In selling, there are times when a minimalist approach is needed.
Minimalism is a term used in art to describe the bare essence of a subject. To express something in minimalist form, the artist eliminates all non-essential elements. The idea behind this art form is that the maximum impact can be gained by using the fewest and simplest elements. Art, architecture, music and literature have all experienced movements and standout contributors who embraced minimalism.
Some of the best sellers are also minimalists.
As a field coach, I see a lot of mistakes made when a seller goes too far, adds too much or takes on more than they can reasonably handle. In these seven ways, I prescribe a less-is-more approach.
1) Less in more when it comes to how many leads you’re pursuing.
This is about quality over quantity. Sellers who carry large lead lists often struggle to adequately advance their leads because they are unable to focus on the best ones and unable to spend time nurturing the best leads.
When I observe sellers with limited leads lists (often the case for the newest seller on the team), there is a marked difference in the activity related to each lead. Sellers with smaller lists take the time to research the prospect company, to network in an effort to find an “in” to the lead, and to think strategically about how to position value. By contrast, sellers with extensive leads lists over-rely on “smile and dial” tactics where each call is generic and sometimes even robotic.
This is also true for sellers who work in a tightly defined category of business or small geographic area vs. those who call on seemingly unlimited varieties of prospects. Sellers who expect to be remembered consider their own brand – and their company’s brand – when they make contact. They exhibit a professionalism and respect for their prospects. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with sellers who can quickly move on to the next… and the next… and the next prospect.
2) Less is more when it comes to the number of product features you describe to the buyer.
Fueled by adrenaline and exuberance, sellers often succumb to the temptation to pile on in their sales presentations. This approach bores buyers and causes prospects to feel like the pitch is more important than they are.
No matter how incredible the features of your product are, there is no buyer that wants to hear all of them. The strongest sales presentations are the ones that narrowly focus on one or two features that are highly relevant and compelling to the unique, individual prospect.
Focusing on just a few features requires more work than the downloading-as-many-as-possible-as-fast-as-possible approach used by many sellers. The reason for this is that a seller who selects and presents just a few relevant and compelling features must still know all the features. On top of that, the seller who is selective doesn’t choose randomly. Instead, this seller gets to know about the prospect before presenting features. The ones presented are the ones that are most meaningful to the prospect and knowing what’s meaningful requires insights and time for needs assessment. That is time well-invested in terms of the return it will yield.
3) Less is more when it comes to how much stuff you send or leave with the buyer.
When a seller knows what is most meaningful to a buyer, there’s no need to leave behind a mountain of brochures and flyers about additional options. E-mails to that buyer shouldn’t be packed with links and testimonials about additional services or unrelated products.
When this happens, it begins to un-sell the prospect or to leave a bad aftertaste about the experience. Maybe you’ve been in a situation like this as a buyer where the seller continues selling beyond the point where you would have made a purchase. The seller had a strong start, offering a solution that was closely related to your needs… But then the seller over-reached. Or maybe you’ve been a buyer who later regretted a purchase as the seller continued pitching and e-mailing irrelevant offers after you’d purchased.
Knowing your buyer and understanding your buyer’s needs will help you to avoid becoming a nuisance.
4) Less is more when it comes to the number of options you include in a proposal.
A fascinating book by Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice describes why and how we react negatively when faced with too many options. Your buyers are no different. They don’t want to wade through a wide array of options. They want YOU to do the work of narrowing down what those options will be, based on their needs and your knowledge of how your solutions can meet their needs.
Your proposals should not necessarily have an A, B and C option. That formula is appropriate when you don’t know the needs or the budget well enough to truly tailor the best solution. Otherwise, the more you know the more pinpointed and on-target your solution should be for this particular buyer.
You may also wish to consider keeping options in your “back pocket.” Rather than laying them all out at once, offer the one that truly meets the buyer’s needs. Then respond with your backups only if there are new needs or new budget considerations that emerge. As you add to or take away from the original proposal, be sure the buyer knows which needs are or are not being met with every change.
This simplifies the buying process, demonstrates your genuine interest in and understanding of the buyer, and keeps value at the forefront of your discussion. When you start by offering every possible option in every possible combination it is impossible to highlight value that is relevant, unique and compelling.
5) Less is more when it comes to how you respond to a sales objection.
Take a deep breath. Before you respond to an objection, sort out your thoughts and slow down. Defensiveness is not an appropriate response. Information dumping won’t help either.
Start by considering exactly what the buyer has said. It may be much smaller than what you heard – in fact, objections are often throwaway statements that buyers make because it’s what they are supposed to do in a selling transaction.
Next, make sure you are dealing with the real and only objection. Do this before you respond to the objection so you aren’t wasting time or “hot air” on a throwaway or smokescreen objection. When you’ve gotten to the real objection, respond only with information that is relevant. Two criteria make it relevant: It is directly related to the objection and/or it repositions what the buyer values back at the forefront.
6) Less is more when it comes to how many unknowns there are in a negotiation.
Knowledge is power. More knowledge about the other party is better. Fewer unknowns is what you need going into the negotiation. What do you need to know? For starters, before the negotiation begins, you should know:
- What does the other party value about your products and services?
- What is the other party’s best alternative if they can’t strike a deal with you?
- What is the priority for the other party at this time?
- What matters most to you and your company in this negotiation?
- What is your best alternative if you can’t strike this deal?
- What are you willing to do without in order to get this deal?
- How urgent is this deal and what is the deadline for moving forward?
If you would like to learn more about the fundamentals of negotiating, check out our 4-part webinar series.
7) Less is more when it comes to closing a sale.
Stop talking. Once you’ve established value and asked for the sale, stop talking. Be comfortable with the silence as the buyer is contemplating what you’ve offered. Don’t backpedal. Don’t change the offer. Don’t offer to give them time to think it over. Don’t say anything!
In field coaching, I see buyers get confused when sellers don’t stop talking. Their confusion causes them to say “no.” Their feedback after the “no” or “not now” is that they began to feel like the seller was desperate and lacked confidence. This eroded the buyer’s confidence to the point that they no longer felt good about a purchase they were this close to making.
If you’ve done the work to offer a solution that meets the buyer’s needs, invalidated their objections by bringing the conversation back to value, and asked for the sale, you are done. Give the buyer a chance to buy instead of relapsing into sales mode.
These seven ways of being a minimalist with help you maximize sales.
About the Author: Deb Calvert has worked as a Corporate Director in a Fortune 500 company and as a consultant, coach and trainer to nearly 400 businesses of all sizes. She helps leaders, managers and sellers become more effective in their roles. Deb is a certified executive coach, and one of 2015's Top 50 Sales Influencers. Her bestselling book, DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected®, is based on field research with buyers and what they want from sales professionals.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published September 2015 and has been recently updated.