Let's face it, the best prospects do not want to meet with every salesperson that comes calling. You must have a persuasive business reason, persuasive from their perspective, to gain access to these hard to reach prospects. By the way, these "hard to reach" prospects are the ones we want to meet with.
If we can only get meetings with prospects that are "unsatisfied" with their current supplier, we limit ourselves to a small slice of the market. In fact, I would suggest that we are trying to "time the market" with this approach & it's a weak strategy. First, because only about 3% of the market is in this crisis mode. And second, if the prospect is "unsatisfied" with their current supplier (your competitor), there is a pretty good chance the supplier is "unsatisfied" with them as well . . . and you would be too.
The easiest way to gain access is called transfer of credibility. It works like this: if the prospect knows and trusts Joe Smith, and Joe Smith knows and trusts you . . . you have Joe Smith introduce you to the prospect. Or, if you have permission, you would mention that Joe Smith suggested that you reach out to the prospect.
Unfortunately, you do not always have the ability to tap into this transfer of credibility. Therefore, you must have a very persuasive business reason for the prospect to want to meet with you. Your key to get that appointment is bringing something of value with you. Your product or company is NOT the value. You must link your value to the one thing that every prospect is interested in . . . themselves. Specifically, their market and industry.
The objective of these educational briefings are to establish your credibility and create a relevant conversation. The education briefing provides trends and potential problems from expert sources. It is not a solution and does not sell. Selling breaks rappport. It creates a dialogue and educates . . . where selling too soon breaks rapport, education actually establishes it.
Author John Gardner wrote "most ailing organizations have a functional blindness to their own defects - it's not that they can't fix their own problems, it's that they cannot SEE their own problems". Albert Eistein said it a different way - "the most significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking as when they were created". What both these gentlemen are talking about is a shift in paradigm.
And so it is in selling our ideas to others - in order to greatly improve our performance, we must have a shift in paradigm, we must see things differently. Business decisions, all business decisions, are always based on emotion and justified with logic. Once you understand this vital concept you will have created a new target for your persuasive activity.
Imagine a judge giving pre-trail instruction to a jury. He tells them to base their decision on the evidence and nothing but the evidence. However, we now know that over 80% of jurors decide immediately after the opening remarks of both attornies . . . before any evidence CAN be introduced. However, here's the kicker, when justifying their verdict (in post-trial interviews) they will cite the evidence. In other words, they don't even realize they made the decision on emotion.
In his best-selling book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that the most powerful part of our brain, the part we use to make our decisions; is the “adaptive unconscious”. He goes on to explain the adaptive unconscious as the power of thinking without actually thinking. There are 6 of these that drive compliance.
Dr. Richard Restak, neuropsychologist and author of The Secret Life of the Brain declares “We are not thinking machines – we are feeling machines that think.”
“Persuasion works by appealing to deeply rooted human needs.” Harvard Business Review
Whether you refer to them as the: "adaptive unconscisous", "feelings", or "deeply rooted human needs" - there are 6 of them that drive compliance & you can get them here:
If you want small incremental improvement work on systems, but if you seek quantum leaps in performance work on paradigms.
The average sales rep has a difficult time just gaining access to buying influencers, however the customer says "they would be willing to pay just for the conversation with the Super-Star Sales Performer".
What is the difference between average salesperson (approximately 80% of the salespeople) and the "Star". The Star Performer, according to the customer, teaches them something of value. According to the Sales Executive Council (SEC), a think tank in DC, after concluding a 5-year study with over 5,000 B2B customers - the overwhelming difference-maker is the fact that the top sales people bring value in terms of their knowledge of the industry and understanding of the customer's type of business.
The average salesperson does not present a valid business reason for the buyer to want to meet . . . thus, not securing the appointment. The world-class salesperson provides a very persuasive business reason to meet - they know the one thing that all buyers are interested in . . . themselves. Specifically, what are the industry trends and what are the biggest problems that people, like the buyer, are having.
The biggest mistake that average sales people make is . . . they start selling too soon. When people are not ready to be sold, they are "turned off" by the sales presentation. Most salespeople are too quick to talk about their company history, products, services, etc . . . which is received as selling.
The SuperStar salesperson takes a different approach. The Star understands that they must first establish Trust. Trust is defined as character and competency. Trust is established when the SuperStar is able to teach something of value, something that all prospects are interested in. That one thing they are all interested in is . . . themselves. Specifically, their industry trends and the pain points of people in their role.
We call this an Educational Briefing and created a whitepaper on the matter - you can get it here.
One of the biggest frustrations that I hear from professional salespeople is getting the client to heed their "call to action". The client likes everything about the product/service but is not persuaded to pull the trigger.
Here's the problem - the client has a "to do" list like everyone else. Until your "solution" (i.e. product or service) solves their most pressing need, they have something that is more urgent.
Think about what you were doing yesterday morning at 8:00 am? Do you recall the first thing you had to drink this morning? The last time you had coffee with someone that sweetened their coffee, which sweetener did they use . . . the "white" pack of surgar, the "blue" pack of Equal, the "pink" pack of Sweet & Low? Now, did you think about any of the questions you just read? Did you visualize where you were yesterday morning, what you drank this morning, or the color of any of the sweeteners? 99% of people do, and that's the power of the question . . . the ability to direct other's thoughts.
The question is the most persuasive tool that any professional salesperson has at their disposal. However, knowing how to use it eludes most! Most good salespeople are very good at asking problem questions (questions designed to reveal if the client has a specific problem). And when they uncover a problem, the salesperson makes their biggest mistake . . . they solve the problem using their product or service.
Great salespeople have a different approach to the Discovery of problems. When they find a problem, they do not solve it. In fact, they do just the opposite - they begin asking Impact Questions. Impact Questions are designed to reveal the negative consequences of not solving the problem.
The great salesperson positions themselves more as a think-partner, a consultant by helping the client "think" about how important the problem really is. If the negative consequences are truly powerful, the issue moves up the "peking order" of the "to-do" list. This is how urgency is created.
Take a look some powerful questions designed to create urgency:
Nobody cares how much you know - until they know how much you care! The secret? In order to persuade others, you must first be willing to be persuaded. In order to make others feel like you understand their position, their principles, values . . . you must understand who they are.
People that feel understood, extend trust to the one doing the understanding - that "one" doing the understand needs to be you.
It's called empathetic listening. According to Stephen Covey there are 4 levels of empathetic listening:
- Mimic Their Content - just quoting someone's words back to them. This is the least powerful of the 4. It states that you were not listening to something else, but they probably feel as if you still don't get it.
- Rephrase Their Content - means putting their meaning into your words. When you are able to articulate their content better than they did, you are starting to get through.
- You Reflect Their Feeling - it's not enough to use only words. Tell them what you hear them saying about "how it makes them feel" (i.e. anxious, stressful, etc).
- Rephrase Their Content & Reflect Their Feeling - combining #3 & 4 usually results in the other person feeling understood.
When the one you are seeking to understand, feels understood, they tend to reciprocate by listening to you (empathetically), when it's your turn. Reciprocation is but one of the 6 principles that drive persuasion.
Are you deliberate and tactical on your first meeting with a new buying influencer? There are specific behaviors that world-class salespeople utilize to make them more persuasive on their first visit. Have you thought about what you intentionally do to make yourself more persuasive?
What is your objective on this first encounter? It should be to establish trust . . . without trust you will not have the ability to delve into their real issues (in order to create urgency). Trust defined is the ability to create Likeability (character) and Credibility (competency). This should be your strategic objective on your first call.
Now that we have identified the target as striking the Likeability & Credibility principles, the question remains . . . how will you do it? Here are 4 behaviors that trigger the Compliance Principles and move the emotion!
- Recognize Shared Similarites: We like people that are like us, that share our values, backgrounds, or common cause . . . this is our comfort zone. Seek out and talk about common interest whether business or social. You want to make sure that the other person is dealing with someone they can identify with.
- Declare Your Intent: Be open and honest. Don't make people guess at your agenda, speak it plainly. Being transparent with your intent builds credibility.
- Appeal To Visual: A picture is worth a thousand words. We process images much quicker than words - show the visual and they will get it at a glance. Pictures, demonstrations and props help convey our message accurately and memorably. Your own body language says more about you than anything you can say & the most powerful body language is your smile.
- Teach Something Valuable: When someone feels like we are trying to sell them something (either a product or simply an idea) we break rapport with them. However, when we teach them something of value we actually build rapport.
Why do prospects buy? Answer: "for their reasons, not yours". When prospects have no buying criteria, they view your product or service as the same as your competitors . . . and if you are all the same - then why not decide based on price?
The job of the salesperson is to become the prospect's "think-partner" . . . helping them shape their buying criteria. When we say something is so . . . that does not make it so. We are salespeople and by defininition people tend not to trust us. However, when the customer says it's so, then it is so! It needs to be their idea, not yours.
Your job, as a sales consultant, is to help the prospect think through that which will be important them. We do this with the persuasive power of the question. Our intent should be to really understand what is important to the client, not merely to drive them to a preconceived solution. When people feel understood, they extend trust to the one doing the understanding.
This process of asking questions to help the customer shape their buying criteria is called Discovery. Most good sales people are good at asking problem questions (i.e. revealing, to the client, potential problems if they choose exclusivley on price). However, this is where most good salespeople make the biggest mistake that salespeople make . . . when we finally find a problem we try to solve the problem. When we solve the problem too soon, we create a void of urgency.
The difference between the good salesperson and the great salesperson is . . . when the great salesperson discovers a problem, they do not solve it. In fact, they ask Impact Questions - questions that reveal the negative consequences of making a decision that omits the most important buying criteria. Again, what is the most buying criteria? We, as salespeople, don't know yet (neither does the client), but by asking the right type questions we help the client discover potential problems and the negative impact of not deciding on the most important buying criteria.
Think about it like this - we have to help the customer discover the cost of the problem, before they evaluate the cost of your solution. This is the magic in selling and when it is done persuasively, it moves prospects off price and onto that which is most important to them. Our job is simply to help them discover what is important and why.
Neuroscience has finally proven that which "World-Class" Salespeople have always known - that people make decisions based on emotion and then justify those decisions with logic.
There are six emotions that persuade - we call them the 6 Compliance Principles. The first 2 principles are required in order to establish trust. They are Likeability and Credibility. One without the other will not establish trust.
Likeability strikes at the heart of our character. We tend to like people that are like us. As we dig deeper we begin to understand "why" we like those that are similar to us. We don't know others "intent" unless they reveal it to us, therefore, we are guessing . . . and we usually "think the worse". However, we know our own intent - and we know it to be good and noble.
When we see ourselves in others, we tend to project all of our values upon that person. The most important virtue, or the characteristic most treasured in business, - is integrity. When others see themselves in us, they translate the similarities into a mutual intent.
While Likeability establishes your integrity, Credibility reveals your competency. Not only do others think your heart is in the right place (likeability), but when they believe you can deliver results, you establish credibility.
When others view you as an "expert", a consultant, or a "think-partner" you are viewed as credible. Others rarely agonize over decisions when an authority figure suggests we take action. We have an automatic acceptance if we believe in the source.
The combination of likeability and credibility establish trust. Trust is the first of the 3 Pillars of Persuasion.
Do you have a valid business reason for prospects to meet with you? Check your "intent" - why to you wish to meet with them?
The prospect is concerned that you just want to sell them something. Your objective should be to establish relevant rapport . . . and the surest way to break rapport is to start selling. The biggest mistake we make, as salespeople, is offering our solution too soon.
Perhaps you are taking a different approach . . . asking probing questions to find a problem or need that you can solve? Here's the thing - prospects don't want to be probed. Would you? Someone asking twenty questions - all designed to find an area that's less than perfect, then we pounce on them with our solution. Clients know this and that's why they don't give you the meeting.
When you first meet with a prospect, heck even before you meet with them (when you are trying to get the meeting) they are sizing you up. The prospect is qualifying you - and if you don't measure up, you don't get the meeting. The key to persuading the client to take the meeting & holding their interest, when you are meeting with them, is to speak to them about that which they are keenly interested in. And the one thing they are all interested in is . . . themselves!
Specifically, they are interested in their industry . . . market trends, and the problems that are causing people like them the most difficulty. We call this an Education Briefing and it's designed to create relevant rapport and position you as credible.
The best way to persuade prospects to meet with you is to STOP trying to sell them and start educating them using an Education Briefing.
Perhaps you've heard it said "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". It is not the salesperson's job to make them drink . . . rather to make them thirsty. So how do you make customer's thirsty for a solution? By unifying with them on common goals.
Many times customers are so focused on the process, negotiating with you, that they forget the goal. They feel obligated to "poke holes in your solution". By asking them what the goal is you bring them clarity and purpose.
Focus the client on the benefits they would want if their problem did not exist. Resist the temptation of offering your solution - for then you will have to prove it and they are not yet ready . . . they are not yet thirsty. These questions provide the "return" on Return-on-Investment (ROI) and do not challenge you to prove anything. The salesperson is simply trying to ascertain if the goal is worth pursuing.
This persuasive tecnique replaced a "one size fits all" benefit strategy later in the presentation with actual customized benefits they desire. The desire to achieve the goal makes them thirsty, and more receptive, for a solution.