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Sales Part 3 - Exactly what to do in the sales conversation
This is part 3 of the sales training. If you haven't already, start with part 1 here; discussing the mindset you need to be successful in selling PT.
In this training we're looking at exactly what to do when you have someone sat in front of you, or on the end of the phone, for a sales call.
The 'under the surface' - make or break - selling factor
Before getting in to the meat of what to say, you must understand that what you say is irrelevant if you do not say it in the right way.
Before worrying about what is being said, you need to understand the key to being a good salesperson - frame.
If you want a really in-depth breakdown of frame and selling, read 'Pitch Anything' by Oren Klaff.
I'll break down the key points here and relate it in a way that is relevant for PT's:
In any interaction, no two people are ever on perfectly level footing. One person wants or needs the other person more. 'Holding the frame' means you control the power in the interaction. This is something that almost all PT's (and average salespeople in general) fail to do. They let the customer dictate what is happening and are always chasing the sale - coming across as needy.
You must present yourself as the prize. The client should feel lucky to be able to work with you. Not like you are desperate for their money and coming across with a hard sell.
This starts before you even meet and it was covered in part 2, although I didn't tell you at the time. When you offer a couple of times, instead of asking when they want to meet and making yourself available, you are in control. You are important and value your time.
By meeting outside of the gym, you are showing that you are serious about what you do. That you are expensive and deliver a high-level service.
These things might seem trivial, but you must realize that sales is not a logical presentation of value. It is 100% happening subconsciously. When people have rejected you in the past, it more than likely wasn't because they actually don't have time or the money - it's because it doesn't feel right in their gut. They don't know why, so they justify it with excuses.
By the way, calling them out on these excuses is useless because they don't know the real reason. As far as they are concerned, that is their justification and it is true.
The entire qualification process is you framing yourself as the prize, making them jump through some hoops and invest their time, energy, thoughts and emotions in to you. The more investment you put in to an interaction, the more you are playing in to the other person's frame.
Ever been arrested? I have. Let me tell you what it's like. First of all, the police are very stern in their presentation. They stand tall, shoulders back. They talk loudly, clearly, slowly and sternly. They give you very direct and specific instructions on what to do. You do not have a choice in the matter. You do as you are told. This is a frame control master class.
Now your sales conversations shouldn't be as combative as getting arrested is, obviously. But that is a great example of frame.
How this actually happens in the conversation is:
You are leading the interaction, asking the questions and moving the conversation in the direction that YOU want it to go.
They do 80% of the talking and all of the investing in the conversation. You mostly listen and probe for more details.
They are qualifying to you. Why you should help them. Not you qualify to them why they should hire you.
You set the terms, price, etc.
They feel safe with you. They can open up to you, because there is a high level of trust and respect.
That last point by the way, will carry right on throughout your entire relationship. If you control the frame during the initial meeting, I guarantee that person will be a better client.
If they haggle your price down because they sense you are desperate and needy, they will lose respect for you as a professional and be less likely to follow your advice. Good selling is actually an integral part of being a good trainer.
A quick note on types of questions
Throughout this entire journey you should be arcing upwards. Meaning it starts off very gentle with simple, non-invasive conversation that you would comfortably have with a man at the bus stop. By the end, it has flipped and the client might well be crying (I'm serious - this happens sometimes).
Closed to Open Questions At each stage of the conversation the questions that you ask will progress from closed questions with limited and simple answers, to open questions with unlimited flexibility in how it is answered. Examples will follow for each stage.
Surface to Deep Questions Questions will begin quite surface level and usually be a 'what?' question (what is your goal?). Throughout each stage of the conversation, they will get deeper, usually a why question (why do you want to achieve [their goal]?).
Digging Deeper People will rarely ever open up to you the first time you ask. You will have been in the situation where you ask someone what they want to achieve and they say something to the effect of, "you know, just tone up a bit..." - which we know means absolutely nothing.
You have to keep pressing for deeper answers until you get to the real, raw feeling. Realize that the client is not being awkward here, they will simply have never thought about it before. People are generally not very self-aware and don't ask themselves tough questions. They feel a general dissatisfaction that they attribute to a certain cause, but never really know what they are feeling until someone skilled asks them in the right way. This is why this process can be so valuable for the long term success of the client, and why they can get emotional - they will literally have breakthroughs right there and then, that have sometimes been bubbling under the surface for years!
The basic tool for digging deeper is simply saying "ok, tell me more about that..." or other such nudges until they get down to the real things that are driving them.
Mirroring At all points of the conversation you should be repeating back to them things that they have said to you. This shows that you are genuinely listening and that you care. It builds connection because you are speaking their language. They know that you understand them. "Ok Jane, so you said you're 2 stone overweight, but could you tell me how is that affecting you?"
Relevancy At various points throughout the conversation, you will guide the conversation to be relevant to the offer you are going to make them at the end. They won't realize at the time that everything that you are saying is going to be relevant later on.
For example if you're asking them about goals, and you offer 4 month packages - you ask them their 4 month goal. Then when you later present your 4 month package they have already thought about their outcomes in that time frame. It feels congruent - it feels right.
Delivery and Tonality How you deliver what you say is just as important as what you are actually saying. At each stage of the conversation in the training below, you will find a video where we explore the delivery. This includes tonality, cadence, pauses and anything else encompassing how you say it.
Sales conversation structure
We spoke about the overview of how a call progresses in part 2. This is the journey that you go on together. From strangers, to happy business relationship. It looks like this: Rapport You are getting to know each other and building trust.
Where are you now? Finding out about the current situation, the pain the client is in that makes them want to change.
Where do you want to be? Finding out what the client wants to achieve and why.
What is stopping them? This is what they need you to provide them, to help them achieve their goals.
Close Pretty self-explanatory, wrapping up the conversation and coming to the agreement to work together.
So let's break down what each of these mean and what to actually say at each point of the interaction.
Important What follows is an example. An outline of how things will progress. Please apply context, the correct question will depend entirely on what they said previously. This is part science and part art. With experience, you will get a feel for the flow of conversation and how to keep it on track.
At times you will need to jump around a little, skip questions, revisit things; based on what they are telling you. This isn't a script - it's an outline.
This is just general chit-chat and small talk, as you would normally have when you first meet anyone.
It should take about 2 minutes and be general stuff:
How are you?
How was your journey?
How was work?
That kind of thing.
The goal here is simply to build a little bit of comfort. It would be weird to jump straight in with a loaded question about how being overweight makes them feel or something similar.
You have to build them up by just getting them talking.
Where are you now?
The first thing we need to do is understand the situation that the client is in now. The pain they are in and why they want to change it. It is essential for the client that you dig deep in to their suffering and allow them to admit how it is affecting them. You are NOT serving your client by letting them bury their head in the sand and pretend like the situation is not too bad. If it really wasn't a big deal, they wouldn't be talking to you in the first place!
Questions to ask:
"So tell me about your body/weight/fitness right now..."
"Ok, specifically, how overweight are you?"
"Tell me how that is affecting you..?"
"How do you feel about this?"
"Tell me more about that"
"Ok, what else...?"
"I see, could you tell me a little more about that...?"
"Is there anything else that is getting you down right now about your body/weight/fitness?"
"What will it mean to you when we change this?"
The final questions transitions in to the next part, which is where they want to be (their goals).
You must fully flesh out all of their pain in the initial part of the conversation. If they are not opening up to you, keep circling around by asking similar questions in slightly different ways. Don't let them off the hook with a half-assed answer - this is not helping them!
If they're really not willing to open up, ask them directly:
"Look Jane, I assume you've booked this call because your weight/fitness/body is a problem for you right now. If you're not willing to look inside and fully understand your own situation, I cannot help you. Is there anything that you need from me to help you feel comfortable being honest, both with me and with yourself?"
...This is a last resort and should happen very rarely, but they will open up at this point. If they don't, they are not going to become a client so you can politely say you don't think you're going to be able to help and end the call.
Where do you want to be?
After transitioning from the current pain to the future desire you need to fully explore where they want to be. To future pace them through a visualization that feels real and attainable for them.
People are naturally more reactive to pain than pleasure. It's much easier to describe a problem than it is to imagine a solution - the goal here is to get them to describe where they want to be with the same vigor and realness as they described their pain.
Again, this is not just selling - it is an integral part of their journey. They need a strong and clear vision of where they are going and what that means for them. This will be the inspiration that motivates them to do what is required to achieve it. Without a vision, they will go nowhere fast.
"Ok, so you told me that changing this situation will mean [X,Y,Z] for you. So tell me, where do you want to be?"
"Cool, so specifically, what will your weight/bodyfat/etc. ideally be in [length of your package]?"
"Cool, so is that a minimum goal or a stretch?"
"Tell me about a dream goal. If I had a magic wand and waved it, everything went perfectly and you could achieve your dream outcome in [length of your package] - what would that look like?"
"Tell me more about that?"
"What about a minimum goal? What's the absolute least that you will be satisfied with?"
"Ok, and how will you feel if you don't achieve this mimimum?"
"Have you felt like that before?"
"Cool. So when you achieve this, what will be different for you?"
"How will you feel (after achieving goal)?"
"How's this going to impact the rest of your life? Your work, social life, relationships, etc."
"Tell me more about that"
"How would that feel..."
"What other benefits do you think you'll get from doing this?"
"Tell me more about that (them)..?"
"That's great. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to do this?"
You're looking for a high number. If they say a low number, they either don't care and will not become clients, or are not recognising how important this is for them (or not telling you honestly). We will revisit this later.
What you want is to get people being descriptive. Telling you how things will feel and what it means for them. This is what speaks to them on a deep level. The external - the amount of weight loss - is abstract. Feeling an emotion is something everyone understands and responds to.
The next transition is in to the action part. What needs to happen for them to go from their pain, to their desire. This is where you start relating what they want to what you do.
What is stopping you?
Now this is where the real selling action happens. Where you start to relate their struggles, pain, dreams and desires to your service and how you can help.
There's two main parts to this section:
What stops you?
What do you need to overcome this?
Note that this is all about their perception. It doesn't matter if you think they need to do something or not. If they don't think they do, this is not the time to try and change their mind. Conflict is not selling. Proving them wrong is not selling. Undermining their feelings or beliefs is definitely not selling.
Everything in this section is framed as a collaborative effort. Use 'we' language. Using these questions, you will quickly get them selling to themselves. They will describe exactly the offer you need to make them and convince themselves that they need to buy it.
"Ok, so I'll be honest. I'm not the cheapest option. We need to know if we're a fit for each other before we progress. So you're currently [where they are now key points] and you want to be [where they want to be key points]. So lets bridge that gap together. What do you think is stopping you - or has stopped you in the past - from achieving this?"
"Tell me more about that...?"
"Ok, what else is stopping or has stopped you?"
"Tell me more about that..?"
"Is that absolutely everything that has stood in your way before?"
"Ok great, it's really important that we fully explore every eventuality here to create the plan for you that will allow you to achieve [their goal]. Is there anything you predict could cause problems in the future?"
"Tell me more about that..?"
"Ok, great. So to go from [where they are now] to [where they want to be], we need to overcome [X,Y,Z - what they just told you. Is that absolutely everything covered?" (Repeat the above until you have covered everything)
"Perfect. So you told me that you struggle with [X - what they just told you], what do you think needs to happen for you to overcome [problem X]?"
After they list everything, "Ok, is there anything else that will help you overcome [problem X]?"
If they don't know, ask them. "OK, imagine for a moment that you did know. What would you do first?"
"Ok. So on a scale of 1-10, How confident are you on your knowledge of [overcoming problem X]?" Push them for an answer.
If they choose a 4 or lower: "Ok, so this an area you would need some help?" They will say yes. If they choose a 5-7 : "Ok. So tell me briefly about what you do know" If they choose a 8-10: "Cool. So why did you pick [their answer] and not something lower?" They will show off how knowledgeable they are...
"Ok, so tell me what you know about [something on the subject they won't have an answer for]" Let's use nutrition as an example; "Ok, so tell me what you know about nutrition"...they tell you something. *Don't tell them it is wrong. Even if it is*. Simply say, "Ok, how has that worked for you previously?" It won't be well - otherwise they wouldn't be seeking your help. The idea here is to allow them to see they actually don't know very much about this topic without ever telling them that. Telling them is combative and they will automatically disagree. You have to let them see for themselves, by asking questions and letting them convince themselves. If they answer a basic question, ask them a tougher one, "Ok, so what do you know about insulin sensitivity at different key points throughout the day?"
When they admit they don't know you can ask the question again: "Would you still place yourself as a [whatever]/10?"...answer..."Ok, where do you think it is?"
Then move on and repeat for problem Y, Z, etc.
The key here is to show them what they don't know everything, but never to tell them. You must ask questions and let them come to their own conclusions. Remember, telling someone they are wrong is combative - they will dig their heels in and disagree - that is not selling!
The outcome of this is that they recognise they need some help and naturally see you as having all of the answers.
This section is where the 'persuasion' happens. You are breaking down their faulty beliefs and allowing them to admit to themselves where they are tripping up. This is the first stage of their transformation and even if they don't become clients, they will thank you for helping them through this.
Only when they're fully honest and informed will they approach their transformation with their eyes open. Knowing what they need to do, what they need help with and what they need to learn is the one stage that nobody ever does on their own. They start doing 'stuff' without ever planning or considering consequences, considering what they should focus on and what they don't need to worry about, etc.
Again, if they never become a client, you have left them in an infinitely better place than when they started.
Now we come to the close. The transition from conversation to client. Nothing high pressure or pushy needs to happen here. If you have to hard-sell someone, you haven't sold them very well through the rest of the conversation.
It's important that you maintain frame throughout the process. Realize that investing a lot of money and the fear of trying to get in shape and possibly failing (like before) is always going to throw up some resistance from the client. No matter how good you are, it's not really aimed at you. It is their brain trying to stay comfortable and maintain the status-quo. Changing is hard. What we're going to do here is take their objections off the table before they can level them as reason not to work with you.
Being firm is not the same as hard-selling. You absolutely have to stand firm and tell them how it is. Caving in to their demands and losing frame is not helping them. They need to see reality, not a pretty little dreamland where you cave in to them and they can quietly crawl back under a rock and pretend that this isn't such a big problem after all.
"Perfect. How important, on a scale of 1-10 is it for you to achieve this? You told me X before - is that still the case?"
Unless they say 10; "Ok, an [number] out of 10. Why did you not choose a lower number?" They will now start telling you why it is important. Let them dig and reinforce the pain and emotions they identified earlier.
"Cool. So would you still say it is an [what they chose] out of 10?" They should move themselves up the scale. Repeat this until they get themselves to a 9 or 10. If they never get there, and you have asked in the right way - they simply do not need your help. It is not a big enough problem for them. That's fine, you can't help people who don't want to be helped.
If they never get themselves to a high number, say "Ok, it seems like fixing [their pain] and [achieving their desire] is not a high priority for you. We're probably not a fit for each other. You'll be better off doing it on your own or working with someone cheaper." Two things can happen here: they agree and thank you for being honest and not seeing them as a walking bank note; or they start qualifying themselves to you, begging you to help them. If the latter happens say, "Ok, if you need some help, I need you to be honest with me about how important this is and what it means for you..."
Once they have given you a 9 or 10 say; "ok, is this something you need some help with?" ('need' and 'some help'; not 'want' or 'my help'). They will say yes.
"Ok cool. So what are the options available that you are considering?" Let them tell you about different options, they might not have any, they might just say you're the only person they've considered. They might talk about Weight Watchers or joining the gym.
"What do you know about me/what I do?" - let them tell you. Don't jump in and give your pitch, just let them talk. They will sell themselves on you if you let them. If they say they don't know much, revisit it later.
"Ok, that's great. I will explain a bit more about what I do in a moment. Listen, I think we would work well together and I can help you to achieve this. Assuming it makes sense for both of us, is this something that you would like my help on?"
"Cool, so before I tell you about my packages, what do you need to know if we are to move forwards on this?" You are asking for their buying criteria and they will tell you exactly what to say to close them. Price will often be mentioned here.
"Great, is there anything else you would need to know?" Make sure they tell you everything that they want to know.
"Ok, I will answer all of those in just a moment. If we agree on this, do we have an agreement to move forwards, or is there anything else to consider?" You want them to tell you that they agree to work with you, as long as you satisfy their questions.
Congratulations, you have just taken all of their objections off the table.
Now, for the first time in the entire conversation, is when you get to your pitch. It should be totally tailored based on what they've told you throughout the conversation.
Regardless of what you normally do, or intend to do when they become a client, you *must* tell them that you are going to help them overcome the things they have identified as what stops them.
This is what they care about.
You must also answer all of their buying criteria.
Ask for the sale
"Ask" is a misnomer. You're not asking them, you're inviting them to work with you. Remember that you are the prize and they must meet your qualification criteria.
You are going to make them an offer and you are going to be willing to walk away if they don't like it. You will not chase them, discount them or get in to a negotiation.
You do NOT end the conversation on price. Get it out of the way as an off-hand remark *before* you are asking for the sale.
"Ok [Name}, based on everything that we have spoken about today, I think we are a fit for each other and would work well together. Do you agree?" They will say yes (they should be desperately qualifying themselves to you at this point).
"For you to achieve [their goal] in [their timeframe] you will need [your appropriate package]. Shall I tell you about the [package]?"
"Ok, so the investment is [$$$] and the package contains [whatever they've told you they need to achieve their goals]." Then answer all of their buying criteria. When you've covered all of their criteria, go silent and wait for them to respond.
One of two things will happen. Either they say ok lets do it, or they have an objection. You should have already covered every objection they have earlier in the conversation and you told them it was expensive up front. The only objection they will really say is price, because their brain won't let them contradict what they said earlier.
If they say price ask them:
"Ok [Name] I understand. Let me ask you, if you had the money available right now, would you commit?" - If they say no, then there is a problem (that isn't money) that wasn't covered earlier. If they say yes, offer a payment plan.
If they say no, circle back and ask them "Ok [Name], can I ask what are your concerns?" Sometimes they just lack confidence in themselves or simply need a little re-assurance. Honestly, this shouldn't happen very often. You can circle around and ask them what they need a hand overcoming, but remember you are the prize.
You cannot chase them or be desperate. If they don't want to overcome their objection and work with you, let them go. It isn't going to happen.
Taking payment/offering payment plan
I strongly recommend you have means of taking payment there and then. The single most frustrating thing that can happen is you reach an agreement, they are keen, but they go away and then disappear.
Realize that every fiber of their brain is telling them not to go through with it. They have self-doubt. It's easier to stay as is. Nobody likes laying out a significant sum of money. It is not reflective of your value, it is simply human nature.
Take a least a deposit in this conversation. You should have this number in mind for what is the minimum you need to ensure commitment.
If they need a payment plan say:
"Ok [Name]. If we were to work out a payment plan that works for both of us, are you ready to make this commitment?" - make sure you get an answer. If they say maybe you need to make them say yes or no. If they say yes, it's just about working out the terms. If they say no, the problem lies elsewhere.
"What do you think would be a fair deposit to get started?" Let them tell you. They'll probably say they don't know. So make them an offer. If they give an answer and it is too low, explain that you need X to ensure their commitment.
If they don't say yes, you need to make them take it or leave it. "I'm afraid X is the lowest I can go to ensure your commitment. I'll have to ask you for a yes or a no?" Be quiet until they answer. Push them to answer one way or the other. No maybe's or thinking about it's allowed (that always ends up being a no). If they don't come to a yes, you'll have to thank them and wrap the conversation up.
Now for actually taking payment. I strongly suggest you have means of taking payment right there. If you're in person you can have it set up on your iPad and if you're on the phone you can use a service like Stripe to bill their credit card right there. Do not neglect to do this. You will regret it when it inevitably bites you in the ass.
If you're in person you might want to set up a Paypal or some sort of direct debit payment. On the phone you will need to take credit card. Assuming you are taking credit card payment:
"Ok, what's the long number on the front of your credit card?"
Take the rest of the their details and put the payment through. You didn't ask if they had a credit card, never give them chance to say no. Always assume they are moving forwards.
After taking payment, I would always take a bit of time to tell them what happens next. When to expect to receive things, how to get going, etc. Re-assure them they've made a good decision and part ways.
I put together a PDF cheat-sheet that you can print out and have in front of you with all of the questions on.
Remember that it is a guide, not a script, and you need to adapt it to fit the situation as it presents itself.
If you're a personal trainer who needs to find the best systems for managing clients, online training, taking payments and marketing, then this free guide is for you. We've organised all of the business systems in to DIY, semi automated and done for you sections so you can make the best decisions based on your spare time and budget.