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Harvey Mackay: Tie-downs are critical to sales

Harvey Mackay
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

If you knew two little words that could improve your sales, you’d use them, wouldn’t you?

When you see that your customer has some reservations, it makes sense to get the issues out in the open, doesn’t it?

And after the ink is dry on the deal, you should make every effort to make sure your customer is satisfied, shouldn’t you?



So why all the questions? They illustrate a simple technique – sales tie-downs – that can help you improve your sales. By getting your customers to agree with you in small steps along the way, you have a better chance of reaching agreement when it’s time to do business.

The salespeople who effectively use tie-downs are more successful. The ones who don’t aren’t nearly as successful. It’s that simple.



So what exactly are sales tie-downs?

They are short phrases that you can add to statements to turn them into questions that get your prospective customer to start saying “yes” long before you go for the close. You ask these little questions throughout your sales presentation to engage your customer and get them used to saying yes. Psychologically, they then will be more likely to say “yes” when you ask for the sale.

John Eliason, CEO of First Financial Merchant Services, a credit-card processing firm in Minneapolis, gives the analogy of “Gulliver’s Travels.” When Gulliver goes to the land of little people and falls asleep, he wakes up and is tied down to the ground. Gulliver is the sale and all these ropes are the tie-downs.

“If there were only one or two ropes, they would not be strong enough to tie down Gulliver,” Eliason says.

Too often, sales representatives just regurgitate their presentations and expect that strategy to work. It doesn’t. People tune them out because they aren’t engaged in the process. The remedy is to ask little questions along the way, and monitor the feedback. Doesn’t that make sense?

You know what I mean? Are you following me? These are tie-downs. End statements with questions like: Wouldn’t you agree? Is that right? This simple technique serves to tie a statement down.

Tie-down questions can be as simple as:

• Aren’t they?

• Can’t you?

• Isn’t it?

• Shouldn’t it?

• Won’t they?

Perhaps you have been using these questions with your customers all along and didn’t know there was a name for this technique.

Tie-downs have to become a natural part of your conversation before you can use them in your sales presentations. Be aware of your tone so the questions don’t sound threatening or argumentative. Learning how to use tie-downs effectively takes rehearsal. Practice tie-downs on your spouse or friends. Have some fun using them in role-playing exercises with other sales professionals. That will help you develop a rhythm that will include enough, but not too many, tie-down questions.

Unfortunately many people in sales don’t ask these little tie-down questions and lose their customers at some point during their presentations. Give your customer a chance to respond and ask questions of you. Pay close attention to their reactions, because that will lead you to your next tie-down.

There’s another benefit to tie-downs as well. They keep you in control and confirm that your customers understand what you are saying during your sales presentation, and that it’s OK to continue. Are you with me?

Most often, salespeople use tie-downs at the end of sentences, but they are useful at the beginning of a sentence as well. For example, if you are selling an alarm system, you might ask: Isn’t it important for your family to have peace of mind? Can you see how this will provide safety?

A lot of sales are based on price, so you want customers to agree that savings are important. You might ask: Saving money is important to you, isn’t it? If I could show you ways to save, is that important to you?

Another benefit of using sales tie-downs is that you don’t need a big close, as many sales reps believe. You risk losing your customer when you save all the good stuff for the end. Keep the customer actively involved throughout your presentation and watch your results improve.

Now let me ask you again, if you knew two little words that could improve your sales, you’d use them, wouldn’t you? I think you know the answer.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. He also spends about six weeks a year in Aspen.


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