What Every Salesperson Should Learn from Eminem

What Every Salesperson Should Learn from Eminem

{The 19th in a series of the 25 most useful sales stories}

Wouldn’t it be great if you could resolve your buyer’s objections before they’re even brought up?

Turns out you can. And, believe it or not, the best example I’ve ever seen of that was in the hip-hop movie 8 Mile, starring rapper Eminem.

Lesson from 8 Mile

In the movie, the main character’s name is B-Rabbit (played by Eminem). And he signs up for a rap battle. If you’re unfamiliar with how a rap battle actually works, it’s like this: each competitor gets on stage and performs a rap, but with these two extra features: 1) the lyrics are supposed to be largely made up on the spot, and 2) the subject of the lyrics are insults that they’re hurling at their competitors. Whoever has the most clever insults, wins.

So, back to the movie — the main character, Rabbit, is upset when he gets to the finals of this particular rap battle and realizes his opponent, Papa Doc, is the leader of a gang that recently beat him up and intimidated his best friend into shooting himself in the leg with his own gun.

Rabbit knows that kind of embarrassing information gives Papa Doc an advantage in a battle of insults. But then Rabbit has an epiphany just before walking on stage. Instead of launching into his insults, he starts his rap by unashamedly telling his own humbling life story, including: “I know everything he’s ’bout to say against me . . . I do live in a trailer with my mom . . . I do got a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob who shoots himself in his leg with his own gun . . . I did get jumped by all six of you chumps.”

By the time he was done, Rabbit had left his opponent with no ammunition. When it was his turn, Papa Doc simply hands the microphone to the emcee and walks off stage in defeat.

What that looks like in a sales context

So, while the context might be unusual, Rabbit’s strategy is a brilliant one that can also be used in sales calls. Here’s an example from a guy named Ben Koberna, the CEO of the reverse auction company, EASI. That’s a company that gets suppliers to compete and bid on contracts to do business with his clients.

As Ben explains, “Prospective clients always ask the same question, ‘Do vendors like reverse auctions?’” His response always gets a laugh. He said, “Well, we’ve run the numbers. And vendors get mad in about 100 percent of the cases.”

Even though the humor diffuses some of the tension, it doesn’t resolve the underlying objection. His prospects don’t relish the thought of hiring him because of the adverse reaction they know it will bring out of their suppliers. Nobody wants to piss off the people they’ve been working with for years.

So, after getting that objection in lots of sales calls, now Ben uses the following story preemptively:

One of my earliest clients was a midsize city government in central Florida. They’d been paying $250,000 a year for a contractor to remove sludge from a wastewater treatment plant when they hired us to do a reverse auction. We found several sludge removal companies to compete for the contract and invited them all to a pre-bid meeting so we could explain the process. The incumbent, accompanied by his lawyer, showed up with a tirade. He started yelling and screaming and at one point kicked over a chair. He insisted the whole process was illegal and claimed my team was going to be arrested.

We eventually got him settled down and started the bidding process. His first bid was $250,000, of course. When more aggressive bids started coming in, he lowered his to $240,000, then $200,000, then $150,000. The next bid we saw from him was for $0. Obviously, that was a mistake. Somebody must have clicked the wrong button. So we paused the auction and called him on the phone. We explained his mistake and offered to delete that bid before we resumed the auction. He responded calmly, “I didn’t make a mistake. I’ve been selling the sludge to local farmers for the last twenty years to use as fertilizer. I’ll just come pick it up for free.” And that’s exactly what he’s been doing ever since.

Having finished his story, Ben explains to his prospect, “You and I both know that vendors will be mad. But they’ll yell and scream at me, not you. Part of my job is to shield you from all that. You just get to save money.”

If there are objections you find you get in nearly every call, find a story to resolve them before it’s ever asked.

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Source: Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale, by Paul Smith.

Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

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