How to Make Sales When Technology Fails

Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, right? We’ve all been there. Your one hour meeting is slashed to 30 minutes, the projector isn’t compatible, the magic converter cable got left at home, an unexpected slide formatting crisis brings up your presentation with images and text garbled beyond recognition, and the battery runs out.

What do you do? Apart from immediately forgetting the name of the person you were just introduced to…

Here’s three steps, which could be summed up as the ‘SOS’ of delivering that customer even if the heavens cave in.

The first S in our SOS is ‘Strategy’.

The most common way to prepare for a great sale or investor pitch is to have a well practiced ‘Strategy’: a detailed, logical plan, based on any one of a million step-by-step pitching and sales coaching models. Research your audience, learn your story, set out a logical proposal, prepare responses to expected objections, polish your samples, and staple together your handout materials.

Not bad, but not enough to guarantee success. In fact this will get you about 30% of the way.

What happens when things go wrong, and this carefully prepared strategy becomes redundant in unforeseen circumstances? What happens if the person you’ve just met clearly doesn’t like you? Nobody buys from someone they dislike or distrust. A New York Times/CBS survey (June 1999) tells us only 30% of people are thought trustworthy on first sight. People don’t trust people they don’t know. And being ‘right’ about your product is not sufficient. In her book Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, Annette Simmons reminds us that “being right is only halfway to getting someone to take action”.

The ‘O’ in the SOS approach to selling is for ‘Outcome’.

Know your outcome. Be crystal clear about a) What you want to walk away with and b) What you want them to walk away with. And in the early stages of the relationship, don’t just pay attention to the task at hand, concluding a deal, and getting the investment — but also the relationship itself.

My most successful sales experiences always benefited from hunting in packs — well, two of us anyway. One to focus on the process, getting through the agenda, covering all the issues, asking the carefully prepared questions, keeping to the schedule. The other to focus purely on the relationship. Knowing that words are only 30% of communication means someone has to look after body language, emotional cues, and building unconscious rapport, the details of which make an ideal subject for a future blog post.

Writing your outcome down, having it in your face, or even on your wrist, will keep you on track more effectively than a complex logical strategy. Examples of outcomes might be “they love the pitch, we’re invited back”, or “we know the conditions for a test market, they ask for a detailed proposal”.

But even this unerring focus on outcome may become derailed, requiring you to employ the most powerful resource at your disposal, which is…

The final S in our SOS, your ‘State’.

When the diminutive irishman Conor McGregor steps into the MMA ring in Las Vegas to batter his giant opponent into a mush, he relies on more than just his strategy and his skills. He arrives amidst musical fanfare, self talk (affirmations), and a host of environmental triggers to get himself ‘in State’.

Superstars at the peak of their powers in every field of human endeavour know what it’s like to be ‘on a roll’, or ‘in the zone’, essentially unstoppable. And being able recreate that state on demand will get you through anything a buyer, investor, or the tech throws at you in a meeting. It endows you with magical powers of unbeatable creativity, commitment, collaboration and more.

What is ‘State’? Well, it’s a combination of our physiology and the internal re-presentations, or meaning, we make up in our heads triggered by the world around around us.

We tend to think we see the world as IT is, but the truth is we see the world as WE are. Not convinced? Consider any sports event, with its opposing supporters in their celebratory or sad state at the final whistle. How can a mere game generate such diverse emotions? It’s not the game of course, but the internal re-presentations, or beliefs, in people’s minds that they brought in the door.

Or just think of the different response you get from someone when you smile at them, or when you grimace, and the completely different conversation that follows.

The really good news here is that when you create that state, it becomes contagious. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm. Standing up straight rather than slouching has immediate impact on your state. Even faking a smile makes you feel happy, right?

So finally, let me give you a practical tool you can call upon anytime and any place to get you in that invincible state in less than 20 seconds.

The “circle of excellence” works a bit like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Nobody can see it except you. It’s immediately effective and you can whip it out without disturbing your client.

To begin, just stand normally, relaxed, in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed for five minutes. Now close your eyes, and bring to mind one of the highlights of your life, when you were indeed ‘on a roll’ — a time when everything worked out, a moment you were at your best and you felt like punching the air. Bring to mind what you saw, who was there, how you stood, the sounds, smells, the full 3D VR effect. And when that feeling is at its peak, double its intensity (trust me you can do that!!), and then step forward into an imaginary 3’ diameter circle on the floor. Once in the circle, imagine downloading that incredible feeling into the circle itself. As soon as the feeling diminishes at all, step back out of the circle. Open your eyes, shake out your body (nothing extreme!), and relax.

Now think of another highlight in your life, and repeat the process, making sure to crank up the intensity of the experience, before you download it into the circle on the floor. Then repeat with a third experience.

It sounds weird, but now you can simply pack up the circle, or fold it neatly into your laptop bag ready for use.

Next time you go to an important meeting, whip it out, lay it on the floor somewhere like the threshold of the client’s office, or in the car park on the way in. Close your eyes, and step back in, uploading everything you stored in it: the physiology, everything. Excellent! Now go pitch it to them!


PDF: What is State

Originally published at on November 5, 2016.