How to Earn the Right to Ask for the Dance

One of the biggest motivation killers in sales and business is fear of rejection, whether it’s getting a raise from your boss, starting up a new relationship with a prospect, or presenting the price and trying to close the deal.

Many times, it’s not what you asked for that broke the deal; it was the mental framing that you created for the client by the way that you ask for it.

There is tremendous power in being able to earn the right to ask them to dance. If you can do this right, you can have your own business and be free. You can work from home, enjoy time with family, see your kids grow up and be there for them. You won’t have to worry about whether or not your boss is having a bad day.

Every player knows how to do this flawlessly. I’ve seen players ask for ridiculous things and get them, just because they have perfected the process of asking for the dance. This blog is going to teach you what players know about how to earn the right to ask them to dance.

Here’s the critical dynamic that you have to grasp to be effective as a player. You have to accept that the prospective client, who is now paying you nothing, has all the power over you and you have none in the beginning of the transaction. If you are a player, as you progress through the sales process you are gradually winning the power over so that in the end they trust you enough to decide to give you some control by going with what you recommend. It’s that simple; acquire control by making them give you power. You will thwart the process by asking for things - anything at all, from a meeting, to returning an email, to paying for the service – before you have earned enough trust to get them to give you the power over them.

Think back to when you were 13 years old. Remember those junior high school dances on Friday nights when the girls used to get approached by pimply, voice-cracking hormonal teenage boys and asked to dance? She could see him coming a mile away. She’s turned off before he got there. She knows she’s about to get pestered for something that she doesn’t really want to do. She’s already been asked by ten other guys that night and turned them all down. By the time he squawks “you wanna dance?” she’s already headed for the bathroom with her girlfriend pack. Awkward, tense, and tenuous. Painful.

The successful teenage boy-players, however, were the ones that asked the girl to dance the right way. Now let’s say that he smiles and casually starts up a conversation once he gets there. He makes her laugh by telling a tactful joke, and introduces himself to her friends. He takes the time to learn what kind of music she likes, and asks her if she enjoys dancing to this particular song. If she doesn’t like the music, he requests her favorite song to the DJ. By the time the conversation ends, he’ll ask her to dance and she’ll say yes. She’ll probably end up hungering for more attention after the dance is over. See? Smooth player style in action.

It is not that clients don’t love aggression and pushiness. Quite the opposite. These are dominant characteristics. Everybody wants the boss, remember? Confidence turns people on. It’s not that clients don’t love obsessive attention, and to be chased. People love this. But confidence is perceived as arrogance if the salesperson doesn’t make the prospect feel, not know but feel, that there is a great and urgent importance to buy what is being sold. Obsessive attention comes off as desperation when the client is not made to understand the need they may have.

Everything in life is a sale, whether it’s getting a better job, getting a new client for your business, or even gaining more responsibility in a current job. You need to know how to sell to move up and better yourself financially.

Do it right and you’ll earn the right to ask for the dance. Do it right, and they’ll pay the price you ask for. Do it wrong, and it becomes a power struggle that results in:

  • The wear down. Once you are relegated to the “pushy salesperson” sphere, the client engages in “getting rid of the pushy salesperson” tactics: avoided phone calls, emails sent to spam, meetings canceled. You have to overcall until they respond because they realize that you are simply not going to go away until they tell you no. Sometimes you may get lucky and be able to wiggle your way back into the deal, but it’s hard. The odds are against you. Remember that you still have no power at this point.
  • Lying, deception, other forms of manipulation in order to get the client back.
  • Asking the client what you need to do to earn their business. This never works. First of all, it’s your job to figure out their needs, not theirs. If you don’t know what they need by the time you ask for the sale, you have messed up somewhere along the way. Second of all, asking this direct a question to someone who has all power over you makes you appear desperate in their eyes.
  • Price cutting/granting service for free. Buying the business is not a sale. It is a sign that you failed at a sale. Doing work for free gets old after a while and hurts the team’s morale.
  • Bribery. Go to Morton’s Steakhouse on any given weekday evening and you’ll see who’s predominantly there. Food is the accepted bribery currency in the sales process.
  • DNC’d. Placed on the “do not call” list. The client has the power to simply say “never call me again” and by Federal law you have no choice by to cease all communication. Push them far enough and they will do so.
  • Reticence. The tight lipped prospect who is so scared of being pushed into a sale that he won’t tell you anything about his problem. Somebody could be bleeding to death and they’ll put on the tourniquet themselves if they don’t trust you enough to do it. If they say something like, “I’m not comfortable disclosing the details on this right now” you have a lot more work to do before you can ask for the dance.
  • I will use the example of a law firm that I called upon to sell technology services. After cold calling for a year and having no success in penetrating, the IT director got fired. His second in command, who had been a mere help desk technician, now held the reigns. He inherited a huge problem; the phone system was broken, resulted in dropped calls that led the attorneys to lose billable time with clients.

    So there was a tremendous opportunity for me to make a sale. I brought along my telecom partner who made a reasonable bid that turned the prospect on. But a few days later during my weekly sales meeting, my sales manager had a different strategy. “Let’s pitch that we come in and do an assessment of their entire IT infrastructure, document it, charge them for this, and then propose an upgrade to a new system. Go get a meeting set up with the new IT director’s manager, the CFO. We’ve got to get to the person in charge.”

    Sounds simple, right? Wrong! It would be great if it were that easy.

    The problems with approaching the deal this way are several.

  • Being new to the role, the IT director is overwhelmed and insecure. The last thing he wants to do is to expose management to a better resource (an IT firm), one that could possibly be seen as a replacement. So to suggest a meeting with his superior is asking him to put himself into a threatening situation. If he has any common sense, he will never do that.
  • Being new to the role, the IT director doesn’t want to make too many demands on his new boss. Remember, he has to earn his bosses trust, just like we have to earn his trust, before he asks his boss to dance. Introducing a system wide overhaul might be the right thing to do from a technical perspective, but from a budgetary perspective this is probably the last thing that his boss wants to hear about. You are putting the IT director in bad position by making him engage in the role of the pimply teenage boy.
  • We haven’t spent enough time understanding his network to know if the system overhaul is really necessary. Make a big pushy proposal before you know what the needs are results in getting sent to “pushy salesperson doghouse.”
  • Just because we met with him once doesn’t mean he trusts us. I don’t have any right to ask him to dance. In fact, I don’t even have the right to ask for any more of his time.
  • The proper action to take at this point isn’t to do what my sales manager said, but instead to spend some time devising a creative way to get more time with this client in order to understand his true needs. He’s probably being hit with a ton of proposals from sales people who don’t get the game. The task at hand is to differentiate myself from them by showing the IT director something valuable that will compel him to want to take a meeting with me, and then asking powerful questions which educate him. I decided that some possible next steps would be to send him a testimonial about another law firm that we worked with, or to offer an educational webinar.

    It turns out that my intuition was right. A few days after the phone meeting, my telecom partner and I received this email:

    “John, sorry for the delay in responding. We’ve got to slow this process down a bit. I spoke with my project manager and it looks like there’s a lot more involved with migrating to a new phone system than I thought. I’ll email you in a few months.”

    What was the “lot more involved” with putting in a new phone system? As My Antonio would say, “dinero.” Just like I thought, being new to the role he was intimated by the idea of having to ask his boss for money. If I had applied pressure to start up a computer software deal, it would have totally backfired, leading me to be lumped into the “pushy salesperson” sphere.

    Deals like this illustrate the power of the question that every player must ask himself: “Have I earned the right to ask for the dance?” Listen to your clients, try to read their minds, and you will earn their trust by knowing how to time the demands that you make of them.

    Many salespeople ask the client to jump into a paid engagement way too early, before they’ve educated them as to the value of the product or service or taken the time to understand the client’s willingness and ability to pay for the product. This turns the prospect off. Once you get categorized into that “pushy salesperson” sphere, it’s almost impossible to journey back to the safe zone of “trusted advisor”, which is the place you want to be standing for you to make the sale.