Record Results within Six Months
In 1989 the vice president of marketing for Challenge Systems, Inc. called Doug Carter to ask him for a favor. The favor was to train four of the company’s 17 sales people. Since Challenge Systems, Inc. already paid Doug a monthly retainer, it was a fair request.
Doug met with three of the sales people in the sales manager’s office two days later. He was given number 14, number 15, and number 17 in order of production. Number 16 had refused to attend; these people didn’t want to be there; they didn’t want Doug’s help; they didn’t think he knew enough about their business to even understand what they were facing on a day-to-day basis.
The first idea they were given was a single sheet of paper with 12 questions on it called the “Stairstep Questions.” Everyone looked at the questions in silence. Finally, one of the more experienced sales people looked up and threw his copy across the desk. He said, “Look, I’m sure you’re a nice guy. And, I’m sure you really believe in what you’re doing. But, I sell a $5000 product over the phone and I’m sure not going to ask my prospects any hokey questions like the ones you have here.”
Doug’s response was to simply comment that he understood what Jim had said and that he was taking these questions out of context—that until he had really experienced them, Jim would never really understand how they might work. So Doug suggested that he “walk” Jim through the experience of answering the questions. Jim agreed.
Needless to say, they didn’t have rapport when the conversation started. At first, Jim gave short, terse answers. He was a salesman. He’d been selling all his life. He started selling newspapers when he was just a kid. The area he most wanted help with was closing. He knew he needed closing skills because he wasn’t getting sales from people who he thought he should be closing.
When Doug asked Jim, “When was the last time something like this happened?” the conversation turned. Jim quietly said, “Yesterday.” He started to describe what it was like to be on the fourth call with someone who knew she needed the product but wouldn’t commit. At that moment, Jim became emotionally involved.
Doug had Jim describe the future if Jim didn’t develop the closing skills he needed. Then, he had Jim describe the future if Jim really could make the change he wanted to make. At the end of a five-minute conversation, Jim was in tears describing how if he had enough money he would begin helping people without homes to build simple modular houses using a model he had already constructed. He now had the motivation and understanding of how to alter his personal sales effectiveness.
That’s the difference between a discussion and an experience. A discussion is just words and opinions, justifications and validations. An experience is real life. The rest of the session lasted less than 30 minutes. Thirty days later these three sales people were number five, number four, and number one. Jim altered the “Stairstep Questions” to fit his personal style. His sales went up 426% in less than 90 days.