Note from Rusty – Introducing Mark Shalinsky – Rant from a proven closer. I asked Mark one question about how he consistently crushed quota and got this super useful answer.  It was kinda like drinking from the fire hose. Sometimes you just gotta shut up and listen, dawg. Edited for clarity.

Enter Mark Shalinsky…

Last week at Marketo Summit in Vegas, I bumped into an old colleague who runs his own sales team now. Nice!

Over drinks I got to talking to one of my buddy’s more junior sales reps, and she asked me point blank,” What is the single most important lesson you can teach me about sales.”

I said, “Listen.” 

Then an awkward silence rained down. Reps hate that, but they know it’s true.

She comes back, “Look, I know listening is great and, I do that, but what is next? Whenever I ask veterans like you what the second most important lesson in sales I get all sorts of answers”.

In my scientific mind there are two starting characteristics of people who make a career in sales; the qualitative salesperson and the quantitative salesperson.

The qualitative salesperson is the one who walks into the room and instantly begin connecting with clients. They commands the room, break the ice, are affable beyond belief, and people just love them.

People LOVE them, really really LOVE them.

By stark contrast, there is the quantitative salesperson.

By the books, by the numbers, by sales quotas, an unsympathetic process is driven. All the boxes are checked at one stage before they move to the next.

All sales are based on relationships, so the quantitative salesperson builds relationships on credibility and accountability. It takes time, but once that train is moving, nobody is getting off.

One of my Judo Sensei’s told me I have no natural affinity with people. Between that and being a trained scientist (PhD in neurophysiology), you can guess what persona I started out in sales with.

Yep, quantitative.

We all start with the persona in our nature and, if you make it early in sales, it helps you succeed.

Later, you learn how to become the other persona. So my hypothesis is, the truly successful sales person is an even balance between quantitative and qualitative.

Mark’s Sales System

So here’s my “closing a sale process” that’s been refined over the past 11 or so years.

Listen  > Question > Listen  > Repeat > Price > Paint  > Confirm > Close

The listening is the easy part, and you’ve heard it a million times. Listen to the pain, the problems, and the goals.

Only through attentive listening can you understand how you will define a solution.

Questioning is the only way you get you can get the prospect to tell you all the pains and problems they have. Even when the prospect seems adamant in their desires, you need to ask them a question.

When a prospect asks, “Does this shirt come in pink?” You need to understand why they are asking the question.

Never assume they question something out of motive, sometimes they don’t even know why they asked the question. Your role as a salesperson is to determine WHY they are asking specific questions.

The proper answer to the question, “Does this shirt come in pink?”, is, “would you like this shirt in pink?”

When they answer your question to their question, then you can go back to listening.

Listen  > Question > Listen  > Repeat > Price > Paint  > Confirm > Close

When working on closing a sale, repeating is critical. Prospects inherently don’t trust sales people because sales people are incentivized by sales quotas and commission. Commission only comes from converting prospects to customers. So, they have biases and preconceived ideas about what sales is trying “pull over” on them.

A prospect will never trust you if the prospect doesn’t believe you understand their problem.

The only way you can start building that trust is by connecting with clients and repeating the pain. It isn’t that hard. My go-to line is, “Ok, so you said that the problem is A, B, C and you were thinking about solving it X,Y, Z ways. Is that a correct statement?”

If the answer does not come back as an emphatic YES, go back to listening and questioning.

Again, process driven sales means never moving forward unless 100% of the boxes have been checked in the previous step.

So when the answer finally comes back as a resounding, “Hallelujah, he gets it!” we move to the next step.

Thoughts on Pricing

Pricing is usually the sticky point for sales reps.

Everyone believes that the main reason people don’t buy is due to price. That is not true. Price is only one reason you will lose a deal. The other two? Time and information. More on that topic at another time.

I bring up the price here for several reasons. First and foremost, if they are price conscious and have limited means and budget, I want them (colorful metaphor) off my pipeline. I don’t have time to deal with miserly buyers that will never see the value of my offering.

The second very important reason is that I plant the pricing seed at the point where I’ve started to build the most trust. I have gone through the exercise of fully understanding their pains and problems and got them to agree that I understand what they are going through. They are starting to see me as being part of the solution team, their team.

I don’t give them a hard figure, it is squishy, and I let them know as much, granted I’ll likely bake in some fat if I think they want to haggle.

I leave the price with the caveat, another go to statement, “I’ve demonstrated that I understand your issues, correct?” Pause for a positive response, continue, “my promise to you is that if you agree that my solution will help you, I will work with my team to ensure that we can get this deal to work so from here on out, this is not a waste of time for either of us.”

Boom.

I’ve anchored my price.

I’ve solidified my stance that I’m on their side yet again.

I’ve rounded second and the ball still high in the air and moving fast towards the wall.

Now I’m ready to go into sales mode.

What the heck is painting?

Paint the picture. You know don’t paint seagulls in their picture.

You need to be able to define how your solutions will work, why it will work, and what it will take to work. Break it down into easy to understand pieces. Once you’ve had a chance to paint the picture, the prospect needs to acknowledge that your solution will indeed help them.

Confirming that your solution will work for them is the only way you can get the prospect’s acknowledgment.

Again this is another point where once I’ve completed painting the picture I have my go-to line,” Providing that I can do everything that I say I can do would you be happy with this solution?”

And again, if the answer does not come back as an emphatic YES, inquire where there are gaps in the image, repaint, and go for confirmation again.

Remember, there is no point in moving on until he answer comes back as a resounding, “that is exactly what I’m looking for.”

At this point, there is one thing left to do.

Closing is complicated, closing is hard. Closing requires paperwork.
The power of selling by a process is that by the time you get to closing the deal, you have built credibility, trust, and importantly, assuaged liability concerns.

Taken together, the presumptive close is very much a reality.

About Mark Shalinsky

Following an academic career, Mark moved into business development and has been the critical early sales hire at start-ups that have grown to become global brands in scientific publishing and IT security. Currently, Mark leverages academic skills and sales experiences in the tech sector identifying market sweet spots and cultivating sales reps into power-players, closing bigger deals faster. Read more of Mark's articles here and follow him on Twitter.