Velvet Rope

You’re having a night out with friends and pass by two nightclubs.  The first one has a guy out in front handing out 2-for-1 drink coupons to every passer by, trying to waive you into the club.  The second nightclub has a red velvet rope blocking the entrance, and is guarded by a doorman who, when not intentionally ignoring you, is sizing you up to determine if you merit entrance.

Which club seems more appealing?  OK, I know there’s a small portion of readers for whom nothing else comes even close to discounted drinks.  But for the rest of you it’s not even close.  The more the first nightclub stalks you, the less you want to go there.  Conversely, the more exclusive the second club is the more you want to try and get in.

The hard sell is such an obvious turnoff when we experience it as customers, yet so many sales people and small business owners still practice this approach.  But you don’t have to be that guy, the what’s-it-gonna-take-for-me-to-close-this-sale guy.  You can flip the model.

Instead of trying to convince your customer to buy your product or service, how about having them try to convince you to take their money?

What if you played a little hard to get.  What if, after giving your presentation, you said, “We’re not right for everyone,” and made it clear you don’t take just any business.  You want the right business, the right client.  Pivot the conversation and change the dynamic.

You can even apply this approach to an initial call with a prospect.  Try saying, “I’d like to show you our capabilities, hear about your needs, and see if we’d be a good fit to work together.”  The implication is, as much as they might say no, you might say no also, which removes some of the pressure on the prospect.

This works best when you actually believe what you’re saying.  You should have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is, and why.  And you should want to have that discussion with a prospect about whether they are the right fit for you.  When you get to that place, you’re no longer in traditional sales mode.  You’ve shifted to an intelligent business conversation among equal potential partners.