do it, it’s an incredibly powerful strategy.
This is the foundation of Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method. And although that’s based on how to apply this principle online, you can absolutely do it in person.
The big idea is that you want to start your conversations “in disguise” — as a market researcher.
And here’s an important point: don’t just fake this. You should legitimately listen to their opinions, and care about them.
If nothing else, care about their opinions for selfish reasons. Because even if that person doesn’t buy, if you’re asking the right questions you’ll end up getting answers that help you speak to why other people will buy your product. They’ll be giving you talking points for future sales conversations.
The big question you need to get in is this: “What’s your single-biggest challenge with taking care of your floors?” You can add a little flourish to it and also say, “If I could wave a magic wand today and make one headache of taking care of your floors go away forever, what would that be?”
But you won’t necessarily start there.
Instead, you need to start softer.
“Hi, can you spare two minutes to help with some research on homeowners and floor care today?” This establishes the topic, aims at a target audience, and gets permission for a short conversation.
Then ask qualifying questions. You probably want to know if they’re a homeowner. As well as the general size of their home. And if it has the kind of floors your product helps. So ask those questions.
Ask how often they do floor care. Ask what their biggest reasons are, when they do it.
Then drop the big one from above — what’s their single-biggest challenge?
Note: you should make it clear before this point that there is no obligation to buy anything, and they don’t even have to listen to your sales pitch. And yet, if you’ve had a good conversation at this point and they’ve been enjoying speaking to you, you have an in.
You can once again state that there is no obligation, but that based on what they’re telling you, you may be able to help them tackle that challenge (assuming it’s true). And then get permission at this point to tell them about the relevant product or service.
The question asked above was about how not to get rejected, because you create the problem of interruption.
The answer I gave is really about one thing. Making an offer of perceived value that is greater than what they were on their way to.
You won’t get everyone. You’ll still get rejected by most. But with the right offer, your target prospects will say, “This is for me!” And you’ll start that conversation.
It will be precisely because you are NOT creating a problem. Rather, you are creating value through your interruptive presence in their life.
This is the foundation of my Value-First Funnel Strategy. And its principles are just as relevant in in-person selling as they are in marketing.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,