Of all the things I have done in my entrepreneurial career, selling has been the one constant. Ever since my first job out of college I had to sell to make a salary. And then, when I started my first business, I had to sell to survive. Even after I wrote a book, it was nothing without a huge selling effort. I’ve been a lifelong fan and student of great selling techniques.
My favorite technique used to be the 1-to-10 close. This is where you ask your customer, “On a scale of 1-to-10, where do you stand on deciding to proceed with us?” And when they answer you say, “What do I need to do to make it a 10.” It worked occasionally, despite the fact it is exactly what I should NOT be doing.
Here’s why—people resist suggestions. If you’re a smoker and I say “You need to stop smoking, it’s bad for you,” you’ll say, “Yeah, I know.” Then you’ll light up a smoke and blow it in my face. We automatically do the opposite of what people suggest. If you have kids, you know how true this is.
If you tell me you are a 5 on the scale, and I say I need to make you a 10, you’re naturally going to resist anything I do while trying to make you a 10. You might even drop your ranking to a 4 or 3, just to show me. And while you might not say it, you will feel the resistance and blow the proverbial smoke in my face. It didn’t work, but sales people, including me, kept doing it.
Then I stumbled across another 1-to-10 technique, which is the most effective closing method I have ever experienced. When asking people where they stand on a 1-to-10 scale with me, no matter what they say even if it’s a 3 or 4, I say something like “I didn’t expect you to pick a number so high. From our discussion and your body language I thought you were actually lower. Why do you pick a number that high?”
By suggesting a number lower than what they said, people naturally resist my remark and want to go higher. Now they argue about why the number they picked, say 5, is not that high, and they may even change their number to a 6 or 7. But no matter what, the conversation in their own head is arguing why they should go with you.
If you’re not convinced, think about how we all use this method in our lives. I mean, you can tell a kid to go mow the yard and they’ll never get off the couch, but if you tell them you’re going to go mow the yard because they’re not old enough to use the mower yet, they’ll fight you to prove you’re wrong. Play it right and you won’t be able to get them off of the mower and you’ll never mow the yard again.
Remember Tom Sawyer? He was punished and made to paint a fence all day. But, he got his friends to paint the fence for him using this same technique. His buddies were teasing and ridiculing him when they first came up and saw him painting the fence, but he didn’t care. He kept painting and said wisely and a bit snobbishly, “Not just anyone can paint a fence.” That shut them up. By the time he convinced them they weren’t capable of painting a fence, they began begging him to let them paint it. Only then did he let them while he relaxed in the shade. It’s called “reverse psychology,” by some, but whatever you call it, it works.
When you use the same technique with your customers, they will follow their natural resistance to suggestion and persuade themselves to work with you! Beautiful.