“Selling.” “Sales.” “Sealing the deal.” “Always be selling.” “Closing the deal.”
I don’t know about you, but as an entrepreneur, whenever I hear these terms, I get the creeps and hives. And as a consumer, I don’t want to be “closed” or “sold” on something.
The same fears and trepidation about selling exist equally for anyone whose livelihood depends on getting more people to buy their services, programs, and products, regardless of industry.
If you’re afraid of selling, then just STOP SELLING!
I mean that literally. Don’t try to sell anything.
Instead of trying to sell, I recommend taking a more thoughtful and intuitive approach: “THINK DIAGNOSTICALLY.”
Think of doctors. In general, doctors don’t sell. And patients trust them to offer the best possible advice and recommendations.
So there’s a lot to learn from their approach that applies directly to selling. You see, doctors focus on diagnosing a problem that a patient comes in with.
And that’s the “Diagnostic-Based Selling” approach. Diagnostic thinking, applied to the context of problem-solving and turning prospective clients into paying clients, is what I call: “Diagnostic-Based Selling.” This approach is based on the medical approach to diagnosing problems and arriving at viable, practical solutions.
So instead of trying to sell, trying to get someone to buy from you, take a diagnostic approach. Ask good questions that both draw out important details and nuances about a particular buyer’s issues and situation and that provide an opportunity to build a connection, a chance to build a relationship based on trust, sincere interest, and a commitment to help.
First and foremost, adopt an attitude of being of service to your potential buyer. Don’t even concern yourself with making the sale.
To take this on, it takes a willingness to shift your mindset, shift your habits of thinking, suspend your beliefs about how things should work.
Because even if you’re willing, old habits tend to die hard. But even that doesn’t mean we have to make it harder for them to die!
It’s an approach I use to solve problems, plain and simple.
And while it may seem mechanical and totally “Vulcan” logical on the surface, this approach also draws on your intuitive senses to contribute to a thorough process. As a surgeon, this approach is so “obvious” to me, that I have to frequently remind myself that most people don’t think this way or approach growing their businesses with such a mindset.
Interestingly, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was a doctor himself. So he naturally infused the diagnostic mindset into Sherlock’s character.
Adopt a diagnostic mindset and you’ll go a long way toward selling more and selling to better buyers.
Ask the Right Questions
The best way to adopt a diagnostic mindset is to first build your skills in asking really good questions that lead down to the person’s core of why they need your help. In my experience, most sales people ask really bad questions that are just down-right boring for me to answer. Too often, I have to jump through a few hoops to get the help that I need. They feel a bit more manipulative than value-driven.
Instead, let your customer know that you care about them. After all, that this is why you do what you do…to help them, isn’t it? They won’t care about what you know until they know you care about them and their situation.
So how do you do this? Start by developing a set of general “diagnostic questions.” With experience, you’ll also develop specific diagnostic questions that you ask when you need to dig deeper at the appropriate times.
A common place to start is with the question: “What your biggest problem, issue, or challenge you are facing right now?” While this is a good place to start, you’ll need to dig deeper than this.
It’s easy to casually move on to questions that give your potential client to share what they’ve tried, what’s working, what’s not working, what strategies and tactics they are planning to apply next.
In medical school, I learned a mnemonic that helped me get my bearings when I was taking a history from a patient. The mnemonic is spelled: “CHLORIDE” and stands for:
CHaracter: [What is the pain like?] Ask questions that inform you about how your potential buyer is experiencing the issues, problems, or challenges that they seek to solve; strive to understand what their world is like.
Example: “Can you describe what this situation feels like?”
Location: [Where do you feel the pain?] Ask questions that tell you where, specifically, the “pain” is being felt or potentially being felt by your potential buyer.
Example: “What people or departments are most affected by this issue?”
Onset: [When did the pain first start? What causes the pain to occur?] These questions give you a sense of when awareness of issues and problems began; they give you indicators of the level of urgency, motivation levels, degrees of resignation and despair.
Example: “What has happened to trigger or escalate the severity of this problem? ”
Radiation: [Where does the pain go?] The purpose of these questions is to discover what other areas, systems, workers, customers, departments, etc. are being affected or potentially affected by the issue(s) of concern.
Example: “What other people or departments are affected by this issue?”
Intensity: [How bad is the pain?] The purpose of these questions is to find out how bad something is. You want to understand what’s at stake for your prospective client, how high a priority is this issue, what the likely timeframe is for making a buying decision, whether there are financial and other resources allocated for addressing this issue.
Example: “What is the priority level for addressing this issue?”
Duration: [How long does the pain last?] These questions give you a sense of the timing and level of effort that has been expended to deal with the issue(s) at hand.
Example: ”How long have you been dealing with this?”
Events associated: [What makes the pain better? What makes it worse?] These questions help you understand other factors, variables, and elements that influence the current situation or may be influenced in the future.
Examples: “What have you tried that worked?” “That didn’t work?” “What are potential unintended consequences of addressing this issue?”
Diagnostic-based selling is an approach that bridges both art and science; there’s form and structure to it and there’s a methodology to it, but it’s not formulaic in the sense of like, “Do this, do this, say this, say this.” It’s not that. There are things to say, there are things to do; but it’s more along the lines of expanding your thinking and expanding your ‘seeing’ into the problem and into the situation from a more comprehensive, holistic view that includes the initial challenge or problem or complaint or issue or desire that a person or a company has, but isn’t myopically focused on that initial area alone.
This approach is based on my decades of experience as a physician and surgeon. It’s an approach based on integrity, core values, and an earnest desire to be of service. That combination positions you naturally as a trusted adviser and a valued expert. And it naturally leads people to want to buy from you, not from someone else.
Like any important skill, this approach takes practice to become comfortable and proficient in thinking this way. If you’re willing to master this approach in working with your clients, you’ll take your business to a level of success that makes the challenges of entrepreneurship well worth it!
Have you ever landed on a website and then struggled to figure out what the heck they’re trying to tell you (or sell you) on the site?
So after all of 20 seconds, you’re out of there, never to come back again.
Or you meet someone new and they ask you “What do you do?” And you spend the next 10 minutes yammering and yacking while the poor soul’s eyes glaze over.
Once the person recovers, do you think they’re likely to remember you? Or even consider doing business with you? Not.
So plays out the disease of the “muddy marketing message.” And worse yet, the syndrome of “dopey marketing message delivery.”
It’s a pandemic problem because most entrepreneurs aren’t taught or ever learn how to structure and deliver their marketing communications in a way that captivates and engages their audience — whether it’s an audience of one or one thousand.
But there’s a solution to this problem that’s so simple that you’re going to wonder why no one taught this to you before…
Throughout the history of mankind, stories have great power to educate, to inspire, to motivate, to engage, to entertain, and to influence.
The magic of movies lies in their power to evoke emotions and challenge established points of view.
Literature, music, and art do the same by telling stories, just in different formats.
So what do you think might happen if you wove dramatic story structure into your conversations, writing, and presentations?
Inspiring Enthusiasm and Support for Your Vision
In her book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte describes how to “inspire enthusiasm and support for your vision” by using the power of visual presentations. The principles she describes apply equally well to written and oral communications. In fact, she draws on examples from music, literature, and the performing arts to illustrate these principles.
Nancy describes a pattern to effective stories, what she calls a “contour of communication”: Of course, great stories have a clear beginning, middle, and end. And, they include two clear “turning points” that draw our interest and attention from the beginning of the story into the middle of it, and from the middle of the story into the dramatic conclusion.
Sadly, most great ideas — even those with the potential to save lives and transform the world — die before fruition because of a weak story behind it; what gets communicated to people frequently lacks clarity, structure, and order. At best, it’s boring. At worst, it’s repulsive. Either way, you can’t bore or confuse anyone into buying from you.
So if you want to grow your business, the place to start is to craft and tell a bigger, more inspiring story.
A “sparkline” is a type of information graphic that allows you to visually “see” the structure and form of a presentation. In Resonate, Nancy Duarte details the sparkline for Martin Luther King’s rousing “I Have A Dream” speech. This sparkline shows you the “contour of communication” that Dr. King used: the timeline for when he was speaking and repeating key phrases, using metaphors and visual words, and referring to familiar songs, scripture, and literature. The sparkline also shows you how and when the audience was responding with different degrees of applause and cheering.
To view an example of a sparkline, click here.
To help you appreciate how the sparkline looks and works, I’ll take you through the key elements of a generic sparkline in the video below.
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Audience Engagement Is the Name of The Game
You can continue to “speak at” your audience. Or you can engage with your audience.
If you want to engage with your audience, if you want to get your audience to rally behind your ideas and vision, then you’ll need to tell stories about who you are and what you stand for. And you must do this in a way that your audience can find where they fit in your story.
Study the “sparkline.” Practice using this presentation form for your next article, your next important conversation, your next teleseminar or webinar.
In his book, Believe Me: A Storytelling Manifesto for Change-Makers and Innovators, my good friend and colleague Michael Margolis says “People don’t really buy your product, solution, or idea, they buy the stories that are attached to it.”
In just 88 pages, Michael deftly describes “why your vision, brand, and leadership need a bigger story” and codifies 15 storytelling axioms for going about crafting it. Michael’s book is a solid resource for learning how to tell a bigger story. I highly recommend it and you can download the digital version for free at: http://www.believemethebook.com/
Storytelling: The Keys to the Kingdom
Being an effective communicator gives you the keys to the kingdom when it comes to thought-leadership, social change and transformation, and successful marketing and selling. It gives you the power to influence, to transform, and to effect change.
When you incorporate the power of story into your conversations, written material, and visual presentations, you connect and engage with your intended audience in meaningful, lasting ways.
Let’s face it: On top of all the other things you need to handle and master as an entrepreneur, adding one more important thing to your plate is about the last thing you need right now. Yet, mastering the art and science of visual storytelling is a skill and asset that pays dividends in all aspects of your personal and professional life.
And there’s no better time to start telling a new story than right now!
Have you ever worked hard on a project or marketing campaign, one with great promise, one where it seems that everything is aligned, all the right things are place, and still, things aren’t turning out even close to its anticipated potential? The project grinds to a screeching halt. The marketing campaign fizzles out. The opportunity fades away.
And you wonder why? What happened? What went wrong?
In contrast, there are situations that seem so incomprehensibly dire, yet things turn out when they don’t seem like they should turn out well at all! Take one of a myriad of grim circumstances that befell Louie Zamperini, 1936 Olympic sprinter, World War II veteran, and POW survivor.
Louie Zamperini was a bombardier during World War II. On a search and rescue mission, the B-24 bomber he was aboard lost power in two engines and was forced to ditch into the ocean. Of the 11 crew members aboard, only two other crewmen survived the crash: pilot Russell Phillips and tailgunner Francis McNamara.
Louie and his crewmates drifted at sea with nothing more than a few pints of water and six survival chocolate bars. On the 27th day of this ordeal, a plane passed overhead; overjoyed, the men fired emergency flares. The plane passed them by, but then circled back.
As the plane suddenly opened fire upon them, it became apparent that the plane was a Japanese bomber. Amazingly, none of the men were hit. The plane circled back for another pass. Though bullets pelted the waters around them, yet again, no men were hit. The plane circled back yet again; this time, the men watched helplessly as the bomb doors opened. A mine was released, but failed to detonate once it hit the water.
After 30-45 minutes of strafing and a failed mine drop, the Japanese bomber disappeared. The two rafts that kept them afloat in the open water and thinly separated them from circling sharks were riddled with bullet holes. Miraculously, Louie and his two fellow crewman had survived without a single bullet wound.
The rest of Louie’s incredible story is told in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. And it’s a book brimming with inspiration and adventure; I highly recommend that you read the book to get the rest of Louie’s story, because there a lot more amazing, incredible experiences you’ll learn about.
In the meantime, what can we take away from this particular story?
Just like electricity, there’s a flow of energy that is normally invisible to us. Yet, we are immersed in it. When things aren’t working out for you in the tangible, physical world, there’s a good chance that this invisible energy is blocked somewhere along the line.
Especially if you’ve done everything you can think of to move an initiative or endeavor to fruition, and progress is still stalled, that’s the time to critically consider the invisible forces at play.
From our limited perspective of ourselves, the world, and life itself, things are not always what they seem. We don’t always see or understand what leads to success. Or what blocks it.
Perhaps the blockage has to do with your beliefs or your fears. Maybe it’s an undelivered communication about a sensitive situation. Maybe it’s dealing with something important that you’ve been avoiding.
In all likelihood, you’re not dealing with circumstances as desperate as those that Louie Zamperini and all the other POW’s faced during WWII. But the same principles of surviving, and ultimately, thriving apply.
The next time you’re facing a difficult situation and can’t seem to break free, remember three practices that kept Louie Zamperini going:
- Remain optimistic.
- Pursue your passions and give it all you’ve got.
- Remain open to allowing the power of the invisible forces that bind us to serve and guide us.
No, I didn’t disappear. I just spent the past week with my brother and sisters for a family reunion of sorts. We drove up to Vancouver, BC, and ended up at Grouse Mountain (www.GrouseMountain.com), where we “zip-lined” high above the tree tops, rivers, and valleys.
At the top of the mountain, there’s a brand new wind turbine. We went up into the attached view pod, about 200 feet in the air. Part of the floor is glass, so can you imagine the feeling of standing on the glass floor, looking past your feet at the ground, far, far below?!? Yikes!!!
Back to business. If you’ve been following my recent posts, you know I have a lot of stuff on pricing. It’s really important. So I asked you if there was interest in me creating a free Value Pricing Resource Kit.
And there was interest.
Now I want to update you on the Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit and Training Program AND I want to take a step “back to the future” and invite you to be a more direct co-creator of what’s next for all of us:
The Final Call: Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit
Recently, I sent out an e-mail asking if anyone was interested in a complimentary “Value Pricing for Prosperity Resource Kit” that I am THINKING about creating.
I didn’t want to make this thing, if you didn’t want it… so I first wanted to see if people were interested.
A number of you expressed interest, and as a result, starting tomorrow, only people on the “Value Pricing for Prosperity Interest List” will receive insider information on my upcoming Value Pricing for Prosperity Training Program and…they will also receive the free Resource Kit.
(Not everyone on my list is interested in pricing and business financial management strategies, and I want to be considerate of them and make sure they don’t get bombarded with information they don’t want or need, so only those who are interested will get the emails).
If you want to get the Resource Kit that’s coming shortly and all the good stuff I’ve got coming your way, I invite you to join the “Value Pricing for Prosperity Interest List” below now:
What’s Next for All of Us?
I feel very passionate about pricing and helping people who are not charging what they are worth. But not everyone needs — or is ready — to deal with how they price their programs, products, and services.
A lot of high-minded, big-hearted, service-oriented professionals are struggling out there, but not for lack of commitment and effort. Over and over again, I’ve seen on-going frustration with people’s businesses because they People aren’t even coming close to fulfilling on emerging possibilities.
Though I’ve been fortunate enough to have success multiple times in my life and to help others create it for themselves, I’m troubled by what I’m seeing happening all around me. Over and over again, I’ve seen on-going frustration with people’s businesses. People not even coming close to fulfilling on emerging possibilities. Down economy or not, I think it’s unfortunate that failure rates are as high as they are. There are so many people out there wanting to change, but aren’t getting it. And Especially motivated by the down economy and global social unrest, I think believe something needs to be done about this.
So here’s the thing:
I’m really enthusiastic about creating something for you, to build whatever it is you want. And this time, I’m NOT picking the topic. This is not about me, but instead, coming from a place of total service.
I want to make a free product for you guys, one that’s totally going to serve you.
However, I’ve noticed lately there are so many free products out there that are really nothing more than disguised marketing materials that don’t actually help you accomplish something or produce a specific outcome. What I have in mind is creating something that is going to truly help you out. And that means it’s got to have real “teeth” to it. This isn’t going to be me marketing for something bigger that you then have to pay for. It’ll be something with substance to it that will provide you with meaningful results.
This is what I’m wondering: If I do this, is this something you’re willing to invest back in, not in terms of money: I’m giving this away for free. This is going to be something that you’re actually going to be able to use, learn and apply.
I’m wondering if you’d be willing to help co-create this free product.
Look, we all have our hang ups, our fears, our doubts, and our concerns. We each have limiting beliefs, mistaken views of the world, and ineffective habits that hold us back. I know from my own experience, and from the work I’ve done with my own clients, that you can get past these issues and focus your efforts on things that really demand your particular skills, experience, and wisdom.
I don’t like standing around, waiting for something to happen, so I’m willing to invest my time and energy into making good things happen.
Would anyone be interested if I put time and energy into this? I just need to hear from you: What is it that you need to know? What do you need help with? What’s in the way of you becoming a solid success? So just let me know what it is by leaving comments below.
Based on the comments you leave, I’ll sort through the topics and we’ll “vote” on what to build first.
Together, we can make changes that will help you get the results you – and others — want. And that’s good for all of us, to help each other to thrive, prosper, and share our gifts. I’m willing to do my part here.
Are you up for it?
To freedom, contribution, and prosperity,
[NOTE: In case you’re wondering, this post is a follow-up to this (which received more comments than I’ve ever received on this blog. I’ll do my best to respond to each and every comment!)]
OK…so I’ve gotten a number of comments from readers about the “cliff hanger” in my previous email and blog post.
Sorry about that. I just needed to buy some time to collect my thoughts and feelings. I have been both excited and reluctant to talk about this. But since this year is dedicated to “brilliant revelation,” here goes…
When I first left my plastic surgery practice behind almost eight years ago, I never in a million lifetimes DREAMED that I’d soon be working with entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies.
Every once in a while, I think I’m crazy and delusional, having bailed out of medicine, just short of a decade of being in practice. But I believe that I’ve been blessed to help other entrepreneurs transform their lives and the lives that they touch.
For a while, at the end of business workshops and seminars I gave, I had to consciously make an effort to maintain my composure, because I was so happy to be able to touch peoples’ lives in this way.
Just today, I received a surprise on my doorstep from a client: It was a box of Godiva Chocolates with a note of gratitude: “George, A thank you for all of the amazing support you’ve given me and putting up with my stubborn self for so long. With gratitude.”
And for sure, I’ve learned and grown a lot!!! And made a lot of mistakes along the way!!!
So here is what I have been holding out on for quite some time…
- Nicely asked
- Strongly encouraged
- Pleaded with
- Ruthlessly, yet compassionately directed…
…to share my thinking, my strategies, and integrated approach for how to:
- attract and work exclusively with highly profitable and appreciative clients
- set fees and prices based on value (rather than hourly or “what the going rate is”), and
- understand and apply solid financial management principles and “best practices” in your business (even if numbers give you the heebie-jeebies.)
For YEARS, I’ve resisted getting this stuff out there on a large scale.
Now at the core, I’m first and foremost an educator. I really believe I was born to be an educator. I thoroughly enjoy finding ways to present material in ways that people can learn it, quickly and easily, regardless of their learning style.
But when it comes to this stuff, I frequently made the usual lame excuses like “It’s good, but no one’s going to care about it,” “I’ve got other priorities,” and “it’s just material I use with my premium private coaching clients.” Or try this one: “It’s obvious. Everyone knows this stuff already.”
And while I like to think it takes a lot for me to get embarrassed, I’m embarrassed to admit that, it took many, many years for me to realize and accept that I have a gift for taking high-level business theories and principles and distilling them into understandable and actionable strategies and tactics. And from there, I can drill all the way down to specific action steps and tasks.
I don’t know if it’s ignorance or naiveté, but I wondered for a long time what the big deal was, (again, since I figured that everyone could see the very same things that were so obvious to me).
To complicate matters, I’m a serious perfectionist (as you might expect from a plastic surgeon. I could spend hours in the operating room, trying to get 1 cm of skin to sit just right!)
I get a real kick out of trying to turn something good into something better, which translates into making things:
- Easier to understand.
- More practical.
- Less effort to apply in the real world.
- More valuable.
So I’ve come to accept that if I’m going to produce material for people to use, I can’t live with just slapping something together, like I’ve seen others do and succeed with that approach. As far as I’m concerned, it’s “give it everything I’ve got,” or don’t waste anyone else’s time with shoddy material or work.
As I said earlier, I personally go cross-eyed when dealing with financial numbers. UNLESS, I have a spreadsheet that does the work for me and spoon-feeds me what I need to know! So that’s what I’ve been able to do for the past 6 years — show clients how to select only the best customers, clients, and patients; integrate financial tools that tell you how the health of your business (and do the heavy-lifting for you); and make it easy and natural for them set their fees for service, programs, and products based on value provided. And all of this in support of a freedom-driven business.
It’s Time for Me to Play a Bigger Game
Like a lot of other people, I have a fear of being criticized. Yeah, sure I can act “transformed” about it and talk about how it’s all “perfect,” but the reality is, I still don’t like it.
But I also know from surviving not one, but two brutal and malignant surgical training programs (General Surgery, then Plastic Surgery), that being the target of severe criticism is survivable. And I get to choose whether to allow criticism to stop me from being a contributor in the world.
Come to think of it, I talk a lot about “playing a bigger game” in life. And holding back the material I have to share, the ideas, inspiration, and insights I come up with on a daily basis, is simply small-minded. It’s playing a small game.
I’m Seriously Considering Doing This
Despite my fears, hesitancies, and perfectionism, I am seriously prepared to pull back the curtain and show you just about everything I know about pricing your services, programs, and products based on value, along with the financial principles and “best practices” you need to make the most profit and cash flow from your business AND make the greatest contribution you can make – all while making it more fun. Freedom – Contribution – Prosperity!
I’m “threatening” to share business success paradigms that I’ve only shared here and there, and with my highest paying clients, but have never blended value-based pricing together with my financial analytics skills and “diagnostic” approach to getting clients who are both profitable and rewarding to work with.
Because of my challenges in starting my plastic surgery practice, I was inspired to become the business guide and mentor that I wish I had had way back then. And I would have LOVED to have had this training 6 years ago, when I was just getting started in working with entrepreneurs.
If I Do This, It Will Be A LOT of Work
I’m excited about sharing this stuff with you, but I’ve been around long enough to know that my small projects quickly get out of hand and turn into major-league endeavors.
I’m only going to take this on if there’s enough interest.
Here’s where I need your help. I want to know…
- What do you think?
- Should I do this?
- Would you be interested?
- Would anyone you know be interested?
Your feedback and thoughts are absolutely the fuel that keeps me going.
And I don’t want to even think about taking this project on, unless there’s enough of you who think this would be valuable and worthwhile for you.
Anyway, if you have a second, please leave a comment below, letting me know what you think. It would mean a lot to me.
To freedom, contribution, and prosperity,
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