Everybody is familiar the image of the big bad car salesman that wants to sell you something that you don’t need. That is how a great part of our society perceives sales and nobody wants to be like that, so they think they can’t be good at sales. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you shift your thinking into that sales is something that you do for somebody not to somebody everything changes. Because then you come from a place of service and not from a place of needing to manipulate somebody into doing something they don’t want to do
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Simona Ksoll.
Simona Ksoll is a business strategist & mindset mentor for entrepreneurs and creatives helping them to make their big inner vision their reality. A former global marketing executive at Sony Pictures, Simona supports her clients with subconscious belief change, teaching Universal Success Principles, and developing an individual business, lifestyle, or teambuilding strategy that allows them to confidently step into their next level.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
In the wake of my divorce, I took a sabbatical from my career as a marketing executive at Sony Pictures and signed up for Yoga Teacher Training in a small town on the Mexican Riviera. Coming out of a meditation I had a profound experience. With my eyes open I heard a voice say Simona, you have to move here. To this day I remember the feeling of peace and calm that came over me. It felt so right and in my mind I said yes.
The next thought that popped into my head was How is this ever going to happen?
Enter the Universe: There were five women in this training. One of them was a life coach. I ended up working with her and she opened the first door where I got a glimpse of how it could happen. To make long story short walking through that first door opened the path. I met people who helped me acquire the skills and the mindset to start my own business and move to Mexico.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I remember when I first started out in my business and was terrified of asking people for money so I priced my services quite low and still I’d cringe every time we got to the point in a sales conversation where I had to tell a person how they could work with me.
Then my mentor told me that I needed to double my prices if I wanted to be successful.
The first time I mentioned the new price I remember the woman I was speaking to audibly gasping for air and then sending me an email that she was shellshocked that I’d ask for that much money. After her resounding NO my confidence was shot, and I was seriously considering throwing in the towel.
Then I realized that I wasn’t communicating the value of my service correctly, so I made significant changes, added more value and priced it at a higher level. The first person I was making this new offer to accepted and paid in full.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m working on taking my services into organizations. These days many leaders are concerned with how to best help their employees balance the ever increasing on the job demands with the compounded additional stress factors we’ve seen piled on over the past year. Traditional approaches won’t solve these current problems. Organizations now need an effective and sustainable approach to help their teams’ mindset and behavior to ensure employees remain healthy, engaged, and committed. I believe that this is where I can help the most in 2021.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, I’m eternally grateful to my mentor who taught me everything I know about sales and who gave me the kick in the butt that I needed to make the jump and leave my corporate job. I had been working with him for about a year and a half when he said something to me in a room full of people at one of his live events. It was the end of a two-day seminar and I was the last person at the mic. I asked him what I could do to strengthen my desire of moving to Mexico as I felt it was waning. He looked at me for a moment and told me that I should have said yes to the opportunity when it was before me and that now I had to wait until the Universe was ready to present it to me again. Then he turned away, chuckled for a second and said …and I sure hope that next time the opportunity comes around it’s not Siberia that is calling you.
I remember standing there with my mouth wide open. That was the end of the event. On the way to the airport, I felt anger boiling up inside of me. I was outraged at his answer. By the time I got on the plane and had a glass of wine, I had calmed down a bit and then it dawned on me what if he was right?
And I decided to prove him wrong. That was in June. By September I had leased an apartment in Mexico. By October I had quit my job and in November 2016 I moved.
What he really did for me at that event was he pushed the right button that lit a match and got me into action.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I used to tell myself that I hated sales and that I’d never be good at it until one day I realized that I had been selling things all my life. I left my parent’s home at seventeen with the equivalent of fifty cents in my pocket, enough to make a phone call. I was in my last year of high school with big aspirations to go to college all of which cost money which I didn’t have. When we are with our back against the wall, we become resourceful. It’s the survival instinct in us. I realized that my biological father was paying my mom child support money for me and figured that since I had left her house, this money rightfully belonged to me and therefore should be wired into my bank account. Somehow, I mustered up the guts to look the guy up in the phone book, call him and ask for a meeting to go over the logistics. He decided to take me to court and I won. That was the first time I successfully closed a sale without having any idea of what I was doing. Something jus took over and I went through the motions unconsciously.
I started getting good at sales the moment I realized that sales is not something you do to somebody, it’s something you do for them. That sales is service. That was a huge mindset shift that made it easy to confidently ask for the money and receive it.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I’m glad you asked. As somebody who had COVID-19 and is fully recovered this is close to my heart. What helped me was limiting my daily news intake and focusing on the things I wanted to create in my life. Keeping a positive mindset is key and we can do that shifting our attention to the things that bring us joy. Being present with our loved ones even when we are not physically close. With my clients I use a process where we transform the perception of stress and anxiety into a state of peace and detachment. Another thing I highly recommend is to establish a healthy routine to set your day up for success and keep yourself in a positive frame of mind.
Personally, I practice meditation, I connect to my vision and my goals every day.
Apart from that listen to your body and what it is asking for. You can help strengthen your immune system by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, being out in the sun and spend time with those close to you. When anxiety sets in and the mind goes off in all kinds of negative directions, ask yourself this question: What’s true about this? Then remind yourself that right now in this moment you are fine.
And don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are many professionals out there who can assist. Nobody is meant to suffer through this alone.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
Because our education system is based on a middle-class mindset. From the get-go we are taught that we need to learn a profession and get a job where we then trade our time for money.
That’s how our society is set up for the most part. We are not being taught to go into business for ourselves during our formative years unless we come from an entrepreneurial family.
For decades, the idea has been this: You go to school, you study something that gets you a high-paying job and then you do that for the rest of your life. Who cares that in your heart of hearts you wanted to be an artist, because you can’t make money with that. Not true as we know but that is what we are being told to believe.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
Everybody is familiar the image of the big bad car salesman that wants to sell you something that you don’t need. That is how a great part of our society perceives sales and nobody wants to be like that, so they think they can’t be good at sales. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you shift your thinking into that sales is something that you do for somebody not to somebody everything changes. Because then you come from a place of service and not from a place of needing to manipulate somebody into doing something they don’t want to do.
Let me explain:
When you genuinely believe that sales is service everything becomes about the other person who is experiencing a problem that you solve with your expertise or product. They still get to choose if they accept your help or not. What you’re doing is you’re bringing them to a point of clarity so they can make an informed decision. There is nothing salesy about that.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
In my business as a coach and mentor it’s all about asking the right questions and listening during a sales conversation. I’m really good at listening for the problem so that I know what follow up questions to ask.
Most people talk too much during the sales conversation because they feel awkward, so they fill the space with words. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s all about listening and knowing to ask the right questions, so that you can help the person you are speaking with get clear on what exactly their problem is, how urgent it is for them to solve it and discern their commitment of wanting to change. Then and only then can you move into the closing part of the conversation.
Since you asked about the secret sauce: It’s learning to be quiet during those moments that are most uncomfortable, namely when you are talking about the investment of working with you. You must be able to say the number confidently and after you say it you pause. You don’t say a word, no matter how uncomfortable that might feel. You are not the first person to talk. You wait until the other person speaks. What you are doing is giving them time to process what you just said because in their mind they are comparing the number you have thrown out to something that they are familiar with. And then when objections come up you want to address them from a place of compassion. Often you will find the real objection is about a value conflict your prospect is experiencing. Your job is to help them walk through this so they can realize what is really going on. It’s not that it’s too much money. It’s that they don’t believe they are worth it. Once they realize that, they can then make an informed decision. Your job is to bring them to a point of clarity where they say yes to themselves or realize that valuing themselves is the area where they need to go to work. Then even if the sale doesn’t close it’s a win for both of you because now the person knows what the real root cause of the problem is and can make a choice to work on that. This is coming from a place of being in service.
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously, every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
I fill my day with conversations with people I meet on social media or at events. Before I used to go to live events to meet and network with people, now this is all being done virtually. I do a lot of meet and greets on Zoom and I always ask people that I speak with if they know somebody that could benefit from my services. Another great tool to generate qualified leads is LinkedIn Sales Navigator.
I also speak at online events and do my own monthly virtual trainings. The idea is to always have conversations where you add value, build and nurture relationships.
I’ve had clients that I met on a plane and people who were following me on social media for a year or more before they were ready to invest in working with me. Keep nurturing those seeds and build your network. Above all think about how you can add value and help somebody every day.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
Because this pushes us up against the edge of our belief system. We’ve been taught not to talk about money or ask for it the first place and when somebody gives us a perfect explanation as to why it’s not a good time or a good idea, we subconsciously feel we are off the hook.
They just told us that they don’t have the money or the time.
What a relief! I can get off the phone now and feel good about myself for a second.
The idea is to not take no for an answer but instead to probe what is true about this.
If somebody says that they don’t have the money ask another question.
Do you not have the money for this, or do you not have the money at all?
This will the inform your next question.
The idea is to go a few layers deeper as to where you’d normally stop because it feels uncomfortable.
If they say they don’t have the money you can offer to help them find the money.
Let me share a personal story:
The first time I ever signed up for a coaching program, that was the objection in my mind. The person on the other end of the line didn’t have to say anything because I realized during our conversation that I was playing a game with myself.
I had the money in savings, but I didn’t want to touch that money, so I borrowed against my 401k plan which was a stupid decision but what I’m getting at is this: People often do have the money, but they have it earmarked for something else. If you don’t go a couple of layers deeper with them in your sales conversation, you deprive them of the gift of giving themselves the clarity about what the real problem is. Because when you want something bad enough, the money is never the problem.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
When you come from a place of service and you take a person through a compassionate conversation where you ask them the right questions where they determine their urgency and willingness to change the sale is the natural outcome of that conversation.
- Be compassionate and come from a place of service. Ask the right questions: What do they want? Why do they want it? Why are they not getting it? How urgently do they need to solve this problem? What’s their level of commitment to change?
- Then proceed to make the offer tying it all together based on what they have shared with you.
- Go three levels deeper than what feels comfortable to you always coming from a place of compassion and being in service when objections arise.
- Show what the positive impact will be on their life. Help them take a stand for their possibilities instead of holding on to their limitations and offer solutions to perceived barriers for example an extended payment plan.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
Check in occasionally to see where they are at. Have a genuine conversation and see if you can support them in any way. Remember your job is to be of service to them. When you are being concerned with being overly pushy or overeager you are making it about you and your own hang-ups instead of coming from a place of being in service. Instead ask directly if it’s a no for them.
When you do that, they will tell you or they tell you the real reason why they haven’t decided yet.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
For closing I recommend a phone, video call or in-person conversation especially if it’s a higher-level investment. If it’s a smaller price point emails work provided you have a solid strategy in place in terms of your nurturing sequence and getting around spam filters. I would stay away from text messages during closing unless you have sent an invoice and the message is a reminder to take care of the payment that was previously agreed.
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Be true to you in the sense of following your heart’s desire because it will always lead you to your purpose and it is through living your purpose where you create an impact that benefits a lot of people. Think about Oprah, Steve Jobs, Gary Vaynerchuck, Tony Robbins…
Just imagine if more people did that despite what the little voice in their mind is suggesting, what a beautiful world we can create this year.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!