Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Verbs VS Interrogatives: How to Ask Buyers the Right Kind of Questions

The more you ask, the more you’ll hear, and the more you’ll learn about why someone is looking to purchase your work.

Which, obviously, gives you the information you need to figure out if you can or can’t help them.

But the easiest kind of question to ask, is also the worst:

Binary questions, which usually start with a verb.

“Can you see this working for you?”

“Have you tried other solutions before?”

“Is the problem you describe something you want to solve at this point in time?”

You might get a yes, you might get a no… but even a yes isn’t the same thing as a purchase.

And, how do you proceed, after you get an answer to a binary question?

You opened a door, they threw an answer at you, and now you have to ask another question, from scratch.

This way, you don’t advance the sales process.

Instead, ask questions that start with an interrogative.

“What would make this work for you?”

“What other solutions have you tried before?”

“How urgent is it for you, to solve this problem?”

Questions like these are powerful, because they cause the other person to think, to see things from different angles, and to create their own vision – which is important because it’s their vision of either the pain of not solving the problem, or the joy of having solved it, that causes them to buy in to making a decision to do so.

Whereas binary questions suggest that your vision – not theirs – is relevant to them. Which it might be, but they don’t care unless they see it.

And the best way for you to get someone to *see* the usefulness and power of that vision, is to ask questions switch on their brain and inner cinema.

Binary questions, the verb-led ones can easily cause distrust, objections and resistance.

So, ask interrogative-questions instead, because those are the ones that move the sales process forward, while leaving autonomy with the buyer.

Here’s another example:

What would it do for your business, if you learned ethical selling?



What Do You Not Sell?

“Guys, meet Martin. Martin, these two are lawyers. Be careful around them!”

Chuckles and smiles all around… never bad to poke a little fun of people, and the two lawyers clearly had a sense of humour. And obviously they’re not the wrong kind of lawyer, otherwise they wouldn’t be friends with my friend Antonio.

This was last night, at the inauguration party of Antonio’s co-working company in Malaga (which I helped him grow pretty big – I’ll share a case study of how we did it shortly).

The chat with the lawyers was fun and ranged from dating to whether capitalism and democracy should go together.

At some point, one of the guys asked me: “What do you *not* sell”.

What a brilliant question!

It took me a moment, and then I said: “Lies”.

And I realised how important it is to be ultra-clear on what you do not sell, offer, or promise.

See, a buyer has more than just one problem they need solving.

They might show up asking for a specific thing, but there’s always a bunch of related issues they also need resolved.

And naturally, there’s a (often subconscious) hope that buying from you will bring those solutions.

And that’s where the ‘no lies’ policy is a super powerful element of your sales process.

Of course I don’t think you would literally lie to buyers – you probably wouldn’t read me if you’re that kind of person.

But, the more clear you are about what your work does *not* do for a buyer, the easier it is for them to trust you.

Whereas if you leave it in the middle, or if you try to include a service, outcome, or benefit that isn’t in your core area of expertise, you’re actually harming your chances of closing the deal.

That’s why “Is not” is such an important element in the LEAP sales system I created.

The features and benefits of your offer consist of two parts: What it *is*, meaning what result or outcome you promise, and ‘what it is not’ – meaning, the outcomes or results that *might* show up, but that aren’t elements you promise.

And the more explicit and clear you are about ‘is not’, the higher the degree of trust a buyer will have in what your offer *does* do or solve.

Never be afraid to be clear and explicit about your ‘is not’.

Not only will you avoid signing on clients who expect things you can’t deliver, with all the complications that brings, it’ll make your selling easier and more fun as well.

There’s still some room in my calendar for a complementary coaching call, should you want one. Pick a time here.



Quick Favour, Help Me Out?

One of the most important things in business and selling your work, is knowing as precisely as possible who is your ideal buyer.

But, it’s an area where we often go by assumptions, thinking that we know who our ideal buyer is… without ever doing the research to make sure we’ve got it right.

And, it’s one of the reasons we struggle when selling. After all, if we try to sell to the ‘wrong’ people, how effective are we going to be?

In other words, it’s extraordinarily important to establish what’s called ‘product-market fit’.

That way, you can focus your marketing and selling efforts on those people who actually are right, and ready, for what you offer.

Me I’m also researching, specifically for the LEAP Ethical Selling System that I created.

So, in order to help – could you do me a favour and answer 4 simple questions for me?

I’d be super grateful!

So the LEAP sales framework I created stands for Listen, Explain, Ask, Profit, and hinges on integrity, ethics and empathy.

I built it specifically for people rich in integrity – the kind of person whose operations are based on a values-first approach.

Below are the questions – please click reply and fill in your scores:

How do you rate your skills at selling (or enrolling clients, if you prefer)?

Where 1 = Not very good, and 5 = I’m extremely good at selling

Your answer:

How much fun is the sales process for you?

Where 1 = Selling sucks, and 5 = I love sales

Your answer:

How would you score your success rate?

Where 1 = Not very successful at all, and 5 = Very high conversion rate

Your answer:

To what degree do you feel values like integrity and ethics either help, or hinder your sales process?

Where 1 = Such values make selling harder, and 5 = The more I honour my values, the more clients sign on

Your answer:



Watch Out for Inflection

Things can – and often do – change at any moment.

And whenever you’re trying to get someone on your side (either in selling, or getting collaboration, or buy-in for a project etc) it’s your job to pay close attention to what’s happening with the other person, and notice when they reach a point of inflection.

Very often though, we don’t notice when someone changes their attitude, inner state, thoughts or what have you.

That’s a problem, because when the other person reaches a point of inflection, you get a chance to react and move your mission forward – but if you don’t notice their change, you’re likely to move forward on the same track, and you miss an opportunity.

This is why empathy is so important.

Empathy enables you to tune in to what’s happening in that other person’s world, so that you can change your strategy and approach accordingly.

So, watch out for inflection. Read the other person. Observe them, and notice changes that indicate something has shifted for them.

Body language can be a great tell.

But also surprise, or sudden vehement agreement, or the breakthrough question they suddenly come up with.

Be mindful, attentive, observant, and you’ll know when the shift happens.

As a result, you’ll no longer fall in the trap that causes so many lost sales, bad communication, or unsatisfying outcomes with people.

Change can happen at any moment. Make sure you don’t miss it.

Also don’t miss: the opportunity for a complementary 30-minute strategy session, where you get to ask me anything you like about your business, sales, or marketing.

Schedule a time here, and see you soon:



Now They See It, Now They Buy

There’s a guy I like to learn from – the late Jim Camp, known as the world’s most feared negotiator.

One of his lessons is that ‘vision drives decision’, and since every sale is a negotiation, it’s really important that you work with your prospect’s vision.

Because unless they see themselves experiencing the benefit of your product or service, your only chance to cause a sale is to force the issue – and we’re nice people, we don’t force people into buying.

Now, most people try to persuade a vision onto someone. Compelling arguments, explanations, paint the ‘after’, pointing out the problems that remain without the purchase…

But it’s much more effective to have a prospect develop their own vision.

That way, they own the vision instead of ‘borrowing’ it from you, which makes it far more likely that they’ll also buy your work.

And the best way for someone to develop their own vision of ‘problem solved because I bought this thing’?


The last thing you want to do when selling, is tell people what to see.

Instead, ask questions that have them gain clarity and insight, and they’ll develop their vision all by themselves.

What kind of question to ask is hard to say, because it depends on the product or service you offer, on the personality of the buyer, the price point…

But, as long as your questions come from a place of empathy (i.e. putting yourself into their world), you’ll be fine.

Empathy shows the other that it’s about their results first, their decision second, and your sale last.

And that’s exactly the kind of ethical, integrity-based selling that I teach.

Want to dive deep on what questions to ask your particular buyers?

Then let’s chat: I’m offering my readers a no-cost, 30 minute strategy session.

Book yours here:

Talk soon,


Problems Worth Solving?

To you, it seems clear: the problem this person has, is totally something you can solve for them.

And they are on board as well: they like you, trust you, they know what’s in the tin and they’ve got the budget, and yet: the sales process stalls, and there’s no purchase.

Annoying and confusing, to be sure.

But there’s a simple, effective way for you to unblock stalled sales situations, and it comes down to problem-finding.

Because in many of these cases, where everything seems to line up and yet there’s no sale, it’s because we try to sell a solution for a problem that’s not worth solving.

‘My website is outdated’ is a good problem to solve, sure. But for a business owner, an outdated website is not the problem. Not if there’s other, bigger problems to solve first: make payroll, deliver product or service, manage the team, improve IT or fleet of vehicles… oh yeah, and then there’s that website. We’ll deal with that later, once I get this stuff off my plate.

So the problem ‘outdated website’ isn’t worth solving for your buyer, at that time.

But if you identify the actual problem, and the cost of not solving it…

Like so: “Your competitors have spiffy websites, with great SEO, and they’re signing on clients. Because your site isn’t up to date, you’re losing out on sales, while your competition is ‘eating your tortilla’, as they say in Spain”.

Lost sales? Overrun by competition? Now that’s a problem worth solving!

Your job as a seller isn’t to convince someone that their problem needs solving.

Your job is to identify the actual, underlying, costly problem.

Point at that, and your buyer will convince themselves that it’s a problem worth solving.



The Blindingly Obvious, Yet Usually Ignored Relationship Between Measurement and Results

If the saying ‘what gets measured, improves’ is true, then what’s the first thing to measure?

The self, of course – and I’m talking about your performance, not your height or waist-size.

Yet curiously, that’s often the last thing we ‘measure’.

We set a goal, for the year or the month, and then we measure the results: the number of clients, revenue, whatever kind of goal you have.

But the thing that gets you towards your

But what about the thing that gets you towards your goals?

Meaning: the way you show up to your work, and the way you handle the tasks you need to execute on – do you measure those?

I’m willing to bet ready money that you don’t keep track.

Oh sure, you plan and review – but that’s not the same thing as measuring performance.

Me, I measure my actions. Number of emails sent, number of appointments with potential buyers. Conversion rates, list growth… I still need to improve, but I’m keeping track of what I’m doing.

Which is why aside from todo lists, I also have a ‘done-list’, where I record the actions I took that day.

And, I record every day what my level of exertion has been.

None of this is because I’m obsessive, but because the brain simply loves direct feedback.

When you put your performance on a dashboard or chart, and you observe the levels of activity, you’ll start to see a correlation between how you show up, and the results you get. Duh, right?

Yes, but are you doing it?

Are you, actually, measuring yourself, to see how you perform in your business?



The Deep Psychological Truth About Sales that Hardly Anyone Talks About

Traditional marketing and sales has it that people buy outcomes, not features.

It’s not that they need a all-natural Amazonion latex mattress – what they *really* want, is to have the best night’s sleep they can get.

But to think (and sell) on that level is limited. Sure yes: features tell, and benefits sell, but:

There’s so much more going on in a buyer’s mind, and it goes up all the way to the level of identity.

Here’s how it works:

People buy the features of a product or service, because it makes sense. Mind says ‘yes, this sounds good. I like it’.

Then, the actual decision to buy is an emotional switch: it’s when trust and desire overlap so much, that the mental ‘yes’ is supported by an emotional ‘yes’.

That’s when you’ve successfully sold someone on the benefits.

But what someone is *really* buying, and something hardly anyone talks about is this:

People buy a new version of themselves.

Mind blown, right?

Oh, I see. Well, let me try again:

When someone decides to buy (and this gets truer the bigger the price tag), what they’re ultimately acquiring, is a way to signal to themselves and to others, that they’re the kind of person who makes this type of decision and purchase.

Someone spending 2K on a mattress says: “I’m worth that kind of quality”.

Someone buying an electric vehicle says to themselves and to others “I’m a modern, switched-on buyer, who cares about the environment and wants to show it”.

When someone buys a 6K website, their inner story is “I care madly about my business, to the point of investing big bucks in its growth”.

Someone who hires a sales coach (hi!) tells themselves: “My stuff is so good, I owe it to myself and my customers to become highly skilled at enrolling buyers”.

So whatever it is you do, and sell, and whenever you’re dealing with a potential buyer: ask yourself “What version of themselves do they
want to buy?”

Next, use the features and benefits in order to paint a picture of that new version.

Finally: instead of selling them that product or service you deliver, sell them the thing they *really* want: the next version of themselves.



How to Prevent Headaches When Selling

The roadworks in my street do a great job of showing just how fearful – and deeply irrational – human beings are… and, it’s a perfect lesson in who to sell or not sell to.

This town (Salobreña) is built on a rock, and the streets are steep, narrow, and bendy. And because half the pavement in the old town is tore up, normal traffic laws are suspended.

So you get two-way traffic, up and down narrow streets and around blind curves, on streets that are intended as one-way only.

Now because everyone is civil and you can’t really drive fast here, everything works. People give way, respect each other, shows respect and patience, and traffic flows in a more or less fluid way.

But some people are afraid, fearful of what’s around the corners. And so they sound their horns incessantly, constantly announcing that they’re around a bend.

Me, I never even touch the horn. If you drive carefully, and you watch out, you see who’s there, and you’re always going slow enough to break on time.

A careful driver doesn’t need a horn here. But those people, they don’t trust.

Even though they’ve managed it through life for 30 or 50 or 70 years, they don’t trust their own driving skills and ability to react.

They’re afraid, and it’s irrational.

But, fear overrules the mind, and so they make one hell of a ruckus in my neighbourhood.

Anyway, the lesson today?

Don’t try to sell to people who would sound their horn.

If someone doesn’t trust themselves enough, you’ll find you have a damn hard trying to have them trust you enough.

People who are nervous, fearful, jittery, yes you can sell them things. And sometimes your sales conversation is what they need in order to get to relax and trust (meaning: trust you, as well as  their own evaluation and decision-making).

But pay attention, and watch out for the signs of someone who isn’t going to switch and become trusting.

These are the kinds of (non) buyers who can take up a lot of your time, without ever making the big decision to work with you – which you’ll agree is a major headache.

Your time is better spent with people who don’t need convincing, and who need help getting clarity instead.

Those people already trust you enough to let you advise them.

Sell to those people.


The Sales Coach Monk

What if You’re Already Ready?

We weren’t ready.

We hadn’t rehearsed in weeks.

We still had a problem ending the songs properly, and at the same time.

And many of the tracks we played, we just didn’t sound together. You know that feeling, when a band is just tight? We’d never really gotten there, yet. Not consistently.

But somehow, last Thursday, we were booked in for a performance at a local bar.

So what’s a band of funky musicians to do… turn down the gig?

Nah, not us.

Even if we’d never performed together before.

Even if, since starting the band, we only had some 10 or 12 rehearsals behind us.

Of course you can wait until everything is perfect. Rehearse until you can play the songs in your dreams.

Or, you can just get up on stage, and rise to the occasion.

Which is what we did last Saturday, and wouldn’t you know:

The crowd (small crowd, but still) loved us.

We ended all the tracks properly, and yes: at the same time.

And we sounded tight. Together. People even commented on how well we worked together.

So yeah, your friendly funky monk played a little show, and much fun was had by all.

The lesson?

There’s a difference between being prepared, and being ready.

That big thing you want to get started, that phone call you want to make to an influential person… that followup call that’s waiting to happen, the article you want to submit to Huffington Post, that video you recorded but haven’t published yet…

What if you just run with it, knowing that while you might not be fully ready – at least you’re prepared?

Because the dirty little secret of performance (be it musically, as a speaker, as a seller or as any other kind of professional) is that you’ll never be ‘ready’.

Never as ready as you’ll be after launching, or after your next experience.

‘Ready’ is a moving target. The more experience you get under your belt, the more ready you’ll be.

So, what if today you call yourself ‘ready enough’ and just do the thing you’ve been putting off?



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