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Top Tier Training & Development Inc. | Seattle, WA

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On Monday, Sandler Training Seattle's President’s Club found out during our “Sandler Meets Columbo” networking and movie event. PC members were treated to breakfast and two full episodes of the 1970’s TV Series Columbo. We watched the awkward, disheveled-looking Los Angeles police detective Lt. Columbo work his magic to capture the killers. What did Columbo do that was so effective? And, what on earth does that have to do with selling?

Following are a few of the professional selling lessons our PC members took away from the event.

  1. Maintain Your Prospect’s “OK-ness” – In every interaction, Columbo lowered his self-orientation to put his suspects at ease. He used nurturing statements and purposely elevated his suspects above himself. As a result, he was perceived as non-threatening, quickly establishing rapport and trust.
  2. Use Third-Party Stories – Columbo brought his wife, uncle or the guys at the station into his interviews to ask the difficult or sensitive questions he couldn’t. The suspect would usually answer, because after all, it wasn’t Columbo asking. In selling, you can use third-party stories as a creative way to draw out issues and challenges your prospects may not want to admit to right away.
  3. Interrupt the Pattern – Columbo’s famous line “Just one more thing” is a great example of the pattern interrupt technique. After he would say good bye and move toward the door to leave, the suspect would breathe a sigh of relief. Just then, Columbo would come out with just one more question. Most buyers can see traditional salespeople from a mile away. They feel threatened and the buyer-seller wall goes up. Breaking the expected sales pattern is a great way to reduce defensiveness and get your prospects to open up.
  4. Become a Dummy On Purpose – Despite his apparent confusion and absentmindedness, Columbo shrewdly solved his cases and collected sufficient evidence for an indictment. If you want to be a great salesperson, leave all your product knowledge on the shelf and become a dummy on purpose. Ask great questions, then listen to and learn from your prospects. If you don’t, you just might miss an important buying signal.
  5. Sales is a Broadway Play – Like an actor in a play, Columbo played his part perfectly in order to uncover the truth in the service of justice. As a salesperson, you too must play your part with a commitment to discovering the truth in service of the sales call and to the benefit of your prospects.

Many more sales lessons can be learned from our hero Columbo. Watch the following YouTube clips and leave your comments below:

Columbo w/ John Cassavetes (“Etude in Black”, 1972)

Columbo’s Great Investigative Style

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