Building a business; So much of the time we’re stuck in our heads, worrying about cash flow, compliance and targets. We’re thinking about what to say next – how to steer the conversation to engineer a sale. There’s tension, effort and stress and very little that feels enjoyable. No wonder so many advisors hate prospecting!
It really doesn’t have to be this way.
Think like a jazz musician!
For many years I was a professional jazz singer. The sheer joy of being onstage in musical conversation with my band mates and sharing that with the audience gave me the fuel to stick with it through all the challenges that come with an artistic career. Now 13 years into my second career as a sales coach, the parallels between my former life and running a business built on conversations are unmistakable.
Great sales conversations are like great jazz. When you’re in the zone onstage or in conversation with a prospect, there is a rhythm that feels soulful and sexy. You’re fully alive. There is a natural high. Everyone wins.
Here are 3 key tips from the Jazz World that will help you master the rhythm of your sales conversations:
Master the structure. Jazz musicians who have never met each other before can get onstage and play like they’ve known each other for years, with only a lead sheet (a basic outline of structure, chords and rhythm) as their guide. Armed with this structure, skilled jazz players can improvise in harmony with each other and with total freedom for as long as required – or inspiration dictates.
Every sales conversation has a basic structure. There is an introduction, building some trust and rapport, uncovering needs, the push-and-pull of objections, an offer and a next step. The more comfortable and familiar you become with this very predictable structure and master each element, the more freedom you have to bring your authentic best to each conversation.
Listening is key. There is nothing more stilted and boring than sitting through a jazz performance with players who aren’t listening to each other. When they’re in their own world oblivious to their band-mates, there is no cohesion in the band. It feels like work instead of music and it feels the same to the audience, too. There’s a name in the jazz world when a musician plays like this: Wanking off.
On the other hand, when everyone is listening, there is a magical volley that happens. You are fully in the present moment. Beyond a loose idea of the structure, you have no idea what will happen next and you have surrendered the need to control things. Instead you are co-creating this shared moment.
You’ve probably experienced a few great sales conversations that had this kind of energy. Have you thought it was just ‘lucky’ or that you were just ‘in the zone’ and then longed for a way to get back there? You can.
Deep listening brings you into the present moment like nothing else. The words your prospect says are a small part of the equation. Learn to pick up on verbal and non-verbal clues. Listen for nuances in tone of voice, pauses, pace, energy, hesitation, emotions. Volley back what you hear by paraphrasing their words to them and watch what happens! Inside of all these clues is a wealth of information about your prospect’s true motivations, worries, needs, and goals they will actually follow through on.
Magic happens when you’re fully present. Deep listening will bring you fully present and unlock more sales.
Practice and prepare like crazy, then let go and trust. Great jazz musicians practice for hours a day, year after year. They practice to gain technical mastery over their instrument. They practice all the elements of the music they are making – chords, scales, arpeggios, rhythms, and so on. They practice particular songs and song structure. They work on general musicianship skills of sight-reading and ear-training, and on and on.
All of this practice is in service of the present moment. It is the raw material that is drawn on in response to something that happens live onstage. The more diligent the musician has been with their practice, the richer the palette of colours that becomes available during performance.
Performance is the time for surrender. The player is not consciously thinking of their preparation but is fully present and listening for the musical conversation that is happening. That’s when the magic happens!
How can you practice your sales conversations? Some tips: Know your ‘why’. Take the time to articulate your value. Craft high impact questions in preparation for your meeting. Have answers for all the most common objections. And practice all these elements out loud. There is a vast difference between knowing a fact in your head and having your body serve up the information when you need it. (As any musician will tell you!)
One thing you can’t practice effectively alone is that magical volley – listening and responding. Need some stage time? Hire a sales conversation coach who can give you a safe place to practice realistic sales conversations.
Yes, that is a lot to balance with serving clients, earning accreditations and all the other demands of running a business. This is what the masters do.
Kira Callahan is an expert sales conversation coach for the financial industry. Her private clients typically experience 30% – 100% increase in appointments and business. Click here to find out more about Kira.