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Business Management

Sales Aikido

The Power of Belief

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Several years ago, Amy and I were in the market for a new television. We went to a store that shall remain nameless, where we selected a new television. Amy looked on encouragingly as a blue-shirted employee and I wrestled the monstrous set onto a large industrial cart. 

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Before we’d finished, a gaggle of salespeople surrounded us like stealth ninja fighters, and the leader began touting the benefits of protecting our purchase with an extended service contract, while the others nodded, apparently as some sort of backups. 

 

Amy and I know a thing or two about extended service contracts. We’ve helped Harley-Davidson Financial Services increase service contract penetration for years, so we believe in service contract benefits and always buy them for our Harley-Davidson motorcycles. We also often get them for our cars, computers and iPods. So, we are likely prospects.

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By now, it may not surprise you that I treat interactions with other salespeople as ethnographic research, and I approach the task with the zeal of an archeologist on the verge of discovering the Ark of the Covenant. Some colleagues suggest I’m more like the sales Marquis de Sade, reveling in others people’s discomfort. Regardless, I wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass.

 

“I thought I just selected a fantastic TV. Why would I need a service plan?” I asked the sales team. The leader of the blue shirts stammered something about how the TV is not a divine creation, and that things break. Another added a very convincing, “Yeah.”

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I hit them with another objection, and then another. Finally, as I watched the team sputter, struggle and shift back and forth trying to find answers they didn’t know (even I eventually felt bad for them). I quickly revealed my background. “Guys, do you know what I do for a living?” I asked. All four, probably each under the age of 22, shook their heads back and forth in unison. “I help show people how to sell extended service plans.”

 

It was as if I had suddenly flipped on a light switch, and the cockroaches scrambled. Almost immediately, Amy and I found ourselves alone with that gigantic TV. As you may have guessed, we passed on that particular extended service plan. If they didn’t believe in it, why should we? 

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Now, compare that exchange with this one that happened in the same timeframe. Because of our busy travel schedule, Amy and I were in the market for a portable DVD player, which at the time were fairly expensive. 

 

When we selected the model we wanted, the young person we were working with suggested we should consider the extended service plan. You could almost hear Amy’s eyes rolling as she knew what was coming next. With all the confidence of David Ortiz approaching the plate in a T-ball game, I began steering the conversation. 

 

“Well, I thought we just purchased a great DVD player,” I began, using my familiar refrain. “Why would we need an extended service plan?”

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Then I hit him with objection after objection, building up to my big reveal: “Young man,” I said in my Homer Simpson pontificating voice, “do you know what I do for a living?” 

 

Of course not, his expression conveyed. 

“I show people how to sell extended service plans.” 

Without missing a beat, he exclaimed, “Perfect! Then you’re going to want the four-year plan!”

 

We bought the four-year plan. 

 

Why? Because with a masterful bit of conversational aikido – a Japanese form of self-defense – the young salesperson was able to grab the momentum of my objection and use it to prove that he believed in what he was selling. He was convincing, because he himself was convinced that the extended service plan was a solid one that would suit our needs. If you want to be convincing, you have got to be convinced. 

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