"How to Sell Thin Air" a summary of the blog by Richard White The Accidental Salesman
Dec 16th, 2009
‘How to Sell Thin Air’…..That
was the title of the workshop I ran for Ecadamist Mark
Underwood’s excellent Business
NLP Group meeting last night. Its a club to show the business
applications of NLP and was well attended by people who run their
own business and people that work in companies in a non-sales
Selling ideas and pure services are very similar.
They are often very intangible and take a certain style of selling.
People seeking ‘buy-in’ from others are essentially
talking about a ’sales’ task.
So here are 5 questions I posed to get them thinking about the
building blocks of ‘How to sell thin
What specifically are you selling?
With ideas and services we need to make them as tangible as
possible. With services this typically means creating service
products with names, specific contents, and a specific price.
With ideas the use of metaphors are good and also helping people to
see the end result of the idea in the form of a mental
I told the room that WHAT is a good place to start but you may need
to come back to it after answering some of the other questions.
It’s still worth considering service propositions which are
effectively the core ideas of the problems you solve. For example
‘Cut service costs by up to 50% whilst increasing service
Give your service products names – an example of mine is the
Business Development Launch pad. It’s a specific service with
a specific process, a specific price and even has a money back
guarantee. The more tangible you can make these things the
1.2.2 Mental Picture
When I am doing a sales breakthrough with a business owner the WHOM
is normally the area that needs most work.
Here we are looking at clarification as to who we are selling to
recognising that people are different. They have different
personalities, wants, needs, communication styles etc. The more we
understand about the who the easier it is to work out the rest. We
did an exercise from my Lead Generation Masterclass to work out the
different personality types
If you are talking about the WHOM in terms of companies or markets
then start thinking about the individual people because its the
people that do the buying. Also there may be more than one person
involved e.g. A Finance Director, A Sales Director, An Operations
Director – each typically having different personality types.
Even if you pick one of those there are different types of people.
For example, Finance directors can range from tight fisted and risk
averse to forward thinking and taking calculated
2.1.4 Communication Style
Here we are looking for the underlying motivation to change and do
something different – and in most cases spend money they many
not think they have.
Understanding the motivation is the key to sales and once you
understand WHO then the WHY becomes a lot easier if you imagine
what it is like to be in their position. Better still…ask
There are two motivational forces – pain and pleasure –
carrot and stick etc. Rather than applying the stick we need to
understand the pain that they are currently experiencing or at risk
of experiencing that they want to move away from. Its the classic
‘What’s keeping you up at night?’ type of
question…..If you can help people move from pain to pleasure
then they will thank you for it.
3.1.1 Role play
Here we are taking the underlying motivations and picking an aspect
that we emphasise. If we were selling cars and a potential customer
was interested in safety then it would be foolish to emphasise the
speed of a car – we would want to emphasise how safe the car
Taking all the above we now need to communicate the
idea/service/product in a way that fits the person(s) communication
style and motivations
We did lots of exercises around the questions and I was delighted
that people that would never even consider selling
anything…..ever!! were flogging like a goodun! .[technical