Do you like talking to salespeople? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the world ‘sales’? The overwhelming experience we had with salespeople over the years were primarily self interested and manipulative. This book is here to change that – to change the way you sell by shifting the focus away from you and towards your customers.
Selling is about asking questions. But there’s one question you should never ask.
The question “Does that make sense?” feels wrong on many levels. First, it sounds as an insult to the customer’s intelligence. Second, it implies that you as a seller simply aren’t good at explaining things. It sends the other person a signal that you’re not good at explaining things and your words often leave people with a sense of confusion and bewilderment.
Ask questions in a way that makes your prospect feel like they’re in control.
Of these two questions, which one do you think comes across as more comfortable for the other person?
Hi Mary, this is David calling from Acme. Do you have a few minutes to chat?
Hi Mary, this is David calling from Acme. Have I caught you at a bad time?
The second introduction is more effective because it’s designed to solicit a ‘no’ response from the customer – a much safer and more comfortable emotional position for them.
Avoid prescription without diagnosis.
David recalls having a conversation with the client who insists on getting a quotation without first explaining their context. David simply said, “The good news is we can absolutely solve the business problems you’re experiencing and we’d love to help. The problem is we believe the solution requirements you’ve outlined in the RFP won’t solve those problems. On the flip slide, there are key solution features we know you’re absolutely going to need that you haven’t asked about in the RFP.” The client eventually recognized David’s authentic desire to help and gave him the opportunity to lead.
ROI doesn’t always influence purchase decisions.
Consider purchasing the latest technology and gadgets or spending on experiences like travels and concerts. Now think about the ROI on those spending decisions. It’s hard to tell. Yes, maxing out your credit card to buy the latest smartphone with high-end specs and camera might increase your productivity. And going on a Carribean cruise might help reduce your stress levels. While most buyers certainly see value in a strong ROI, those reasons rarely are the primary motivators for purchasing decisions.
Sell the product AND experience.
Disney isn’t alone in their relentless focus on customer experience. Companies like Amazon, Porsche, Southwest Airlines and Netflix all place a heavy emphasis on the entire customer journey.
Consider a commodity like an Apple iPad. Thousands of iPads roll off the same assembly line, only to be sold by different retailers. But if you were given a choice of purchasing an iPad at your local big-box electronic store or an official Apple outlet, which one would you choose? By far, the Apple store is cooler, the staff are friendlier, know their stuff and take their time to answer all your questions. And people like walking out the store with that white bag. But the experience doesn’t end there. Suppose you have some problems with your newly purchased iPad. You call Apple service. Would your perception of the experience change if you have to wait forty minutes on the line to speak to someone rude and unhelpful? Absolutely.
From consideration to purchase and from purchase to renewal, your customer experience efforts should reflect end-to-end, as each and every step plays a key part in the customer journey.
Leverage the fear of loss.
For most people, the fear of a loss tends to loom larger than the desire for a similar gain. The answer may simply lie in the behavioral pathways established by our ancestors. The primary function of our brain is to protect us from danger by learning and adapting from one experience to the next (for our ancestors it’s much more motivating not to be a dinner than to have a dinner).
“If you’re like most companies, you’re losing revenue every day from customers abandoning their shopping carts on your website. My solution can help solve that problem.” That is how you lead with a loss-centric message. If your buyers can’t internalize the magnitude of the loss, your efforts will most likely fall on deaf ears.
If you’re going to sell them a Band Aid, ‘Cut’ them first.
Most sales people will go one of these two ways:
- Look for people who’re afraid they might get cut and sell them a band aid
- Look for people with cuts and sell them a band aid
The first option sounds sensible but this is actually a gain statement masquerading as a potential loss because the loss has yet to happen. What we’re selling really is an insurance policy against a future downside. From gym memberships to smoke detectors to retirement investment plans, we see many examples on this approach. The problem is our buyers may not appreciate the magnitude of the problem until they experience it themselves.
“Most buyers don’t realize how badly they’re bleeding. In some cases, they don’t know they’re bleeding at all.”
The second option – selling band aids to those who are already cut – is more efficient and sensible. With a clear and present pain, buyers are much more motivated to take action.
Crafting a message that ‘cut’.
Here are some marketing messages we see every day “Move your data to the cloud”, “Look ten years younger”, “Boost employee engagement”, “Stop snoring and sleep better.” They sound like problems but they’re too easy to ignore.
How about we ‘cut them a little bit? “We help employees get the feedback they need to perform their best and their careers.”, “We help managers become great coaches.”, “We help promote your amazing culture by making winning behavior visible.” The prospects will be much more responsive to your pitch.
But let’s not stop here. Let’s precede the ‘cut’ with some facts. “Seventy percent of people leave their company because of a poor relationship with their manager”, “Most millennial employees use the word ‘hate’ to describe how they feel about performance reviews.”, “Four out of ten employees are actively disengaged at work and cost companies millions in lost productivity.” The messages are much more striking, laden with specific and compelling statistics. And they also invoke real business pains. They help the customers internalize what they’re already suffering from and that they’re in need of a band aid.
5 Techniques to Serve Information that Sells
- Provocative Questions
Technique #1 Polarization – Who’s Your Enemy?
Polarizing messages can serve double duty by keeping the good-fit customers in and helping the bad-fit customers out. Consider these two messages:
“When it comes to making truly delicious hamburgers, the Burger King flame-grilled cooking process beats McDonald’s flat grills hands down.”
“When it comes to making truly delicious hamburgers, we believe cooking them over an open flame makes all the difference.”
Or how about these;
“At SmallCo Financial, we strive to deliver world-class service at fees that are much lower than BigCo Financial.”
“At SmallCo Financial, our goal is to be the world’s best low-fee provider by cutting out those calls centers you hate calling anyways!”
In both examples, the messages are focused on polarizing the audience with a specific viewpoint, but the second approach comes across as more professional and secure (without getting in the way of anyone).
Technique #2 Juxtaposition – Converting Through Comparison
Consider the two signs below:
Both are designed to encourage pet wonders to pick up after their dogs. But one simply calls to action without catalyzing the reason behind it. Another appeals to the owner’s good nature and social responsibility. Which one you think would perform better? Which message you think is harder for pet owners to ignore? The second message creates a visceral emotional reaction that drives both rapid clarity and desired behavior.
Another way to produce rapid clarity is to use data. Here’s an example:
“People love feedback but they hate performance reviews.”
“People love feedback but according to the latest research, 80 percent of millennial use the word ‘hate’ to describe performance reviews.”
Or how about this:
“Most IT leaders feel their networks are secure and are actually using inadequate safeguards.”
“Seventy-five percent of IT leaders feel their networks are secure, yet the incidence of data breaches has increased 40 percent in the past three years alone.”
In both cases, the second approach not only creates a higher degree of contrast, the knowledge and intimacy it offers through the use of data produces a compounding persuasive effect. The result is buyers will not only feel the pain – your knowledge in the area of that pain will make them see you as someone who can help ease that pain.
Technique #3 Provocative Questions – Lead with Questions, Not Solutions
Questions, especially provocative ones, open up the conversation or discussion. Consider these solution-enemy pairings. Here are three simple steps to lead with provocative questions:
- Find the enemy
- Pair it with solution
- Craft a question that implicitly names the enemy
Here’s an example of solution-enemy pairing:
|Lack of time to exercise||Highly efficient exercise machine|
|Lack of exercise about how customers interact with your mails||Email tracking software|
|Wasting energy and money on heating and cooling||Smart-home thermostat|
Here’s an example of crafting a question that implicitly names an enemy:
|Lack of time to exercise||Ever feel like you never have enough time to exercise?|
|Lack of insight about how customers interact with your mails||Don’t you want to know what happens after you sit?|
|Wasting energy and money on heating and cooling||Do you know how much money you’re wasting when your furnace is running and you’re not at home?|
Technique #4 Conviction – Lead with What You Believe
Enter the power of ‘why’. You might craft belief statements like:
“I believe most of us don’t like talking to salespeople, yet we find ourselves in selling situations of our own all the time.”
“I believe salespeople are not bad people. They’re just using old, outdated tactics that don’t work because that’s what they were taught.”
If you can make your customers believe what you believe, they’ll lean and ask for more. You should aim for the response “tell me more!” from your customers. Here are three tips:
- Point to a specific well-understood but not often articulated challenge
- Don’t refer to your offering directly
- Ask yourself “Will someone that I talk to be smiling and nodding?”
Technique #5 Storytelling – Tell the Story of Your Solution
Here’s a simple, our-step breakdown for a typical infomercial pitch.
- The Problem
- The Ideal Solution (not your solution)
- The Problem with that ideal solution
- Enter Your Solution
Here’s an example:
“Hey do you want to lose weight and get in the best shape of your life?
Well the best way to do that is to go to the gym five days a week and work out for one hour each time.
But… gym memberships are expensive and who has that kind of time just lying around?
What you need is our awesome, cost-effective, home-exercise machine.
“Eating too many processed foods is destroying your health.
The solution is to eat more fresh fruits , vegetables and juices.
The problem is that atypical juicers are too large, time-consuming to use, expensive, hard to clean and kill too many of your food’s helpful nutrients.
Our awesome, compact, easy-to-clean and affordable juice machine is just what you need!
A Simple Approach to Help Your Customers Open up
Here’s what not to do:
“Let’s talk about your needs. I’m free on Wed at 2:30pm. Will that work for you?”
“Is there any reason why you won’t be able to make a purchase decision on this product today?
“After our initial discovery call today, I’d like to schedule a meeting with your executive team.”
Now, here’s what to do:
“If you free a quick, no pressure discovery chat makes sense, here’s a link to my calendar. Feel free to pick a time that works best for you.”
“It sounds like we have a good fit here. And if you’re interested in moving forward today, I’d love to help… but I’d also be happy to discuss a timeline that works best for you.”
“I appreciate you taking the time to chat today. If the call goes well, most clients find a meeting with your executive team to be a helpful next step, but we can decide on that once we get there. And if for some reason you feel it doesn’t make sense to move forward, that’s okay too. I’d still be happy to share a package of free resources to help you on your way.”
Don’t be pushy but also don’t go soft and give your customers the easy way out.
After all, inertial, status quo bias and the dreaded ‘do nothing’ option all have very strong gravitational pulls and in many instances, your buyers will take the status quo unless you give them a strong reason not to.
Know your audience and label their pain.
As you begin conversation with your prospects, one of the things you might say is
“I speak to customers in your position every day, and the number one challenge I hear from them is…….”
To get the most out of labelling, your label needs to be specific, differentiated and not sound like a high-level pitch that caters to everyone.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
“I speak to sales leaders like you every day who are looking for a better, more effective CRM.”
“I speak to HR leaders like you everyday who are looking to automate and accelerate their performance review process.”
Here’s an example of what to do:
“I speak to sales leaders every day and what I hear consistently is that they don’t always trust that the information in their CRM is up to date.”
“I speak to progressive HR leaders every day who tell me their people love feedback but they hate performance reviews.”
Don’t tell your customers something they don’t know about you.
Tell them something they don’t know about them. The premise here is simple – your priority is to help your customers learn something about their own situation than to help them understand the value of whatever you’re selling.
Ask “On a scale of 1 to 10…” questions.
These questions are perhaps one of the very best you can ask in a discovery situation. They’re completely subjective and opinion-based. All you have to do is
- Ask your customer to rate their pain (on a scale of 1 to 10)
- Provide some examples as a baseline
- Listen and then ask them why they chose a number they do
Let’s say your customer chose 6. You might follow up and ask “I see. Why did you choose 6?” And from there the conversation could continue. You might also ask “I see. You say you’re a 6 but why wouldn’t you be a seven or eight? Or “What would it take to get you to a seven or eight?”
2 Strategies to Seek Clarifications
- Ask and soften
Strategy #1 Ask and Soften
Buyer: “This isn’t a priority right now.”
You: “I totally get it. You have many things going on and need to give the most important things the most attention… If you don’t mind me asking, what’s on top of your mind right now?”
Strategy #2 Mirror
Buyer: “This isn’t a priority right now.”
You: “I’m sorry… not a priority for you now?”
10 Strategies to Handle Objections
Strategy #1 Resolve with Empathy
Buyer: “I really like that suit, but it’s a little too expensive for what I was hoping to spend.”
Seller: “I completely understand how you feel. It’s a nice one and you don’t have to spend that amount if it makes you feel better. What my clients found in the end was that spending a few extra dollars on a timeless design for years was a worthwhile investment.”
Strategy #2 Historical Perspective
Buyer: “We’ve had a solid solution in place for many years that seems to be working well. I don’t think we need a solution like yours.”
Seller: “I completely understand. The solution you have now was the gold standard for many years. The problem is now hackers have become much more sophisticated which is why many companies are turning to this type of technology.”
Strategy #3 Reason with Satisfaction
Buyer: “I used to have a 25 percent discount on my cell phone program. I’d like you to reapply it to my new program.”
Seller: “I’m sorry. I’d love to be able to do that, but I can’t because we don’t offer that promotion anymore.”
Strategy #4 Turn Future into Past
Buyer: “I like your product, but it’s too expensive.”
Seller: “I understand. If you don’t mind me asking, what would happen if the product was free? Of course, I’m sure it would be a nice fit, but I”m just wondering if price is the only thing preventing us from moving forward.”
Strategy #5 Consider the Alternative
Buyer: “your product seems to have a lot of features and a hefty price tag to match. It might make sense for us to go with a simpler, less expensive product that just has the features we need.”
Seller: “I totally understand. You don’t want to pay for the features you don’t feel you’d use, and that approach might make sense. When we spoke last week you mentioned you had aggressive plans to grow and scale your business. While you may not need those features now, do you think you’d be able to meet your growth targets without them six months from now? What happens if you grow faster than you thought?”
Strategy #6 De-escalate
In the case of the child who is afraid of the closet monster, you might walk them to the closet, turn on the light, shuffle some clothes around and do one more spot check under the bed for good measure before confirming to them with utmost certainty that their bedroom is monster-free. In the case of the customer who raises an objection, you might respond with a softening statement to acknowledge their fears and then raise a logical position to help frame the compliance to the request.
Strategy #7 Turn Weakness into Strength
Buyer: “I don’t think moving to a new supplier before the busy holiday season makes sense. It introduces too much operational risk at a time when our customers really count on us.”
Seller: “I completely understand how you feel. You don’t want to risk any logistical problems during your busiest time of the year. Interestingly, I’ve worked with many clients like you who felt the same way. But what they found was that switching suppliers in advance of their busy season actually allowed them to provide a much better customer experience and rice even more revenue than they had previously projected.”
Strategy #8 Validate the Fit
Buyer: “Wow.. that’s much more than I was thinking this would cost!”
Seller: “I understand. Sometimes people are surprised by how much my type of service costs. But customers typically bring me in to solve their most unique and difficult searches, the ones they’ve been challenged to solve on their own. While I’m very good at what I do, I know my service isn’t for everyone. So if this doesn’t make sense for you, please don’t feel bad. That’s totally fine.”
Strategy #9 Inoculate
Seller: “As I learn more about your needs and craft a proposal, I wanted to mention that we’re definitely not the lowest-cost provider out there. We might even be the first or second-most expensive. While our price is higher than most, our mission is to deliver a high-touch, comprehensive solution that consistently exceeds our customer’s expectation. That’s why we have a 96 percent customer retention rate.”
Strategy #10 Bring It!
Seller: “Do you have any concerns around X?”, “What do you feel we’re missing in terms of the approach we’ve outlined?”, “How confident do you feel you’d see success from our solution?”
There’s no one strategy that works all the time.
Like a skilled chef, most effective sellers in the modern era are familiar with all manner of techniques, styles and schools of thought. Only then, will they be able to select the right approach for the right situation. Because selling is an exercise in human communications and given the hundreds of variables that influence how two humans will interact with each other on any given day, there is really no one-size-fits-all solution.
And finally… the knowing-doing gap is very real.
Everything you’ve read so far is easy to digest but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pull off every concept with skill, finesse and tone of the best sellers. When you start to apply your knowledge, it’s okay to suck at it. If you revisit the outcome of each of your interactions and question why you were successful or not, your brain will create new pathways for you to get a desired outcome next time.