Have you ever varnished something, the old-fashioned way, with a brush? Did you try hurrying the job by slathering on a thick coat? It makes a sticky mess, and doesn’t make for a good finish. Instead, the pros do lots of thin layers, maybe dozens. And the results are much better, shiny and smooth.
|First coat of varnish, photo (CC) by Dawn Peterson.|
So, think of selling like varnishing. You get better results with lots of thin layers instead of one thick coat.
In selling, layering is the process of giving info in small chunks. Rather than overwhelm a prospect with the whole story and every detail, break it into bite size pieces. Offer just what they want to know right now. Later, they will come back with more questions.
I first heard of layering for recruiting new independent sales people to join Mary Kay Cosmetics. In fact, some Mary Kay representatives use a chart to track their layering, and that’s a good idea. You can feel the depth of the process in these headings from the chart:
The potential recruit:
- Uses the product;
- Has been a hostess;
- Has a information packet;
- Listened to a short explanation;
- Listened to a marketing audio or video;
- Attended a guest event;
- Been personally interviewed; and
- Given an answer.
That list guides them through the process of layering and makes sure that they know what to do next. It also means they won’t get confused about who is where in the process.
Why Layering Matters
Layering is not just a process, it is also a mindset. If you think in terms of layering information, you will be more likely to give people time to think about what they’ve just learned.
It also gives you perspective on people’s reactions. You will be less likely to be disappointed when you don’t get an instant committment. You know that you have added another layer, and that is valuable even without an immediate sale. Just don’t carry this so far that you never ask for the sale, or never try to close. Like most other skills, it requires a balance.
Think of it as the drying time between layers of varnish. After you’ve given time for one layer to dry, get ready for the next layer.
Another benefit of this mindset is a tolerance for repetition. When someone asks similar questions, or doesn’t remember something you told them earlier, think to yourself that this is all part of layering. Sometimes you have to go back and fill in gaps in the varnish.
When Layering Works Best
Layering works to simplify the complex items you sell. The more there is for the customer to understand, the more it makes sense to explain it in layers.
It applies just as well to complicated ideas you are “selling” to anyone. If you want buy-in on a complicated project, layer the information.
Selling expensive products is an art form all its own. Layering is a key concept to informing without overwhelming.
When you talk with a customer, remember to add a new layer to their understanding. If they walk off without closing the deal, remember that you have added another layer. You may need a few more layers to finish, but it’s all part of the process and the mindset.