Mexican or Italian?

It was the fall of 2000. I had been in Dallas, Texas for four days conducting seminars with a fine group of successful contractors. Sales training. We covered all aspects of the sales cycle: suspects, prospects, qualifying, writing proposals, asking for the sale and following up. I had come back with a slight southern drawl. I learned the plural of “You-all” (pronounced YAWL) is “All-YAWL!” Good stuff. I love Texans. They just might be the most polite people in the United States.

My wife picked me up at the airport. She had been in Court Reporting for 18 years. It was a fine career but things had changed; Margins shrinking, a glut of lawyers in Seattle, increased competition from Technology (the unspeakable, being replaced by video!) and of course, motherhood. She was a fine court reporter. It’s the toughest kind of mental work. You had to be perfect, capture every word. She worked for one of the largest and most prestigious firms in Seattle. Her technical competence assured repeat business. I was about to find out she was world class on the topic of INFLUENCE.

As we drove away from Sea-Tac airport in late afternoon on that beautiful fall day, a smile appeared in the corner of her mouth, like the gentle wiggle of a cat’s tail just before it pounces on its prey. “How was your flight?” “Oh, fine. I read most of the way.” I looked out the window as she drove. As we came to a stop at the light, she turned to me, lowered her voice an octave and in a sultry, soft tone said, “Are you hungry?” Now this was a loaded question. I am always hungry! “Starving!” I replied. “Well,” she said, in a gentle whisper, “I could make dinner, and then do the dishes, and I wouldn’t really get to hear how your trip was. So…I was just wondering, would going out to a Mexican restaurant be good, or would Italian be better? Which would you prefer?” Without hesitation or any real thought, I said, “Italian!” It wasn’t until I was dipping the bread in the olive oil; I realized what she had done to me!

In sales, I teach the “Choice of Yeses.” When it’s time to ask for the sale, you offer the prospect two or three choices, the first option is your personal preference and the one that is also in the prospect’s enlightened self-interest. That is exactly what Debbie had done to me. She knew I would choose Italian if followed by the word “Better.” As far as I know, she has never attended a sales training class, (mine or anyone else’s). This proves a point I have long contended, women are smarter than men in many areas.

What was particularly powerful about this experience was I never knew it was happening to me. It was sooo smooth, sooo seamless. Man, she was good (or should I say woman, she was good?) With the four-legs of the Sales chair: Trust, Relationship, Competence and Timing: Timing was the biggest factor. I was hungry, therefore, near helpless. I never had a chance.

Remember the next time you need to close an important sale, offer a choice of Yeses. Say, are you hungry? Mexican or Italian, which would you prefer?

Look for the causes of your success. If someone tells you that you were great, say, ‘Thank you. Why do you say that?’ and listen. Only then will we know the common denominators of success.

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