Conversations are for Closers

By: Scott Walker Founder and CEO Refine.ai

Over the past 30 years I have learned a lot about sales conversations. I would go as far as to say I have personally sold more products and services then 99.999% of all humans in recorded history. Starting in the 80’s with cable tv, timeshare, into the 90’s with software, games, music, and the list goes on… In short I am a “Convos” expert.

I like to share a story about how my first sales job taught me the most valuable lesson I still teach others today. I started in door to door sales for a new service called cable TV (remember we’re talking 80’s here) The company script went something like this: “Hello Ma’am, my name is Scott and I would like to explain to you the benefits of Cable television…” As you can imagine with that script almost every time I knocked on a door they slammed the door in my face. I was really getting discouraged and would have likely left that job and become a cop like my dad… until I met Sam. Sam was a “Closer” A real Pro. I was lucky enough to meet him and he was nice enough to take me under his wing… One day he took me out and watched me pitch some clients, and after laughing hysterically at my bumbling script he came back to me and said “shut up and follow me” and for the next 30 minutes I saw Sam close more deals than I had in my first two weeks of hard, HARD work. Here is all Sam did: Knock on the door… “Who is it?” “Hi Ma’am, this is Sam with XXX cable television, a couple of your neighbors have ordered and we are installing a FREE trial next week….”

When customers heard keywords like “free trial” “your neighbors” “installing next week” they were no longer skeptical and the orders came in like crazy! From that one 30 minute training I learned the difference between success and failure had nothing to do with the product, my product knowledge, my intelligence, none of it. It simply came down to: what you say and how you say it.

This gets me to the current situation with Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots. However complex a bot’s self-directing algorithms are, it’s still a human mind that must program those algorithms in the first place. It’s up to humans to choose what a bot does, and does not do, to meet their goals.

Convos’ name comes from Millennial slang for “conversations,” but to be clear, it doesn’t employ conversational artificial intelligence — machine learning based on millions of training examples. Convos are what bot makers call “rule-based” — instead of ”machine-learning” it follows a script written by humans, with specific actions and responses to a limited set of input options it offers, rather than trying to calculate what every word means in the larger conversational context.

Most bot companies today want to use bots to automate marketing and sales. But what we have learned is the best salesperson isn’t always the smartest. That’s not what matters. It is far more important they know how to push the emotional buttons your customers have, so that a purchase becomes your customer’s idea, their decision, one they believe in themselves.

What works for closers — the people who outperform everyone else in sales —The “Sam’s” or “Scott’s” of the world isn’t complex language processing or deep domain knowledge, it’s skill at appealing to human emotions. I know exactly what’s going to make for a successful brand-building, product-selling chatbot: It needs to know how to close a sale. For that, it doesn’t matter so much which company designs the bot you buy, as which company you choose to write your script. I hope you choose Refine.ai