Openhanded Selling

“When you want selling to be fun and a service to others, use Openhanded Selling.”

A Different Relationship to Selling

The goal of Openhanded Selling is to help you become truly consultative with your prospects…to help them clarify their needs, process their own concerns, and act on decisions that serve them.

Why Consultative Selling Matters—the Listing Agent ExampleA Realtor called me for help in practicing for a high-end listing appointment. When she finished reciting her presentation to me, I said “That was great. But can you tell me why you decided your prospect needed that information?”

  • Realtor: “What do you mean?” she said. “That’s my listing presentation. Everyone he meets with will have one and mine has to be better.”
  • Me: “Yes,” I agreed. “But how do you know that particular information will help him make a decision?”
  • Realtor: “Well, because I have a lot of unique experience and support systems that will convince him. He’ll see I’m a better choice to list his home.”
  • Me: “How do you know that your presentation will be more convincing than your competitors?”
  • Realtor: “Uh, well, I don’t. I just have to do my best, right? Is there something else I can do?”
  • Me: “Well,” I said. “Let me ask you some questions. Has he ever sold a house before?”
  • Realtor: “Yes.”
  • Me: “Do you know what he liked and didn’t like about that experience?”
  • Realtor: “Well, no.”
  • Me: “Do you know if he’s excited about moving or worried?”
  • Realtor: “I’m not sure. His wife just died. He’s sad.”
  • Me: “Do you know if anyone is giving him advice?”
  • Realtor: “No.”
  • Me: “Do you think if you knew that information it would help you consult with him more effectively? Maybe then give a presentation that “speaks” to him at a deeper level than what your competitors will do?”

The truth is, this agent’s presentation was very good…but she was so engaged making her points that she wasn’t tuned into making the points that would be most influential…and in a highly competitive environment, the agent with the greatest power of influence, not persuasion, wins.

The master Openhanded salesperson is skilled at converting leads and fulfilling complex relationship sales, is self-confident and relaxed, and enjoys a steady, peaceful flow of business.Openhanded Selling is a form of consultative selling or soft selling. And if you’re wondering exactly how to do “consultative selling” and how it’s different from some other kind of selling, you’re not alone.

The term “consultative selling” was originally coined by Mack Hanan in his 1970 book “Consultative Selling.” Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Linda Richardson is credited with spreading the gospel of consultative selling as it pertains to discovering the pain a prospect is experiencing and advising them of a profitable solution.

“Openhanded Selling means creating the conditions for your prospects to make decisions that meet their own needs. If your product or service is the obvious choice, a sale is made.”

The term consultative selling has been co-opted by many salespeople over the years. We now have real estate consultants, MLM consultants, insurance consultants, financial advisers, and many other sales professions with the term “consultant” or its cousin “adviser” in the title. Entrepreneurs who don’t like to feel or sound like a carnival ticket hawker grab hold of the term “consultative selling” and apply their own meanings to the concept:

  • To some people selling consultatively means educating prospects or offering free help with the hope that they will buy. This is barely even selling, since the salesperson doesn’t close.
  • To others it means finding out what needs prospects have, and then persuading them that the product or service is the solution. This is more like presentation selling with a thin veneer of consulting.

Both of these interpretations miss a key point about consultative selling…that consulting means using your expertise to diagnose your prospect’s needs, design a solution that works for them, then guide them in making a decision that’s right for them. Your solution may not be the right one. Your consultation is intended to determine not only if they have a need, but what sort of solution would serve them best.

“Many salespeople are so tied up in making a persuasive presentation that they fail to ask the questions that make their presentation relevant.”

How Consulting Works

Since we’re talking about consultative selling, what can we learn from the field of consulting that helps us improve our sales results? As mentioned, too often the term “consulting” is interpreted as educating or telling our clients lots of stuff to try and convince them to work with us.

Briefly here are the basics about being a consultant: diagnosis, design, and recommendation.

Diagnosis: A consultant analyzes his client’s situation to diagnose what’s behind his problems. He doesn’t simply ask his client what’s wrong, because the issues are often hidden and complex. The consultant is an expert about knowing where to look for root causes and how to ask the right kinds of questions to surface them.

Design: The consultant is also an expert at working with his clients to develop solutions the client can integrate successfully into his idiosyncratic environment. In other words, the consultant knows that one solution does not fit all. He poses and explores ideas with his client to better understand the client’s constraints. He helps his client see from different perspectives and adopt new strategies.

Recommendation: Finally the consultant is ready to make final recommendations. By this time, he’s pretty sure what the client will accept or not, and how to position the recommendations to ensure they are implemented. He doesn’t walk up to a client and say, “You need this,” and expect the client to roll over. He makes his recommendations so that they are in exact alignment with what the client has already accepted during the consultation.

How is this like a sales consultant?

A good salesperson will diagnose, too. Like a consultant, she’ll recognize that a person’s need is not just driven by something, it’s also held in place by something.

For example, do you have any needs that you aren’t solving? Any weight issues? Any organizational, family, or financial issues? What do you think is holding those needs in place—keeping you from solving them, despite the fact that you know you need to do something?

A good sales consultant will not just identify needs, she’ll identify what’s stopping her prospects from solving their needs and she’ll help them sort out the issues and come to a place where they can make a decision to move forward. If the issues are simple, prospects will make decisions quickly.

If the issues are complex or deeply rooted, the consultant will have to be more talented in her use of questions to elicit the thoughts that will move prospects toward a decision.

“Needs are not just driven by something…they are also held in place by something.”

Hidden Background Issues Create Objections

The reason people raise objections is that either they don’t see the value in what we’re offering or they have a lot of background issues holding the issue in place. Or both.

If we’re lucky, our prospect sees the value in what we’re offering and there are no issues holding their need in place. Then the sale is easy.

But that is seldom the case. Even when a person sees tremendous value, there are often issues that prevent them from buying.
These “objections” or concerns are sometimes known to the prospect, but often are not. Take the following example:

Handling Objections—the Open House Example:

Joseph is out looking at Open Houses with his Realtor. He has his loan lined up. He’s ready to buy.

Joseph’s real estate agent finds him the perfect house. She educates him about the market, location, and value. She creates scarcity by telling him he’s going to lose the house if he doesn’t act quickly.

But Joseph drags his feet. He’s not sure. He can’t decide.

So his agent educates him more about the housing market. She shows him how quickly houses are selling in that neighborhood. She gives him all the information he needs to understand why he must act quickly or lose the house.

What the agent doesn’t know is that Joseph’s girlfriend is pushing him to buy, while his mother is telling him to slow down. He’s feeling pushed around by the women in his life. Joseph isn’t really conscious of this, but it’s making it difficult for him to be decisive.

He’s not interested in more information about the housing market. That won’t help him make a decision.

What will help Joseph make a decision? He doesn’t need more advice. He needs someone to help him process his thoughts so he can get clarity before he’ll move forward.

You can be the one to help him process these thoughts and support him in making a decision. Or you can just wait until he figures it out on his own. Or wait until someone else helps him and wins

You can significantly reduce objections by helping your prospect process background issues.

Hands off…the Hourglass Metaphor

Imagine turning over an hourglass at the beginning of a sales conversation. The sand falls through a narrow aperture into the bottom of the hourglass at a slow and steady pace. You can’t rush it, just as you can’t rush a sale.

Consider the top of the hourglass to be your customer’s thought-processing time where you help her clarify the issues and address the background noise that might be holding her needs in place. Consider the bottom of the hourglass to be your presentation area.

While the sand is in the top of the hourglass, be detached from the outcome, and don’t push her into “admitting” she needs your product. She may know she needs it…but that won’t help her make a decision to buy it.

When the sand reaches the bottom of the hourglass, she’ll be ready to hear your presentation…not until then.

How do you know when the sand has dropped and it’s time to present? You learn the signals that a person goes through when making a decision and you learn how to ask questions to lead them through the six stages of that decision process.

“Your goal is to create a vacuum for people to step into, rather than a pressure that pushes them away.”

Review of Main Points

I’ve shown you some of the possibilities available to you when you learn to use Openhanded Selling’s version of consultative sales skills. Let’s review a few of the key points:

  • In Openhanded Selling, I emphasize learning to use a funnel for leading prospects to a decision.
  • I’ve talked about addressing objections proactively, and using special language and questioning to influence how your prospects think through their decisions.
  • And I’ve talked about timing your sales conversations so that you only present when the prospect is ready for it.

The result is that Openhanded Selling is a powerful, service-oriented sales approach that feels good to both you and your prospects.
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