When it comes to closing a sale,
few know how to do it better than veteran
Brian Tracy. Simply put, his masterful,
proven techniques have inspired millions
of professionals to become more successful in their fields. And for
financial services professionals, Tracy offers immediate ideas
to boost your business and see results.
For his part, Tracy wasn't always so successful. In his
younger years, after struggling to pay his bills and survive,
he discovered one of the first keys to success-inner drive.
His aggressiveness led him to pursue the expertise of the
top salesmen, and he never stopped from there.
He soon built a sales training empire that includes
the best-selling audiobook, The Psychology of Selling.
Over his career, he has written 45 books,
consulted for more than 1,000 companies,
and spoken to more than 4 million people
in 4,000 speeches and seminars. In this
interview, Tracy tells InsuranceNewsNet
Publisher Paul Feldman how he learned his craft.
FELDMAN: According to your
book The Psychology of Selling,
most salespeople fear and loathe
the thought of "closing." Done right,
however, closing is a true art form that
takes place from the minute your presentation
begins. What are your keys to
the "Art of Closing" that everyone needs
TRACY: Closing should be low pressure
or no pressure at all. You're just asking
the customer to confirm everything
you've talked about up to that point.
So closing could be as simple as saying,
"Does this make sense to you so far?" If
the prospect says yes, you say, "Well let's
get started right away." Real simple. It's
not a technique where you twist the customer's
arm up behind their back.
In my seminars, I teach what I call the
relationship model of selling, which is
an inverse pyramid, upside down, that
has four parts. The first part, 40 percent,
is building trust. And so the very first
thing you do when you meet new people
is you take the time to build trust.
And the way you build trust is by asking
them questions about themselves
and their situation, and taking the time
and real effort to understand exactly
where they're coming from and what
they might need. You never try to sell
on the first sale.
The second part, 30 percent of the
sales process, is presenting. This means
identifying needs accurately. You just
ask a lot of questions; you ask them what
they're doing now and how it's working,
plus what their plans are and how they
plan to achieve them. And the more you
ask questions, the more you build trust.
So basically, the first 70 percent of the
process is building trust by asking really
good questions. You don't even talk
about your products or service, because
until you've asked enough questions, you
don't even know whether this person is
a prospect or a suspect.
The biggest mistake that people make
is they start to talk about their services
far too fast-long before the customer
is even aware that they need them, long
before the salesperson is even aware of
what the customer needs.
I heard this wonderful line in a book I
read by a life insurance expert who makes
a fortune. When people ask him what he
does, he says, "I work with the smalland
medium-sized business owners and
I make their work voluntary." In other
words, they can work if they want to, but
they've reached a point financially where
they work-but their work is voluntary.
It just happens to hit the hot button of
virtually every single small- or mediumsized
business owner you ever talk to.
They love their business and their work,
but they'd like to take off more time.
And they'd like to reach a point where
they don't have to work to support their
lifestyle. So he helps them make their
work voluntary. And people ask, "How
do you do that?" And he begins asking
questions and building trust.
FELDMAN: Which reminds me of
one the most effective closing techniques that I
have come across, and one that you call "The
Instant Reverse Close." It is almost magical,
because it instantly changes the state of your
prospect's mind unlike anything I have ever seen. Can
you explain it for readers, because I really think it's important?
TRACY: When a person says "I'm not
interested," you immediately say "That's
exactly why I'm calling on you. I didn't
think you'd be interested. Most of my
very best clients were not interested
when I first called on them, but now they
recommend me to their friends." What
that does is it just simply gets their attention,
by taking their best objection and
telling them, "That is exactly why you
should do..." That's just one opportunity
for an instant reverse close.
Another thing that I used to say when
I was selling financial services is, "I want
you to know that I am not here to sell
you anything. Please relax. All I want to
do is ask you a couple of questions and
see if I can't help you achieve some of
your goals in a cost-effective way. Then
we'll do everything possible to help you
achieve those goals. Would that be all
Then you take control of the questioning
process. The questions start from
the general and they go to the particular.
The first question is very easy to answer.
The second question is fairly easy. The
third is still easy. And with the fourth
question you start to focus on critical
things. The questions are progressively
more difficult, so it's like a narrowing
Your questions must be thought
through in advance. So, if somebody
were to wake you out of a sound sleep and
say, "What's question No. 1?" Wham!
You'd be able to answer. What most salespeople
do is they say, "Well, I want to be spontaneous."
They say, "I can hardly wait to hear what
I'm about to say because I have no idea." And
they walk in and say whatever falls out of their mouth
and they follow that up with whatever falls
out of their mouth next. They're like a drunk lurching
from lamppost to lamppost as opposed
to being a professional.
A professional is very well organized,
planned and prepared. I design every
sales presentation around seven questions.
You could have nine or 10, but
seven seems to be the ideal, from the
most general to the most particular. I
call this the "spine and ribs method" of
questioning. The spine is the questions
and the ribs are the side issues. "Well,
how did you start doing that?" And
"How is that working for you?" And so
on. You keep coming back to your spine
of questions. At the end of seven questions,
it should be clear to the prospect that they want and need what you're selling.
And it should be clear to you that
they need it or don't.
FELDMAN: You started out in financial
services, in the investment side of the
world. How did that shape your career
and what are some lessons that you
TRACY: I started off as a nobody from
nowhere on the streets. I started selling
mutual funds and investments to
businesses, business owners and business
executives. But I had to start off
cold-calling, knocking on doors and
selling investment programs where
they would invest a certain amount per
month. And I just spun my wheels and
spun my wheels. I had no idea what I was
doing and got almost no training. One
of the interesting challenges in selling
any kind of financial services is they give
you product training. And they think if
they give you enough product training
and you get a license, you're now a qualified
You're not a qualified anything. Basically,
all you have is book learning, but
you haven't learned anything about selling.
Eighty percent of sales success is
sales skills. Only 20 percent is products,
service, technology, actuarial tables,
returns and so on.
I went to one of the top sales guys
in my company, a guy who was making
10 times as much as anybody else. I
asked, "What are you doing differently
from me?" He said, "Show me your presentation
and I'll critique it for you." It
turned out I didn't really have a sales
presentation. I just had blah, blah, blah.
He said no, no, no; there's a logical and
orderly sequence from the general to the
So he sat me down and he walked
me through his sales presentation. And
the sales presentation was beautiful. It
was like music. It was like you had been
banging on a drum and somebody plays
a symphony orchestra. I said, "Geez,
that's beautiful." He said, "Yes, this is
how we sell." You spoke to him and it
was almost irresistible-as he asked you
questions, you became more and more
mesmerized with the idea of investing
with him or whatever company he
He never mentioned a product or
the company or anything else; he just
focused on the end of the game. That
was where you wanted to end up-getting
the highest return on your money
with the greatest degree of safety and
the ability to access the money. He
said, "Does that make sense to you?"
And I said, "Absolutely." "Well," he
said, "let's get started." And he took
out the order form and began filling
it out-the order sheet close. It's a
very simple thing to do. They'll have
to stop you from filling out the form
in order to stop the sale. And usually
I also began reading books, listening
to audio programs and going to
seminars. Here's what I found-the
most important thing to remember
is that all sales skills are learnable.
Every single person who's in the top 10
percent today, which should be your
goal, started in the bottom 10 percent.
Every master was once a disaster.
My friend Tom Hopkins, one of
the top sales trainers in the world, in
every single seminar talks about how
he started off living out of a crummy
car, making no money, making no
sales, making nothing. He learned
how to sell professionally. He studied
it and studied it and studied it and
studied it. And he memorized higher
sales methodologies: how to open
sales, answer objections, ask for the
order, get resales and referrals. And he
practiced and practiced and practiced
and practiced and practiced. And he
became one of the highest paid people
in a field where there's hundreds
of thousands of people competing
because he paid the price.
FELDMAN: People who are the most
successful in sales are always the most
prepared and they are the ones who
did the most studying and self-learning.
For outsiders looking in, it always
appears that they just had natural talent
and that is why they are successful,
but that's just not the case for most.
TRACY: There's lots of research on this.
Basically it takes seven years and/or
10,000 hours of hard, dedicated work,
both in the field and on yourself, to reach
the top 10 percent. There are no overnight
successes. Every single person I
know who is at the top of their field took
years to get there.
The best research on personal success
and business success says that 80
percent of the population will work on
themselves enough so that they can
make a living doing what they're doing.
If they work for a company, they'll learn
their job enough so they don't get fired.
If they're an accountant, they'll learn
enough so that they can do the proper
accounting at their level. If they're a doctor,
lawyer, architect, engineer, salesperson
or anyone, they'll learn enough to be
able to do their job competently. And it
usually takes about a year. A year after
school if you're a professional.
Here's the harsh discovery: after that year, they never get any better. They
in the field. Ten years later, they're
no better. They have 10 years of experience,
which may enable them to increase
their income between 1 and 3 percent
per year, but they really never get any
better. They don't listen. They don't
learn. They don't try new things. They
don't take courses. They know it all.
"Hey, I'm in this business-I know it all."
I had a gentleman in a seminar in
San Diego say he wanted to talk to me
because I had a major impact on his life.
He said he was the top salesman in his
company and had been for six years, outselling
everybody by up to seven times.
And the year before, his boss gave him
as a Christmas present a copy of my
sales program The Psychology of Selling.
He said he was insulted. He was the top
salesman in the company and had been
year after year and he was getting a sales
program. He felt the implication was
that he was not that good. His boss said
no, he was implying that he can always
be better. His boss said, "All I ask you to
do is listen to it."
He said he listened to the program and
almost drove off the road. He said he
couldn't believe it. There were so many things in there that he had either never
known or had done once and stopped
doing or had never seen how they worked
together. He listened to it over and over
again. He said he increased his income
$100,000 just from that program.
He said his commission was something
like 5 percent. So, his boss paid
$70 for that program and got $2 million
in extra business. That's a pretty good
investment. And you know something?
What drives me crazy is hearing the,
"Oh, I can't afford it and I don't want
to spend the money. I'm going to wait
till I've got lots of money before I spend
any money becoming any better than I
The Psychology of Selling is the bestselling
audio program on sales in the
history of the world. It's in 16 languages
and 24 countries.
FELDMAN: I've done a lot of reading and
a lot of learning over the years, and The
Psychology of Selling had a lot of impact
on my success in life. As I was preparing
for this interview, it really hit me how
much of your training has impacted me
and others within my sales organization
over the years. As a sales trainer or as a
sales manager, it is so important to pass
along what you've learned and what's
TRACY: I spoke to a top sales professional
yesterday who earns $2 million a year in
selling. She said she gets up every morning
and she says, "Thank you, God," and takes
every opportunity she can to share what
she's learned, just like I do. It's what got
us to where we are, and we want to share
it. We want to spread it around. We don't
want to spread the wealth around, what we
want to do is spread the knowledge around
and enable others to get here.
That's why people like Tom Hopkins
and me-people who started with nothing
and worked their way up, who were
hungry, drove crummy cars, missed
meals, ate cheap food, worried about our
bills until we broke through-are just
so happy that we want to come running
back to all the other salespeople and say,
"I found a way. Come this way. Do this.
This is what works."
And so, ultimately, the smartest
thing you can do in the whole world is
learn from other people who have already
succeeded. Don't try to reinvent the