Why Sales Love Yes (And You Should, Too!)

Relationship Building Sales

All of us have been approached at least once on the street by a volunteer from an NGO or some other organization trying to grab our attention. Often, the volunteers are collecting money to do some good for the environment, animals or refugees.  All powerful messages that deserve our attention.

The other day I was shopping at my local grocery store and stopped by a volunteer from an NGO. Now, I cannot recall the name of the NGO, but I do remember the volunteer did a good job pitching the mission “to protect the rainforests in Africa” and why I should donate an amount of my choice every month to the NGO. I liked the mission, but I ended up not donating in that moment. This made me think, was this interaction a fail? How could the NGO have benefited from the 5 minutes the volunteer invested in building awareness for the mission, and the 5 minutes I invested as a customer in getting to know the NGO.

Lesson 1: Never leave without a next step

The first thing I have learned in my sales career is to never leave the client without a next step. If you have invested in educating or informing a client you have the opportunity to demand something in return. In the case of the NGO, the volunteer spent 5 minutes pitching, and received nothing in turn from me.

What she should have done when she realized that I was unwilling to donate, was to change her objective. She should have made my commitment smaller. At the end of the pitch I had invested 5 minutes of my own time, so I was obviously interested in the topic, and she would most likely get me to give her something that was of less valuable to me.

What I recommend is that she should have asked for my e-mail and contact info allowing the NGO to target me through a different channel. Marketers agree that exposure to a message consecutive times builds awareness and drives sales. If the NGO had taken my e-mail address they could have kept the communication lines open and potentially I would have been ready to donate when they had established a stronger relationship with me.

Lesson 2: Plan Your ‘YES’ Approach

To elaborate on the “Yes” approach, let me give you an example of another business that does face to face sales extremely well. You have probably fallen victim to their clever selling ways at the mall. They are selling hand cream and different beauty products. Typically, you will be approached by a salesperson asking for just 2 minutes of your time. A request that 1 out of 10 will agree to. She will take your hand and ask if it is okay that she applies some hand cream. You will feel obliged to say YES. She will then take you through a 3 step process of beauty treatment and for each step she will seek your confirmation: Can you see how well it works? No matter whether you see the result or not, you will out of courtesy answer “YES”. What she is doing is known as the “Three YESes”. A sales technique that implies that you will be more likely to say YES after having said yes 3 times. When the question come: Do you want to buy a set of products? You will feel very tempted to say YES. Furthermore, her sales technique builds an instant relationship. She is holding your hand, she is applying cream, and she is caring for you. The physical touch creates a natural level of trust, that will make you more likely to buy.

To conclude, never think of selling as a one-time transaction. Think of selling as a relationship you are building. Showcase your personable side, after all, people buy from other people. Approach the customer with a proposition, gauge their interest levels, and then plan your approach to convert them. Remember, at the end of the transaction, you should be in a position to demand something in return, however small or big it might be.

Key lessons learned from doing this exercise?

In July I started a new chapter of my life. I quit my job in Norway and moved to Singapore to pursue my MBA with the Nanyang Technological University.

The MBA is an intensive 1 year program spread over three trimesters. I’m being taught by world class faculty and I am learning from a class of rich diversity, with 16 different nationalities, from different functions and industry backgrounds. Every week is packed with modules leaving no room for much else but school.

We started the program with a 6 week course about leadership and how to lead people globally. For every lesson we have been debating real life cases on leadership from around the world, and the course have been truly rewarding. As part of my final assessment I was asked to write a report about my own personal development as a leader and to reflect over the lessons learned in class, applying some of the tools and methods we had been experimenting with.

The final question of the assessment was to identify the lessons learned from doing that particular exercise. With this entry, I would like to share my answer with you.

Questions answer as part of the assessment:

  • Identify your personal profile and key developmental experiences thus far in your life.
  • What were the key lessons you drew from the readings that were personally meaningful to you. How do you integrate the lessons from the readings?
  • What are your personal and career goals?
  • Leadership Philosophy: How would you describe your perspective on what leaders should do?
  • What are your key leadership strengths? What do these strengths deliver for you? Are there any downsides with these?
  • What are the key leadership development needs that you have identified for yourself? Why are these the key needs?

What were the key lessons you learned from doing this exercise?

At first when approaching an exercise like this, it is a little hard to figure out where to start. It would be logical to start with the first question and work your way through the paper, however, you quickly realize that meaningful thoughts and moments of clarity, doesn’t necessarily fit into the chronological order of the assessment. Personally I jumped straight to the goals section, believing that it would be easy and get me started. However, it became very clear to me that I wasn’t confident in stating a set of goals that I would pursue for the next years to come. Realizing that really sat my mind sparkling, because it forced me to reflect over my own personal experiences from my childhood till today.

In the classroom we have worked with a number of tools to identify ones personality type. The classroom experience has been great, however, when asked to put the lessons in writing, you are forced to reflect on your own results. As John Dewey said it “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” And that was exactly the feeling I had after completing this assessment. I forced myself to reflect over the topics and tools covered in class and I had this feeling of actually learning. I wasn’t learning quantum mechanics. I was simply getting to know myself better.

Reaching the final parts of the paper, I started to see this pattern of the lessons learned lining up on this invisible dotted line. Suddenly it appeared obvious that I could relate the leadership lessons learned at LEGO, to my own personal development growth. I could connect Argyris; Teaching Smart People How to learn, with the theory of Liz Wiseman on Rookie Smarts. And this would support my results from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. With other words. What previously appeared to be individual lessons, now seemed to come together as one.

I would like to thank Professor Patrick Gibbons, visiting faculty of the Nanyang Business School, for an inspiring 6 weeks on strategic management and leadership. It has been an enriching experience that has allowed for self-reflection and self-development.