Mexican or Italian, which would you prefer?'

I HAD BEEN in Dallas for four days conducting sales training seminars with a fine group of success- ful contractors. We covered all aspects of the sales cycle: suspects, prospects, qualifying, writing proposals, asking for the sale and following up. I had come back to Seattle with a slight Southern drawl. I had learned several important bits of Southern philosophy. No. 1: the difference between a

I HAD BEEN in Dallas for four days conducting sales training seminars with a fine group of success-

ful contractors. We covered all aspects of the sales cycle: suspects, prospects, qualifying, writing proposals, asking for the sale and following up.

I had come back to Seattle with a slight Southern drawl. I had learned several important bits of Southern philosophy. No. 1: the difference between a Yankee and a "Damn Yankee?" A Yankee is one who visits, as I had. A "Damn Yankee" is one who stays. I was just a Yankee.

I also 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 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. But no one could have accused her of being a salesperson. Her technical competence assured repeat business.

As we drove away from Sea-Tac airport in late afternoon on that beautiful Indian Summer day, a smile appeared at 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 asked, "Are you hungry?"

Now this was a loaded question. I am always hungry! (Remember "Jaws"?)

"Starving!"

"Well," she said, almost in a 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 for Mexican be good, or Italian be better? Which would you prefer?"

Choices of Yeses
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 "Alternative Advance" or "Choice of Yeses." When it's time to ask for the sale, you offer the prospect two choices, the second one being your personal preference and the one that is also in the prospect's enlightened self-interest.

That is exactly what Deb 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. (Do you know the difference between men and government bonds? Bonds mature!)

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?).

Sales are like a four-legged chair: Trust, Relationship, Competence and Timing. Deb understands this. In this case, Timing was the biggest factor. I was hungry, therefore, near helpless. I never had a chance.

Remember that the next time you need to close an important sale. Mexican or Italian, which would you prefer?

Mark Matteson of the Pinnacle Service Group can be reached by phone at 877/672-2001, by fax at 425/745-8981, by e-mail at [email protected] or visit his Website at www.mattesonavenue.com. His new e-book is "101 Stories to Make You Laugh, Cry or Think." He will be the opening and closing speaker at "Striving for Excellence," the Quality Service Contractors' Power Meeting XXVI, Feb. 22-24, 2007, in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information on the meeting, visit www.qsc-phcc.org or call 800/533-7694.