Fundamentals are Never Obsolete

Digital Marketing is No Exception!

It is with the greatest amount of professional salesmanship conviction imaginable that I share these thoughts. I apologize in advance to those who are of the mindset that they will be able to ignore or short cut this painful yet profitable reality: fundamentals are never obsolete.

Saving time, a true necessity, is a mother of invention. In the digital realm, the “auto responder” is the mother of all time savers. We want computers and technology to do as much as possible and that is all well and good, but we must use technology to help set us up to be successful and not fool ourselves into thinking that it can accomplish the goal without us. It may be able to set the ball up on the old proverbial tee, but we must take a swing and hit it.

The more we travel into the “new normal” where Internet marketing is a foundation and not an ancillary marketing tool, the more we realize how applying age old sales techniques and wisdom makes internet marketing perform at its highest level. It’s still all about relationship selling; it’s just that social networking and the ‘net have become the playground where these relationships are discovered and nurtured.

What does this mean to a sales professional operating in the luxury market or, shall I say, piano selling world? It means that to be a top performer, you must strike a balance between old, time- proven practices and the new world opportunities of today. The tool you drag out of the tool box may be different than in years past, but it still has the same intention: to build a relationship.

Why? Because people buy pianos from people. Because buyers must first see, touch, feel, hear and in essence experience an instrument to make a good purchasing decision. All the texting, live chatting, e-mailing, social media interactions, and searches in the world are in an effort to find a comfortable place they can trust, the place they want to find where their needs will be best served. Or, should I say, that right person they can trust to aid them in their important choice? A choice that they know instinctively is a life changer.

This would be the perfect time to mention that a month ago, I replenished my notable library of sales books and manuals with the granddaddy of them all by Zig Ziglar, Selling 101! I realize it sounds contrived, but it is the gospel. I hadn’t read it in years (first copyright was 1991), so I decided to re-read it. It is so full of common sense advice and anecdotes that there was no way to go through it and not come out replenished.

It’s also short and to the point, only 89 pages. Over the years, many, many sales publications have espoused a better way to do this or that, but in reality, there are no substitutes for the tried and true fundamentals of selling. I repeat – Fundamentals are never obsolete.

The Five Step Sales Process is a fundamentally sound approach, digitally or in person. Let’s review this specific technique (which will never become obsolete) in the context of digital activity. For the sake of being systematic and disciplined, let’s review the steps to this method chronologically, as they are intended to be executed.

First off, I am a proponent of a five step sales process which is steeped in a history of success at all levels of the business world. Every step is a necessary one and they should be done in order to optimize your closing ratio. Short-cutting or rearranging has proven to be suicide to the closing ratio and, therefore, the success of a sales pro. I’ve heard the old sales adage/acronym ABC, Always Be Closing, and frankly I hate it as much as when I hear the old worn out “bells and whistles” reference.

Like a great piece of music, story or a movie, timing is important. Pre-closing questions must be friendly and diplomatic.

The days of pressure being efficient are long gone. The goal here is to lead the prospect to the conclusion you want them to make by asking the right questions at the right times. Closing is overrated and not so damn hard if you set things up properly.

So here we go:

Step 1 Credibility – You must be proud of the product you sell. You must be proud of the company you represent. These things are contagious. More importantly than how you feel is to get your prospect to agree. Convince your prospect that you are correct to be honored to sell what and for whom.

You must believe and portray that yours is an honorable profession. Your first step is to establish credibility in the mind of your prospect. Until you establish the fact in their mind that they are looking at a great product line from a great representative and company, you should not go to the next step.

They must have this first fundamental cornerstone laid before they can get comfortable psychologically with a specific instrument. They must first like where they are and who you are before they will want to let down their guard and show you how much they like anything you show them.

Step 2 Build Rapport – 80% of your success comes here and it is with the greatest amount of commitment that you should promise yourself never to rush this part of the process. Nothing you say will mean much to the person you are communicating with unless you can get them to like you. People buy from people they like. This is the most important fundamental in the business of selling.

As it has been said before, “Nobody Cares What You Know Until They Know That you Care.” The greatest piano sales people I’ve ever observed were charming with a sincere way about them. They were highly likable and, the further the prospects got into the sales experience, the less they felt like they were being sold. They felt advised by a trusted source.

Step 3 Identify Needs – Question Based Selling at its finest needs to be invoked here. You must do thorough fact finding before you waste your time and theirs recommending the improper product.

Remember to LISTEN more than you speak and ask questions that lead you to a clear understanding of their needs. People don’t buy things, they buy what things do for them. This is where you decide what 2-3 purchase options you will present them with.

Step 4 Recommendations and Presentations – If you’ve done the first three thoroughly, by the time you get to this step, you know the best type of product to present to your new friend(s) and the ballpark budget because you’ve asked good questions. This is the step most current piano sales people leap frog to before they establish credibility and rapport. The thing most current sales people do best is give great demonstrations. They excel at explaining how things work and why.

Heed my advise: don’t forget the benefits and fall into the trap of impressing them with more knowledge than they need. If you find yourself waxing technical for moments on end, you may be impressing yourself more than them. It’s critical to give them all the information they need to make a good decision, but don’t turn your presentation into an unnecessary seminar.

They may not want to be a specialist about the way the manufacturer assembles the approximate 10,000 parts that make up a piano. Sure, if it is an analytical type, you will be obligated, but once more – if you leap frog over steps one and two you may conduct your dog and pony show for someone who may not like you or where they are. That is a dead end street, my friend. The sizzle would be the benefits, the steak the pieces and parts. Sell the sizzle to the overwhelming majority and the steak to the analytical types, as long as you force some dessert on them.

Step 5 Closing – This is the most overrated step in the sales process and the one way too many books have been written about. I will not venture into the many closes but to say that a simple statement such as “Mr. Jones, which of these two instruments do you believe this would be the best choice for you?” will often suffice if the first four steps are spot on.
There are some valuable micro-methods to get from one step to the next which I won’t go into at this time because this isn’t meant to be a training manual. This is just a refresher in the value of fundamentals and an encouragement to incorporate them with the fun, new digital prospecting tools.

Here is an example of an exchange which fails because it was conducted out of sequence:

Tommy receives a lead which provides him a name, e-mail address, phone number and some comments which lets him know that Mary Jones is in the market for a Baby Grand piano under $20,000.

Tommy calls and leaves a message because Mary did not answer for whatever reason. The voicemail Tommy leaves encourages Mary to check her e-mail.

Scenario #1:

Mary, this is Tommy from Prestige Pianos. I’m sorry I missed you, but since I did, please check your e-mail at your next opportunity. I will leave you some information in response to your inquiry about Baby Grand pianos. Thank you so much. My number is 804-739-4444. If I can answer any questions for you, feel free to call. Once more, this is Tommy from Prestige Pianos and I look forward to hearing from you. 804-739-4444.

Here’s the voicemail review, the good, the bad and the ugly:

The good — It is friendly. It leaves the phone numbers and invites a call back.

The bad — why would Mary call back? All she has to do is check her e-mail for whatever information he is referring to in his message. Joey has not asked a question to elicit a response and begin the relationship building process. Disseminating information is not selling. It is telling.

The ugly – do not resort to e-mails until you know the phone is not an option. E-mails are great but never as valuable as “live” conversations.

How should the message content have been delivered? Scenario #2:

Mary, this is Tommy from Prestige Pianos. I’m sorry I missed you. We’ve been helping people find the perfect piano for then inside their budget for over thirty years. To serve you best, I have a couple of quick questions to ask. Would you be kind enough to call me the next time you have five minutes at 804-739-4444? I promise to be brief. Thanks again. This is Tommy at 804-739-4444.
This is a non-invasive voicemail which promises a non-invasive encounter. Until you can develop dialogue with a prospect and have the opportunity to get them comfortable with you, neither of your schedules or the price points matter.

In scenario #1, Joey then sends Mary a well thought out, informative e-mail addressing her needs. It reads like this:

Thank you so much for inquiring about Baby Grand pianos. We have been helping people find the perfect piano for them for over thirty years! We have a great selection of Baby Grand pianos, some used and some new which we can sell for less than $20,000. Please let me know when would be a convenient time for you to come in and play them. My only day off is Tuesday and we are closed on Sundays so I can accommodate your schedule most anytime.

Most Sincerely at Your Service,
Tommy Shehan
Internet Sales Director, Prestige Pianos

Let’s now take a look at the e-mail content. The first good element- It is friendly Other positives- It addresses credibility and the price range in terms of a window and not a specific, it sells the opportunity NOT the piano. It gives the prospect perceived control. There is a great deal right about this correspondence.

The negatives – It is premature and out of sequence relative to the 5 step sales process. Going for the appointment without establishing some back and forth dialogue is the kiss of death 80% of the time. People need to know you care and develop a measure of trust before they commit to a face to face. Your FIRST job is to get them comfortable with your company and you. You need to take away any threat of evasiveness and make a friend. Remember: the company with the most friends, WINS!

How should it read? Well, first let’s back up and state that an e-mail in and of itself until you’ve given a prospect 48 hours to return your call is unnecessary. Your first desire in day to day prospecting is to have an opportunity to make a friend. Friends are best made through conversation where you can see the body language, the passion, the apathy, the concerns. In short, the personality and mannerisms of the person you engage. Don’t rush to an electronic outreach until you’ve placed a second call. I won’t script it, but suffice it to say, you remain non-invasive and let them know you are following up and excited about the chance to help them. You simply need to ask a couple brief questions to best be able to serve them. Keep managing the time fear and give them another 48 hours before you go to an e-mail which should read like this:

This is Tommy with Prestige Pianos. Thank you so much for inquiring about Baby Grand pianos. We have been helping people find the perfect piano for them inside their budget for over thirty years! I have a couple of quick questions to ask which would help me serve you in the best possible manner. It would only take a short five minute conversation. Please return my call at your next convenience, I promise to be brief. My number is 804-739-4444.

Most Sincerely at Your Service,
Tommy Shehan
Internet Sales Director, Prestige Pianos

P.S. I’ve left you a couple of messages, please let me know if you received them. Thanks.

Using the phone as a qualifier is a great filter. Yes, in today’s world, there will be those who avoid a live conversation at almost any cost, but they are the exception. The rule is that to qualify prospects, you will get a great feel for their true level of interest by ascertaining whether or not they are willing to speak with you. My sincere and avid advice is to stick to the 5 steps and execute the steps in order. You will achieve your highest closing ratio and profitability. This is a fundamentally sound approach.

Why do I believe in fundamentals so passionately? Because if you look anywhere in life, the simple fact is that nothing outweighs the fundamentals of life and/or communications. They are the foundation of success, good communication, and performance.

If you screw around with a recipe too much, whatever you cook won’t be what you started out to prepare. You will need to re-name it! And speaking of recipes for success, what about the fundamental human values which help shape a good child? If a parent doesn’t abide by certain fundamentals such as courtesy, unselfishness, and civility, you can’t raise a decent citizen.

Sports analogies? Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t let anyone drive the base line. Stay in your lane. See the field, etc. Coaches at all levels know the value of fundamentally sound players. You should, too, in your profession. Just look at the design of the universe and it reveals to me how important formulas and fundamental facts are.

Summary – If you want to excel at sales in today’s environment, follow this recipe: A) Prospect your brains out using intelligent digital methods. B) Follow up. C) Do what you say you will do. And D) Follow these five steps. The nuances change with the individuals and products or services, but the value of fundamentals will never fade. Why? Because no matter how high tech we get, people are and will always be relationship seeking beings. People will always buy pianos from other people. If you are fundamentally sound as a salesperson, you will be successful, If not, you better be real lucky.

Happy Selling,

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