A Game Plan for Closing the Deal

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloYou walk out the door thanking the potential client for their time, and tell them that you will stop back in later in the year to review their needs. You leave upbeat and happy, but you did not get the deal.

You poured your heart and soul into the close, but you were rejected. Well, you know you weren’t actually rejected, so you remind yourself: tomorrow is another day.

The biggest fear that people experience is the fear of rejection. Many times, that is what stands in the way of your ability to ask for the sale or close the deal. Unfortunately, the sales pitch is the combined fear of losing a deal and a fear of public speaking wrapped into one intimidating experience. In order to overcome the fear, there are three things you must remember.

  1. Be mentally prepared for the closing.
  2. Remain adaptable during the close.
  3. Be sure the timing is under your control.

Mental preparation begins when you realize that you cannot close every deal. It is a numbers game. The old adage, “you win some you lose some” is very true in the sales arena. As you go forth and try to acquire new clients, you are going to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess. The only option you have is to prepare for these momentary defeats as you progress.

If you start with a firm foundation, it will build your confidence and it will lead to a higher closing rate. Your foundation is all of the information that you acquire and organize as you begin the entire sales pitch. Closing the deal is not something you can do unless all of your ducks are in a row. You have to know your product or service inside out, and you have to know all of the weaknesses that need to be addressed during the entire sales pitch. Not everyone is going to be as excited about doing business with you as you are with them. Knowing that, it is important that you understand the necessity of creating the excitement as you go through your presentation.

  • Have you given them enough evidence to support a conclusion that they cannot live without your service or product?
  • Have you addressed all the potential challenges so that your widget stands alone as a necessary component in the client’s arsenal?
  • Have you completed all of the prior necessary steps in your selling process?

Ultimately, when you stand up to close the deal, you must know that you have given them sufficient information that they can reach a conclusion in your favor before you ask them to do so. Therefore, your closing pitch or argument must be outlined to encompass all of the highlights of your presentation. The highlights are the reminders and triggers that will allow them to make a conclusion on their own. No one wants to be forced into a decision, nor does anyone want to feel that a decision was made for them. It should be your goal to feed your prospect enough information through the presentation itself so that when you highlight the information in the closing, the path is clear. When you’re making your final pitch—and you watch heads shake in acquiescence—it’s comforting to know that you’ve done your job. As a result, ever so often they will say yes even before you ask; and that is when you know you have done well. Just do not expect it every time or you will be disappointed.

Be Adaptable in your presentation. Adaptability is your ability to relate to the prospect or prospects. Being able to communicate and be understood while keeping both your integrity and objectives intact. The last thing you want to do is sound like a con man. A con man is always ready for what’s in it for them. They will talk circles and bring it back to their own needs and wants. A good closer knows how to keep the focus on the prospect and answer their wants and needs. You have to be able to identify with the prospect, and they must be able to identify with you.

  • Maintain consistency in your actions and speech so that the true you will shine through.
  • Address all of the highlights of your product or service to remind them of your effort to answer their questions.
  • Anticipate their challenges and address them truthfully and honestly with the agility of a prizefighter in the boxing ring.

Timing is everything: Make sure your prospect is ready to close before you ask. It is essential that you paid attention to the reaction of those in the room throughout your presentation. Whether it is one person or several, you must be sure that they’re comfortable with what you are selling. You must make sure they’re comfortable with you. Your ability to anticipate and address their questions will give you a feel for their comfort level and their readiness to give you a yes.

Sometimes, a trial close is the best option. For instance, you may turn the question or question or mission on them to see if they understand the importance of your product. Or, you may ask them if they see how their business will be advanced with the use of your service. Whether they hesitate or acquiesce will let you know whether you’re ready to move forward with an ask, or if it is necessary for you to provide more information before doing so.

Consider whether you have addressed all of the areas of objection in your closing.

  • Have you established trust?
  • Have you financially qualified your prospect to be sure they can afford your service?
  • Have you provided them all of the positive information they need?
  • Have you provided them a comfort level so that they’re ready to make a positive change to their business?

Get the Yes! In the end, you can only win if they win. You want to create a win-win situation. Most prospects don’t truly care whether or not you win.

As long as they trust you and believe in your product or service, they will be in a better position to determine whether or not their business can be enhanced by your request for the sale. Have you convinced them that you have their best interest at heart, that your interest is sincere,, and that you understand enough about their business that when you tell them they need you, they can’t help but say “yes?”

Lastly, are you as confident in hearing “yes” as you are in hearing a “no?” If you’re ready to walk out the door happy with either answer, you have the confidence to make the sale. Likewise, that confidence will shine through and go a long way to getting you the “yes” that you desire.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.themindshark.com.

Team Building: Find the GLUE That Binds Your Team

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloDanny checks his email and finds a message advising him that he is the new team leader for the Alpha project. The email goes on to say that “during your time at this company, we believe you have shown the skills needed for success as a leader.” He immediately hits panic mode because his dream has come true—but he’s not quite sure he is ready to lead.

He has always been successful in completing the tasks assigned and he knows his business like the back of his hand, but he does not know where to begin as the top dog. The process of leading a team is about communication and organization.

Initially, you must determine the course of action based on all that you know about your industry and the project that has been assigned to you. Then, begin by outlining a plan to complete the task with success. When you have completed your outline for the plan of attack—and you can present it with confidence—you are ready to face the team. It is confidence and preparedness that allows them to buy in to you as the team leader.

Once you have amassed and organized the knowledge you possess in your industry, leadership is about finding the glue that binds your team together.

Let’s look at the GLUE.

Gather Team Information
Listen to the Team
Unify the Team
Empower and Execute

Gather information about the team members and their backgrounds and skill sets. Sometimes that information is available within the organization. Other times you are fortunate enough to know your team members. No matter how you acquire the information, learn what you can about what the players have done on other teams or within the company at large. This background information is essential as a basis upon which you will build the infrastructure of your team. Now keep in mind: People change. Therefore, this collected information will be subject to modification and change as you watch the team come together during the life of the project. The initial information should be reviewed and analyzed as much is you analyze the project itself.

If the information you are gathering is subjective: consider the source. Depending on who provided the information, it may or may not be accurate. Ultimately, it is in the next phase—as you listen to your team members and learn—that you will begin to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team in reality.

Listen to their concerns and knowledge to determine their ability to understand and comprehend. As you do so, the several types of players will surface. Listen closely to the comments and thoughts of your team. The way they speak and address the situation at hand will give you great insight into the type of team member they will become.

As each team member speaks or reacts to your plan, you must balance their words and actions against the information that you have gathered about their backgrounds and with the plan that you wish to implement. Team members will all individually bring positive skillsets to the table. Pay attention to those who will be constructive team members and aggressive participants as well as those with initiative who will lead their portion of the project with excitement. You may find that one person is an expert in the subject matter at hand while another is an expert in organization.

As you determine the place in your machine for each of the players, you will want to make sure that you speak to the expertise of the individuals so that they feel that you are speaking directly to them. For instance, when you were speaking of technical elements, you will want to look directly to your technician. On the other hand, while you are mapping out the course of action, you may want to begin with and acknowledge that you recognize a specific individual’s organizational skills, and indicate that you trust them with keeping the task on course. If someone is questioning every action you take, give that person value by letting them know that they are beneficially keeping you on your toes. This will give that person value as your conscience.

Unify them by finding a common thread, or by creating one that they can commit to. Once you have identified the type of team members you are managing, you will want to present the project and the individual tasks in a format that speaks to the specific skillsets of the individual members.

Create unity by making it clear that they are all essential and necessary members of your team. Help them understand that they are working for the common good of the team and the organization, and let them know that their relationship to each other is vital for success. If they can understand how they fit into the big picture—and how the project fits into the big picture of the organization—they will be more likely to feel like a part of the solution.

Empower the team to execute the plan with dedication and passion. Make the path ahead clear. Allow them to understand the stages of development as your project progresses. Give them feedback as you move along the way, and be ready and willing to step in and assist with mediation if conflict or hostility begins. By allowing the team to clearly visualize the direction upon which they are embarking, execution will become more fluid and guaranteed. Always keep an open line of communication with all team members in a transparent and open fashion so that you will minimize the risk of competition for control.

With his plan outlined, and with a firm grasp on who his team members will be, Danny can walk into the conference room with all the information he could gather. He can now pay attention to the team members and listen carefully so that he can unify and empower them. He has the GLUE to bind his team. He must now put the plan in motion as he fosters the all for one and one for all mindset.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer, and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.TheMindShark.com.   

Ensure That You’re Understood When You Speak

Seven Listening Styles and How to Approach Them

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloThe new manager walks into the conference room. The several staff members turn and look at each other expressing obvious shock over is youthfulness. He begins to tell the staff that he is only instituting one new change: they are going to begin online marketing using LinkedIn.

He explains to the staff that they are to update their resumes, and they are to encourage their customers to provide positive feedback, commentary and peer endorsements. The small group begins to whisper among themselves.

“What do you mean by peer endorsements?”

”Why are we updating our resumes?” another asks.

And finally, a third simply asks, “What do you mean ’linked in?’”

Those who have developed or grown up in an environment where a specific concept is the norm must remember that communication fails without a base understanding. Effective communication requires that one never assumes that the listener listens from the same mental place from which the speaker speaks.

Get Ready! There’s a series of events that takes place internally before you even utter a word. Pay attention to your internal process. What do you think about before you speak? Are you considering who you are speaking to? Do not change who you are, but allow your thought process to engage and develop.

Get Set! As you prepare to communicate, educate yourself about the listener. Begin by sizing them up. Prioritize your audience and customize your message and delivery. Take a look at the individual or the audience and ask yourself if they fit into one of the several categories of listener. Then: stop, think, and formulate a message to strike the heart of the individual listener. If there is more than one person in the audience, then your message will have to be delivered to reach each person as you speak to them all. Take a look around the crowd; observe the various people and how they are acting.

As you consider the following list, think of people in your life. Who do you know that fits most often into one of the categories? Start communicating by thinking about how that individual is best addressed.

  1. The Active Listener. This individual will listen to you and hang on your every word. They will take in your message and listen attentively. They often show signs of response—either physically or verbally—to reassure you they are listening. The active listener will also be the first person to verbally give you feedback to assure you they understand. This is the Holy Grail audience.
  2. The Inactive Listener. This is the speaker’s worst nightmare. The listener truly allows the words to flow in one ear and out the other. Commonly, the inactive listener is far away in another place daydreaming or solving other problems. This listener is not really listening, they are not present. They may merely be waiting to speak to state their position without hearing yours.
  3. The Selective Listener. As the name implies, this listener is waiting to hear what they expect to hear, or hear what they want to hear. A selective listener hears only information needed to formulate a counter argument, or may filter your words until he feels like he has achieved base comprehension to his satisfaction.
  4. The Rushed Listener. Much like an inactive listener, a rushed listener will listen only as far as is needed to get the gist of what is being said. Then, they can transition comfortably into an inactive listener.
  5. The Scared Listener. This is really a subcategory of the selective listener, but this listener is focused on avoiding harm. Someone who is fearful of being criticized or rejected may only hear those words and phrases they feel they must defend against. Thus, you will be speaking to a selective listener in self-defense mode.
  6. The Thoughtful Listener. This is a person who would otherwise be an active listener, and they will give you signs of a concurrence and support, but their only goal is to please you. Accordingly, they become a selective listener who filters out those things they must do in order to make you happy. The message gets lost in their thoughtfulness.
  7. The “Uneducated” Listener. This is not a listener who was uneducated in an academic sense. This is a listener who is uneducated as to the arena in which you are speaking.

Go! It is time for you to deliver your message. You have considered who you are, what you have to communicate, and the type of listener or listeners who will hear you speak. It is go time. How will you keep the listener’s attention?

Use all the tools at your disposal:

  1. Vocal. By using tone and volume, we avoid monotony and rhythmically keep them listening.
  2. Remaining Stationary v. Moving About. In a longer presentation, controlled movement may aid in keeping attention. In short presentations, keeping focus as you stand firmly, may add to the importance of the message.
  3. Demonstrative items. If you hold up a report, use slides or display the new product, it becomes eye candy to make your presentation more attractive. Everyone has had an experience where someone tries to explain a situation using the salt-and-pepper shakers as people. Using props such as these allows your audience to visualize your example.
  4. Feed their heads. Use vocabulary that they can understand. Give them something their minds can digest and remember. In the boardroom, you will keep their concentration and focus by referring to income trends and future projections. On the sales floor, you will keep their attention by providing positive customer feedback and acknowledging the salespeople who lead the field. On the factory floor, you will build a better relationship by telling them that they have greater production and teamwork than anyone else in the business.
  5. Give them something to remember. Relate what you have to say to an anchor that exists in the listeners mind. It may be a comparison to a past experience or a past success. Show them the big picture. In the boardroom, stock charts, predictions, projections and sales trend analysis may do the trick. On the production floor, a simple banner with the percentage increase in production blown up as large as possible will tell the widget assemblyman exactly what they need to remember.

By weaving together all of these considerations you will create a tapestry that will cover a larger range of listeners. In the event of a one-on-one conversation, a few moments of observation will tell you who you are speaking to, and what you need to say to get them to understand.

Take time to pay attention to your communication process, and then, listen to your listener before you speak. You will hear volumes that allow you to communicate much more successfully.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.themindshark.com.

Aristotle in the Boardroom

Using Philosophical Arguments to Succeed in Meetings

By Joe Curcillo

Joe CurcilloAs the sales team takes their seats in the boardroom, CEO, A.C. Tosser, rises from his seat and begins to address the staff. He introduces the new product line and explains that it will be marketed differently, and will be implemented with a new commission structure. The team grumbled at the change, but Tosser explained and discussed how the next level of sales will positively affect the commissions and bonuses for the people in the room.

He began to direct statements to his staff.

Mary, you could finally get that new pool you have talked about, and Fred, you will finally be able to start saving for Little Fred’s college tuition.”

He continued, “If sales continue to rise, we will be implementing a program to support the local dog rescue. Ed and Anna, will I be able to get your help on that?”

Oh, and, by the way,” he added, “We are confidentially trying to arrange to hold this year’s Holiday Party in Las Vegas. It will depend on our mid-year totals, but I just thought you’d like to know.”

As he continues, the tone is not only a discussion, but the staff begins to become excited and the room fills with energy!

A.C. Tosser understands how to motivate his staff. As a student of Greek philosophy, he knows that Aristotle’s rhetoric is as relevant today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago. The theory advanced by Aristotle includes three categories of focus when presenting a convincing argument. They are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

  • Ethos is the essence of your character. It is your charismatic appeal.
  • Logos is the intellectual appeal. It is the logical factors or the truths that make up the foundation and structure of your presentation.
  • Pathos, it is the emotional appeal. It is that which appeals to the wants and desires of the audience; what it is they want to believe and what makes them happy.

Effective persuasion is accomplished when the speaker is able to understand the importance and depth of his own character, reason logically, and understand the emotions that motivate and inspire the listener.

Character Appeal: Let us begin with Ethos—your character. You must have character to successfully lead and convince others to follow. There are no exceptions. It is far easier to believe the words of a good person than a bad person. Character is in many instances the most effective means of persuasion that you possess.

Tosser has built credibility by working with his team, getting to know them and keeping them on track. If you do not remain consistent, your personality becomes a distraction that disrupts the flow and confuses the ultimate message. If every time your team gets comfortable with you, you change your personality, demeanor or overall attitude, they will have to reconsider their position as to whether they like you or not. The mental process will then be stuck in a rut, and they will be hard pressed to give thought to your “message.”

How can you relate to your team?

  • Share how you deal with rejection and the anguish of a week without a sale
  • Speak their language; be a real person. Talk to them, not down to them
  • Remind them of the team accomplishments
  • Remind them of your experiences as you learned and grew in the business
  • Know the products and benefits the company offers
  • Be there to assist with better ways of relating the needs to the customers

While, at its core, the ability to trust is an emotional decision, people want to trust. If you do not have a character that people can embrace, your goal of being accepted will fail despite all the proof you can gather, and all the emotion you can create.

Intellectual Appeal: Logos is the ability to present information in a coherent fashion to lead everyone to the same factual conclusion. If you give people enough acceptable and understandable information, the logical choice will be easier for them to make. Accordingly, you give them the information they need to control their own decision-making process.

People will resist a position that is forced upon them. Education and learning are phenomenal co-pilots that allow you to guide people on the path you design; they are precursors to the logical choice. Skepticism, on the other hand, becomes a major defense mechanism that fights against the possibility of harm, loss or deceit. If people come to their own conclusions based on your presentations, they can freely and comfortably make an educated choice. When fear is eliminated, people are more likely to follow.

Emotional Appeal: Last, and never to be overlooked, is Pathos—the emotional state of the listener. People are much more responsive when they are happy than when they are miserable. Work on their hearts and minds in a positive and healthy way to be the person they look to for direction.

Most people are vulnerable when they feel that their goals are in-sync with the company goals, and when those weaknesses are lessened, people are more likely to follow. Take the time to find the weaknesses in those you lead. Find the positive triggers that will make them emotionally ready to hear and believe that you know best. When that is done well, everyone wins!

The goal of a leader is to lead, not direct and order people to act. The more people want to follow you, the more success you will achieve. So, how do you get people to follow you? Be a solution to their problems.

Consider spending time listening to and observing those you lead. As you mingle, chat and observe, pay attention to the needs of the team, and lead discussions as you search for the group’s mindset. Look for common truths that shape their beliefs and thoughts. Frequently question their dreams, and their beliefs to find a common thread. Then, speak with a focus on herding the hearts and minds of the team to bring them together as a cohesive unit.Find out what makes your team tick. Find new ways to learn exactly what carrots to dangle in front of their eyes.

Strike a Balance: A well-structured presentation—like a well-structured argument—must contain balanced proportions of character appeal, intellectual appeal and emotional appeal. The measurements change from person-to-person and from task-to-task. For some, success is a matter of patience and practice. For others, it will flow as if it is their birthright. For the majority of people, the art of convincing others requires a balance of their natural skills and learned techniques. The challenge will always be finding the balance that is right for you.

When you walk into a meeting, have your facts, charts and statistics ready, but pay attention to the room and your audience. Put your commitment to the team first. Be ready to go with the flow. Allow them to come to you and be inspired to follow.

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.TheMindShark.com.

Lessons in Communication Learned from Irate Customers

Joe CurcilloBy Joe Curcillo

Boss Deborah is sitting in her office reviewing monthly reports as she listens to routine bustling of her staff. Suddenly, she hears a single voice amidst the regular noise. It is Mary, her secretary, attempting to get a word in as she deals with a rather stubborn and authoritative customer. The call is placed on hold and is transferred into her office. Mary announces “Mr. Money is on the phone; he is angry and is demanding your help.”

As Deborah reaches for her phone, she recognizes that how she handles the next few seconds will determine whether Mr. Money will raise or lower the bottom line on the next monthly report.

In the time it takes to reach for the phone and say “Hello,” you must have the focus and knowledge necessary to take control and lead the caller back into your corner.

Preparedness comes by having the structure in mind that will allow your persuasive and reassuring abilities to control the situation. Maybe it was your staff, your management team or a salesman, but the buck stops with you. As you listen to the complaint, pay attention to how the caller became disgruntled, and match their words to the organizational structure and discipline that you have in place. Many times the caller has reached your desk because someone in the chain of command failed to listen and address their concerns.

Let’s begin with the approach; how you manage the window between the “ring” and the “answer” will define the experience as educational, confrontational or successful.

In the seconds before answering the call or meeting, keep in mind that the best way to initiate control is to take the high ground. Not just the high road of virtue and doing the right thing, but the high ground as a vantage point to observe the situation as a whole. Prepare to remove yourself from the fray and look at the big picture. The best means of accomplishing this is to remember 4 rules.

1. Do not speak until you have truly listened. The opposite of speaking is not listening—it is waiting to speak. Listening is a separate task, and in fact is an art. If you’re waiting to speak, you are preparing to address the other person with words.

The easiest of all customers to deal with in the world of irate customers is the one that just wants to be heard. Everyone has dealt with someone who expressed every detail of their complaint to every person in their organization. They have begun to tell their story to the parking lot attendant as they parked their car, and each person they encountered en route to the manager’s office.

Their repeated rehearsal of the story should be your first indication that all they need is understanding and reassurance. They want someone to listen; step up and make that person you.

2. Do not defend, until you have heard the attack. Step back, and allow the speaker to talk. As you listen, do not formulate your responses, but follow the speaker with an eye towards understanding the nature of their accusations and allegations. The ability to effectively challenge someone’s argument hinges upon your understanding of their argument, not on the merits of your own.

Taking control of a situation requires you to pay attention to what is being said so that you may take all you’ve heard and use it collectively as you map out your proposed solution. Adopting the other person’s arguments in your solution will make it much more difficult for a person to logically rebuff your offer of resolution.

3. Identify the true nature of the complaint and the complainant.There are many reasons why a person will complain. Dissatisfaction with a product or service is obvious, but some complaints are born and nurtured in environments outside of your control. Taking control of these types of complaints require you to listen and explore with questions the circumstances leading the customer to your door.

Some people are simply disappointed with your entire industry. Lawyers and mechanics will identify with this. It is necessary to set yourself apart from the herd and let the speaker know that you care.

Some complaints are born from a lack of clear expectations. Explore their concerns and guide them back to a more realistic path.

The most difficult of all complaints is the person who, due to their own shortcomings, has an inability to understand that the reason your products or service is failing, is their inability to follow instructions or guidance. It is essential that you speak to these people as you would to a friend. There is no need to use industry jargon or million-dollar words. Make sure that your vocabulary and speech is simple enough that they can follow your directions to the letter. But do not allow yourself to come across condescending. This can be avoided by remaining social and human as you address your customer.

4. Focus on areas in which you and your company can improve. Learn. Even the most irrational or self-absorbed customers can teach you valuable tools to improve service. As you listen, pigeonhole some of their thoughts and complaints into the recesses of your mind. By looking for areas of improvement in each and every conversation, you will not only actively listen, but you will enjoy the opportunity to grow and become better.

Consider the following checklist as a starting point. Obviously, your industry may have specific questions or concerns that you should include.

  • With whom have they spoken?
  • What remedies have failed?
  • Is the problem real or imagined?
  • Is it related to a personality conflict with the representative with whom they have been working?
  • What are their expectations?
  • Are the expectations something you can address?
  • Are their expectations reasonable?
  • How many people have they spoken with at your company?
  • Has everyone given them sound advice or bad advice?
  • Is the disappointment with your company and you?
  • Have they allowed their anger with the industry to fester?
  • Have they been given sound advice but the problem rests with their inability to understand and listen?
  • What can I learn from the situation to improve my bottom line?

Joe Curcillo, The Mindshark, is a speaker, entertainer, lawyer and communications expert. As an Adjunct Professor at Widener University School of Law, Mr. Curcillo developed a hands-on course, based on the use of storytelling as a persuasive weapon. He has been a professional entertainer helping corporations and associations improve their communication techniques since 1979. For more information on bringing Joe Curcillo in for your next event, please visit www.TheMindShark.com.