This html-coded online version of the Wombat Final 15/5/06 9:12 AM -- wombatbook.pdf, was prepared by Darlene Sartore with some additions, clarifications, minor adaptations and color texting. This version is for use only by course presenters certified by An Ever Better World Internet Academy. Permission granted from author on March 5, 2007.
I first used the $100,000 challenge back in the late ’80s. I was invited by National Mutual, the then number two Australian life insurance company, to be the keynote speaker at a sales conference in Phuket, Thailand. This event was a reward for the company’s top-performing insurance agents. The group consisted of 120 men and women all earning between $200,000 and $2 million in commissions per annum. Needless to say, the highlights of the conference were the beach and the sun, the surf and the sails, the pool and the cocktail bar. But, to make it tax-deductible, they had to have a ‘motivational speaker’.
Formally introduced as ‘Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson’, I staged a ponderous walk to the lectern with a large pile of notes, looking every bit the academic. I peered out over my glasses, paused for effect and then said, ‘Let me start by saying that there’s no such thing as closing the sale!’
You can imagine the reaction. The body language was not subtle. They were saying, ‘Can you believe this?’ and ‘Where do they get these nerds from?’ They were outraged at the suggestion. Here they were, all national champions. They wouldn’t even be here if they weren’t champion closers and now this jerk was claiming you couldn’t close the sale.
I continued. ‘Look, I’m not going to attempt to argue with you about this claim because we could do so all day, never get anywhere, waste our time and miss out on the beach. So, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give $100,000 cash,’ at this point I took out a fat wad of notes, ‘to the first person who can prove that you, the salesperson, closes the sale. Here I am. Here’s the cash. Come and close me now!’
Then an interesting thing happened. Nothing. Not a single champion salesperson approached the lectern.
I was talking later to one of the leading agents who said, ‘I couldn’t believe it. There I was getting ready to run up and claim the cash. I tried to think what I could say or do to make you say YES. I couldn’t think.’ He then added, ‘And, to my horror, not one person in a room of 120 national champions was able to do it either.’
This was the first time I had ever tried this stunt and I’ve done it many times since. It worked well and I had their undivided attention for the next two hours while I showed them the difference between the traditional American selling theory, oldsell (which they believed in), and newsell. The cash motive in the stunt also helped them to keep their minds open and be less defensive about their current point-of-view.
For my part, it gave me an invaluable insight. When they first started out, these people had all been taught the fundamental belief in selling that their job was to ‘close the sale’. This was the first time in their career that they had ever challenged that belief. The moment they did, it just fell apart.
The notion that the salesperson can close the sale is an illusion rather like the notion that you can win lotto. You can’t close the sale and you can’t win lotto. Note the active tense used here, it’s very important. Neither can you win roulette, a horse race, or a vote. If you could win, in the active sense, you’d do it every time and you’d be the most famous person who ever lived.
The verb to win, when used in these examples in the active tense, is an illusion. A very costly illusion that has cost many a life, a fortune and a career. Nothing is better documented, every time there’s a lotto draw, than the fact that you cannot win. Recently the nightly news showed millions of Americans lining up for hours to buy lotto tickets in a jackpot that was building to US$450 million. Presumably, they all wanted to win. Did they all win? No, they did not. The facts showed that over 99.9 per cent of all these people did not win – they were losers. If the focus was placed on this overwhelming piece of evidence then it would be clear that you can’t win lotto. But the clever trick played by the lotto people is that they hide this fact by not mentioning the losers and spend a lot of money and media focusing on the so-called winner. This helps maintain the illusion for the faithful that, yes, you can win lotto. This clever trick of ignoring the losers is played on millions of willing players every day all around the world. Of course, most people get their value from the fantasy of winning for a few days before the bad news arrives. I’m one of them.
The illusion of winning is no less an illusion just because it’s widely believed. If 10 million people are led to believe the earth is flat, that’s not enough to make it flat. If 10 million salespeople are led to believe that they can close the sale, that’s not enough to make it possible.
You can’t win, in the active sense. Winning can only happen to you in the passive sense. It’s a question of odds. In lotto, the odds against winning happening to you are very low, more than 1 million to 1.
In selling, the odds of winning happening to you are much better, often as high as 50/50. You win if the customer gives you a YES and you don’t win if the customer gives you a NO.
If you, dear reader, can prove that you can close the sale and get only a YES, I’ll give you $100,000. Please, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org because you’ll make me a very rich man. If you can show me how to make the customer say YES I could win a Nobel Prize for the scientific breakthrough of controlling the electrochemical behaviour of the human brain. But, more practically, I’d be on the first plane to New York to visit some of the largest companies in the world.
How much do you think they’d pay me for that sort of information?
This html-coded online version of the Wombat Final 15/5/06 9:12 AM -- wombatbook.pdf, was prepared by Darlene Sartore with some minor adaptations and color texting, for use only by course presenters certified by Ideal Network Academy. Use permission herein granted from author Michael Hewitt-Gleeson on March 5, 2007.
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