Sales Lessons from Hollywood Legend

Hollywood sign on hill

Once asked the secret of his acting success, John Wayne replied, ‘Talk low. Talk slow. Don’t say too much” I’d like to use his tips as the starting point for this blog article on Step 3 of successful sales conversations: yes, it’s time to talk about how we SELL.

As you’ll recall, I believe there are four essential steps to successful sales conversations and the third one is ‘Sell’. The first is ‘Earn the right to speak’ and the second ‘Ask questions to understand client’. This means that by the time you come to selling a product or service, you have not only gained the prospective client’s interest with step one but you’ve also built a pretty good picture of their needs, wants and dreams in step two. Additionally, through showing an interest in them with your questions, you have changed the dynamic between you, making them feel valued, important and understood.

If you’ve these steps well, you will be a long way towards the sale but you can still lose it from here. John Wayne’s most important point is the third but let’s look at points one and two first.

“Talk low. Talk slow” is all about making sure the sales messaging is clear and digestible. I’m not sure that you must always talk ‘low’ but the idea of measured, precise wording implicit in talking low is a good starting point. This should be balanced with the fact that you’ll additionally need to inject your voice with passion and vitality at times (something John Wayne rarely did) but this shouldn’t take you into the classic sales mistake of speaking at 100mph. Enthusiasm in sales is almost universally a good thing (my favourite definition of sales is ‘the transfer of enthusiasm’). The only danger it carries is speaking with such passion that your speed and talk-time gets out of control and just becomes noise. So, keep the passion, slow the pace.

Lowly, slowly, we come to the third and most important part: “Don’t say too much”. The temptation, now that you know your client quite well, is to jump in and give them all the information you have, every feature, benefit, case study, statistic and anecdote you have. I’ll give them so many reasons to buy that they’ll never be able to say no! This is where salespeople talk people out of buying rather than into it. By sharing so much, you actually complicate the buying decision when you should be simplifying it.

With so much to tell your clients about your amazing products, properties or services, you’re now thinking, ‘You say don’t talk too much but how do we show them the amazing buying opportunity they have?’

First, you don’t need to tell them every reason to buy, just the reasons that will satisfy their buying criteria (usually only one or two reasons drive this). How do you know their buying criteria? Ask them! Second, when you are selling those wonderful benefits, break them into digestible chunks and keep the delivery interactive. How to do that? In my days in international property (running a professional trade body), here’s how we did it in three rhetorical steps. For each benefit:

  1. Make a statement: “The main benefit of becoming an AIPP member is that it enables your company to reassure buyers that, in an unregulated market, you have voluntarily signed up to the industry body’s professional Code of Conduct and face sanctions if you break that Code.”
  2. Give an example: “One of our members, ABC Worldwide, attended an exhibition in London recently and they attributed four sales to the fact that they could reassure buyers of their professionalism and integrity as AIPP members. The buyers actually confirmed this to them.”
  3. Ask a question to gauge their interest: “Is that the sort of consumer reassurance you’re hoping to achieve by becoming a Member?”

You can say all of that (low and slow) in about 40 seconds (I promise! Try it out) which is comfortably within the 45 seconds on the phone and 70 seconds face-to-face which is about as long as you can reasonably expect to hold someone’s attention in a sales conversation without some sort of interaction.

Great selling is about choosing your words wisely and using them in a way that engages people, that moves them to action, that helps them make good buying decisions. It’s not just about telling them all the information and leaving them to work their way through it all. Low. Slow. Keep it short. Try it out.