Of all the things I have done in my entrepreneurial career, selling has been the one constant. Ever since my first job out of college, I had to sell to make a salary. And then, when I started my first business, I had to sell to survive. Even after I wrote a book, it was nothing without a huge selling effort. I’ve been a lifelong fan and student of great selling techniques.
My favorite technique used to be the 1-to-10 close. This is where you ask your customer, “On a scale of 1-to-10, where do you stand on deciding to proceed with us?” And when they answer, you say, “What do I need to do to make it a 10?” It worked occasionally, despite the fact it is exactly what I should not have been doing.
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Here’s why—people resist suggestions. Think about it: You can tell a kid to go mow the yard and he’ll never get off the couch, but if you tell him you’re going to go mow the yard because he's not old enough to use the mower yet, he’ll fight you to prove you’re wrong. We automatically do the opposite of what people suggest, and we start doing so at a young age.
That's why using another 1-to-10 technique—a twist on the method I was using—turned out to be the most effective closing method I have ever experienced. I still ask people where they stand on a 1-to-10 scale with me; however, no matter what they say—even if it’s a 3 or 4—I'll say something like “I didn’t expect you to pick a number so high. From our discussion and your body language, I thought you were actually lower. Why did you pick a number that high?”
People naturally resist my remark, and start defending why they picked a higher number, effectively convincing themselves why they should go with you. By the end, they sometimes even change their initial number and make it higher!
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Remember Tom Sawyer? He was punished and made to paint a fence all day. But he got his friends to paint the fence for him using this same technique. His buddies were teasing and ridiculing him when they first came up and saw him painting the fence, but he didn’t care. He kept painting and said wisely and a bit snobbishly, “Not just anyone can paint a fence.” That shut them up. By the time he convinced them they weren’t capable of painting a fence, they began begging him to let them paint it. Only then did he let them while he relaxed in the shade.
It’s called “reverse psychology” by some, but whatever you call it, it works.
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Mike Michalowicz is the author of The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. He is a nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurial topics and is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consultancy that helps plateaued companies to grow again.