Sales Lessons from a Legend: Tim Russert


Like many others, I lost a good friend a few weeks ago. 

I never met Tim Russert, but having spent many hours watching him on Meet the Press and other news and interview shows, I certainly felt like I knew him well.

It’s amazing how Tom Brokaw maintained his composure when he announced Tim’s death, and delivered subsequent tributes. I certainly didn’t.

Part of Tim’s popularity was how lots of "regular" people identified with him. Growing up in a a blue-collar, Catholic, hard-working family and neighborhood, holding down several jobs throughout high school and college…and then competing for real-world jobs with the more "privileged" people. I experienced the exact same things.

He was the regular guy many of us would like to sit at the bar with and talk football, baseball, hockey, and politics. Those ARE the guys I hang with.

From a professional perspective, I always marveled at how he could take something seemingly complex at times and bring it to an understandable level.

That’s what we need to do as well as salespeople.

For months in my "idea file" I have had an outline of a Tip about Tim I had planned to write about…something he was a master at. I have mentioned it many times at seminars. I’ll share it with you now.

The Principle of Consistency
He’d get a guest to answer a tough question, then pause, and spring a video on them, where they were shown maybe a few years prior, contradicting the answer they just had given. The senator or candidate would then squirm and have to defend why the things they said were not consistent.

But of course, he didn’t do it in an adversarial way. You always just wondered why the person said what they did.

In the science of persuasion this is known as the "Principle of Consistency." Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of "Influence: Science and Practice," says that most people desire to remain consistent to beliefs and commitments they have previously stated.

You can use this as well on your sales and prospecting calls.

The first step is in crafting and asking questions to prompt prospects and customers to tell you what they value, want, and need. The things you provide, of course.

For example, in my own case, I might ask,

"What is the main factor preventing your salespeople from selling at full price?"

If they answer, "A lack of confidence in asking for full price in a competitive environment because they do not know the right questions to ask to build value," I would then ask how much money they felt they were leaving on the table.

After establishing a figure to "dollarize" the problem or pain, I would employ the Principle of  Consistency in the following ways.

…In The Sales Recommendation
I preface my explanation of the benefits with what they had said, therefore framing my comments with their own words, and putting them in a more receptive frame of mind to hear, and agree with my recommendation.

"…and as you had mentioned earlier, you feel your reps need to be asking better questions to establish value, which in turn will give them more confidence to ask for and get full price. Here’s exactly how we would do that…"

…As a Trial Close
After the recommendation, we want to move toward the ultimate commitment, the sale, appointment, or next step. By again using their words, they are less likely to disagree.

"Do you feel that would help your reps ask the right questions to build value? Would that help you to keep more of the profits you’re leaving on the table?"

…If an Objection Arises
If they state an objection, perhaps price, we need to understand why they say what they do, and in this case, reframe the value.

"That’s interesting. Let’s go back and address what you said was really preventing your salespeople from selling at full price. It was asking the right questions, right?"

Think of ways you can use the Principle of Consistency in your own calls.

And thanks Tim, for providing us with many years of enjoyment and education. You will be missed.

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