When my son was six years old, I planned a baseball trip to Florida to see Spring Training.

We had tickets to two games, both near Disney themes parks in Orlando.

After talking with some parents in the office, I decided to squeeze in time at a park. Every person said some version of the same thing.

“Your son will love it but be careful; Disney gets expensive quickly.”

I did some research online, attempting to figure out the best park for my son. He loved Star Wars, and the Hollywood Studios park had attractions right up his alley.

Looking online, I saw that two one-day passes would cost $251. I told my boss that I was planning to call for tickets and he laughed.

“Yeah. That’s where you’re starting but no way you get off that phone paying for just one-day passes.”

Determined to prove him wrong, I put up my shield and made the call.

Don’t Sell, Listen

Disney is world-class in hiring and developing a sales team. Disney reps know their properties and have an excellent feel for what is essential to parents. More importantly, they know what children want.

I called because I had some questions and didn’t want to purchase online without knowing what that price entailed.

I made the call with one hand covering my wallet, determined to pay no more than $251. As a career sales leader, I anticipated their Jedi tricks and wasn’t planning to succumb.

“This is Kelly, thanks for calling Disney. How can I help you today?”

“Hi, uh, I’m looking to purchase two one-day passes to Hollywood Studios.”

“Sure, I can help you with that. When are you going to be in town?”

“March 15th to March 18th. I’m taking my son to see the Tigers play in Spring Training. We’re going to squeeze in a quick trip to the park.”

“How fun! My son plays baseball, and we go to as many Spring Training games as we can. You are going to love it.”

Not bad. Kelly found something in common with me quickly. We’re both parents, our boys love baseball, and she has experience with Spring Training.

“What games are you planning to see?”

“We have tickets for a 1 PM game in Lakeland on Wednesday and a 4 PM game in Orlando on Friday.”

“Great. Are you planning to go to Hollywood Studios on Thursday?”

“Yep. Just two one-day passes please.”

“Why did you choose Hollywood Studios?”

“He loves Star Wars, and it looks like most of the attractions work for a six-year-old.”

“Oh, he will love Hollywood Studios if he is a Star Wars fan! Who is his favorite character?”

“Darth Vader, of course.”

“My son is the same way. He was Darth Vader for Halloween two years in a row. We have one of those helmets where his voice changes when he talks.”

“We do too! Those are hilarious, but Chewbacca is funnier.”

Wait a second. I see what’s happening here! I put my guard down. She is building rapport by talking to me about someone important. Nice try Kelly. My guard is back up.

“Anyway, that’s the park and date. Can I give you my credit card?”

“Of course. First, how patient is your son?”

Objection! That is a loaded question if I ever heard one.

“He is six. Why do you ask?”

She has piqued my interest with a loaded, closed-ended question. What six-year-old is patient?

“Well, you are visiting us during Spring Break. Have you ever been to one of our parks during Spring Break?”

“No, I haven’t been to Disney since I was a kid.”

“Aside from Christmas break, it is our busiest time of the year. Lines will be long for the main attractions and especially Star Wars, as those rides are new.”

Star Tours Attraction That Blew My Son’s Mind

After asking for permission, she presents new information to consider. She is an expert on Disney theme parks, and I know very little. Alright, I’ll bite.

“How long are the lines that time of year?”

“We went to Hollywood Studios last March, and the wait was 90 minutes for Star Tours. Most of the big attractions were 60 to 90 minutes. We had the Max Pass, so we didn’t wait in most of those lines.”

Before I can even ponder this new problem, she casually brings up a solution. This is not just any solution. She offers one that she has used personally. I know what you’re up to Kelly, but I’m in too deep.

“Tell me more about this MaxPass.”

The turn! Kelly must have grinned on the other end of the phone.

She tells me about the ease of scheduling, the app that allows me to schedule times ahead of time, the ability to jump to the front of the line, and reducing long wait times to fifteen minutes.

Without talking price, she patiently jumps into another question.

“You said the game is at 4 PM on Friday. What are you two going to do all day?”

Elite sales professionals keep asking questions while weak ones close at the first sign of interest. To effectively help a customer, you have to understand what they want. This only happens if you allow them to speak for 80% of the conversation. To do this, you ask open-ended questions and shut up.

“Not sure. We’ll get to the stadium early for some autographs, and maybe we’ll go check out Disney Springs in the morning.”

“Oh. Disney Springs is great if you’re into shopping. It also has great restaurants.”

Her tone told me that she thought I was making a mistake.

“Kelly, does your son like going to Disney Springs?”

“For a meal, yes. Other than that, it’s not his favorite.”

“What is his favorite?”

“He loves the Disney water parks. The lines are shorter, and he is tall enough to get on all of the rides.”

“My son loves water parks too.”

She is adding value and earning my trust. I no longer consider her a "salesperson." I picture riding water slides with my son before the game on Friday, in the Florida sunshine.

“We have a Park Hopper Pass that allows you to visit multiple parks as much as you like during a two-day timeframe.”

Another solution to a problem I just realized that I had (nothing to do on Friday before the game.)

“That sounds good. We’ll do that.”

I don’t ask how much the hopper pass is before agreeing to it. I’m still skeptical that the MaxPass will work as she claims. I ask a few more questions.

“If you Google MaxPass while we’re on the phone, you can see reviews from people online. It is one of Disney’s best values.”

Her confidence is compelling. I didn’t even bother Googling because she knows what I will find. She uses social proof expertly to convince me that her product is worthy.

“MaxPass sounds like the way to go. Anything else I’m not thinking about?”

Listen to yourself, Ian. You are prompting her to sell you more.

“How early do the two of you wake up?”


“We offer an opportunity to get to the parks an hour before everyone else where lines fly by. My family does this from time to time, and you can hit several of the biggest attractions before there are any lines. We call this the “Magic Morning” package.”

I weigh this latest offering against a big pancake breakfast, a favorite pastime for the two of us. I think through the logic in rushing a young boy out the door in the morning against the busy schedule for the rest of the day.

“I think we’ll pass.”

Finally, I resisted an upsell attempt. Still got it!

“Okay. I have two multi-day park hopper passes and two MaxPasses.”

My initial attempt at $251 for two one-day passes more than doubled. The Park Hopper passes were an extra $100, two-day passes were an additional $100, and two MaxPass tickets were extra $120. Kelly isn't done.

“Can I ask where you’re staying?”

This line of questioning led me to change my hotel from a non-Disney property to a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, another strong upsell by Kelly.

All told, that call added at least $500 to what I was budgeting.

Being Sold Or Being Served?

The trip was perfect.

We flew through lines over those two days. The MaxPass worked as advertised, and I felt the value every time we walked past a long line, directly into an attraction.

The weather was perfect for a water park on Friday. We spent four hours at “Blizzard Beach” riding water slides with no lines before heading straight to the baseball game.

My son loved the Animal Kingdom. We woke up every morning and looked off our balcony to see giraffes, zebras, and other zoo animals. Staying at a Disney hotel also gave us access to the bus system, which we used at night to go to Disney Springs for dinner.

With limited time to check out what Disney had to offer and massive crowds, the extra cost was worth it. We got value out of every upsell.

Had I just purchased two passes online, I would have saved money. But, how much fun would we have missed?

What The Best Salespeople Know

Elite salespeople understand that you get what you pay for.

They are expert in the value that their offering brings and help you see that value before making a mistake in the purchase process.

Was Kelly trying to sell me more? Of course.

Did she sell me anything she didn’t believe in? Nope.

Her process was textbook, so much that I wanted to call back and offer her a job. What did she do that was effective?

  • Found common interests
  • Built rapport and earned my trust
  • Asked great questions
  • Helped me see potential problems I wasn’t thinking about
  • Created tension to make me seek a solution
  • Demonstrated how her solution fixed my problem

She acted like a consultant, who was 100% focused on the experience I would have with her company and product.

Developing Your Sales Team

These skills are not innate. As producers, we are conditioned to solve problems. If a customer asks for something, our first inclination is to give it to them.

A trained sales professional develops the patience to keep asking questions, even after they know they have the sale. By continuing to probe, additional needs are uncovered, which lead to better solutions and more business.

Anyone can learn these skills, regardless of personality type or background. Training a sales team is no different than teaching a child how to ride a bike. The equation is simple.

  1. Knowledge - Ask one of your sales reps about the last sales book they read. The odds are high that you will be disappointed. 90% of people who make a living in sales have not read a sales book in the past year. Most sales professionals learn through trial and error, which is hardly efficient or replicable.
    • How do you consistently educate your sales team?
    • Have you documented typical objections and developed scripts or talking points?
    • Have you defined a process for your sales team that works within your market and with your specific offering?
    • How consistently is this process presented to your sales team? Does every new member of your sales team receive the same training?
  2. Practice - Knowledge is only retained if put into immediate practice. I could watch instructional videos on how to hit a golf ball all day long, but until I swing a club, the information is relatively useless.
    • Do you offer opportunities for regular role play?
    • Can your managers create simulations that offer an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency?
    • Do you make a point to observe real sales situations, either by listening via phone or sitting in on actual sales appointments?
    • Do you involve your veterans in helping to develop your inexperienced sales reps?
  3. Feedback - Sticking with the golf example, I can hit practice balls until my hands blister. But, I won't improve much without someone watching and helping me see why I "slice" everything right. Practicing the wrong approach only serves to reinforce bad habits further.  The same is true in sales.
    • How often do you observe your sales team in action?
    • Do you offer immediate feedback to help them see what is working and what isn't?
    • Have you created an evaluation form to help you or your managers evaluate a sales call for strengths and opportunities?
    • Do you only make an effort to watch your worst performing reps? How much opportunity is lost in learning the best practices of your best performers?

Without a strategy to consistently develop your sales team on a methodology you are comfortable with, you will continue to get sporadic and disappointing results. Selling is a skill that is developed with intent, not good fortune.

Disney has developed a hiring, training, and coaching culture that cultivates a fantastic sales team. Everything about my experience with Disney was deliberate. Kelly was a great hire, and the company helped her develop skills that delivered maximum value to customers, and sales for Disney.

I never felt like I was being “sold.”

I got on the phone thinking of her as an opponent. I got off thinking of her as an ally.

The best-trained salespeople make you feel good about buying.

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