Authentic Sales Conversations

Here is the typical framework for how to have a sales conversation / exploratory call with a potential client. Maybe you’ve had this experience yourself, or have been taught to do this…

The Typical Sales Conversation

1. Help them connect to their pain again, the frustration, the block, the symptoms that made them seek out a solution. Ask questions or tell stories to get them to really feel the pain and how bad it would be to stay there. (Ideally, they should feel some desperation.)

2. We’re also supposed to get them to dream about what’s possible, the ideal life they could have if that pain weren’t there, if they could achieve their goal successfully, how pleasurable and awesome it would be.

3. Finally, we’re supposed to show them that we (our services program / product) are the bridge from the current pain to the future ideal … or our services are a “boat” that takes them from “pain island” to “pleasure island”.

4. We overcome any objections they might have to signing up. Make sure to have a polished and persuasive answer to any “but what about…?” questions they might have about working with us.

5. We interject some scarcity (time limit to signing up while spaces are available, or to take advantage of a dramatic discount, or an amazing bonus) to get them to make a decision on that call if possible, or within 48 hours.

Power Over Others

In short, we are taught to skillfully manipulate the prospect’s emotions and frame of mind, until they are like putty in our hands, to be shaped how we will.

This is what it means to have psychological/emotional power over someone.

This is profitable, the sales experts tell us, because now they will do what we say: Spend the money we ask them to spend, and take the actions we recommend… all in service to “make their life better.”

My belief is that to really make someone’s life better, we need to allow them to exercise choice and power in their life as much as possible… including making mistakes.

I’m assuming we’re working with adults here. Any decisions — especially re: money and commitment — allow them to make that decision with as little pressure if possible.

Let it be something they’re genuinely excited by. Let them pursue you, rather than you having to persuade them.

Be honest and transparent about what results you believe can be expected. Search within yourself and eliminate any manipulation you feel tempted to do.

This is what Authentic Sales is about.

“Heart-Based” or “Conscious” Sales Strategies?

The traditional sales method I described above is currently being dressed up by the modern “conscious” or “heart-based” business coaches who say:

“Using the pain-to-pleasure-island method, we are empowering them to make an ‘investment’ in themselves… we need to use techniques that get them to shed their RESISTANCE, to take INSTANT action… we manipulate them purposefully, to help them better their life.”

“Of course, we don’t want to mention that the majority of people who ‘made an investment in their life’ with our program, did not achieve the results we promise in our marketing… because it’s really up to them… it’s not our fault if it didn’t work for them.”

I hope you can now easily see through their rationalizations. These marketers are making money hand-over-fist by “helping” people make “an investment in their life”. I’ve lost count of how many clients had spent tens of thousands of dollars on such programs, before starting to work with me.

Diagnosing & Empathy vs. Manipulation & Persuasion

The problem here is not actually with the pain/pleasure island framework. I like how my friend teaches it — it’s about correctly naming their symptoms so that you can diagnose the cause of those symptoms, so that you (and they) can see that you can actually help them (or if you need to refer them onward.)

It’s about empathy.

The problem is when we try to use pain/pleasure island as a tool to manipulate their emotions (experiencing low & high) so that they buy.

They already know their pain. You don’t need to rub it in.

You can, however, take a few moments to make sure you do understand their pain, not as part of an agenda to sell them, but from a spirit of connection and service.

Here’s an alternative sales conversation that can feel more authentic…

Authentic Sales / Enrollment Conversation

Here is what I recommend for our “sales” or exploratory / discovery conversations:

1. CONNECT with that person genuinely — as a possible future friend — to discover what it is they are really needing and wanting at this time, to see if it honestly makes sense for you to help them right now, or for you to refer them onward to another trusted provider or resource that can better help them.

Be in service, but don’t underestimate the value of what you can bring to their life. If they are interested to work with you, and you believe you actually can help, then allow them to say Yes. Don’t oversell, but don’t undersell either, what you truly believe you can do to help them.

2. SERVE them in that very conversation. Give them a sample of what you do with clients. Observe how open they are to your efforts. Are they eager for your help? So will they be, going forward. Are they reluctant or giving you objections? That will likely be how they interact with you even as a client. You are interviewing them, as much as they are getting to know you.

Be careful not to overwhelm them, because that wouldn’t help, but also don’t be holding back any idea or process that you believe would really help them in that moment. Learning this balance takes practice. (Start with your next conversation.)

3. ASK if they have any questions about your services. 5 minutes before the end of the call, try saying: “So, do you have any questions about how I work with clients?” (Ask this question only if you truly feel that your service would be a great next step for them.)

If they are an eager and ideal client, then you can simply answer their questions and talk about how to start working with you.

If however you feel that another provider or resource would honestly be the best next step or a better fit for their style, ask if they would like you to refer them onto another recommended resource. If they insist on working with you, you can recommend a DIY product of yours, or add them to your waiting list.

If they give you a lackluster response to this question, then they are usually not ready to work with you. You can complete the conversation soon. You’ll have learned a bit more about who is an ideal client vs. who isn’t, and you will have perhaps helped that person whether or not they ever become a client.

Timing: In my exploratory conversations, I basically spend about 5–10 minutes in the Connect stage, 15–20 minutes on Serving them, and the final ~5 minutes on the Ask as mentioned above.

Does this framework feel more authentic and service-oriented to you? Go ahead and try it.

You will be creating potential client relationships in an honest, supportive way. It will feel great to you and them. Good word will spread about your business.

On the other hand, with the traditional sales/enrollment method, you are starting the relationship immediately from a place of emotional manipulation and creating a power-over-them dynamic. Then you’ll feel like you have to keep up that front as you continue working with them.

Rather than the typical spirit of Performing and Persuading in a sales conversation, let’s switch to an intention of Connection and Service.

I wish for you genuine, truly supportive conversations and relationships with clients going forward.


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Authentic Business Coach & Author of 4 Books including "Authentic Content Marketing" and "Joyful Productivity"