In the digital age we currently find ourselves in with virtual workforces and virtual meetings, do selling conversations still matter?
CEB (now Gartner) in surveying some 5,000 buying executives on the most important factors in making a buying decision, only 9% said Price, 19% said Brand, 19% said Product, but a whopping 53%, more than half, said Field Interaction (The Selling Conversation) made the biggest difference.
What this means is that you can have the best product, you can have the most recognized brand, you might even have the best price, but if the way you are communicating about your products and services is weak, you will lose more than half your deals.
SALES PEOPLE BEHAVING BADLY
As sales professionals, we’re steeped in product knowledge and as a result of spending all day, every day thinking about our products and services, we often show up to a selling conversation and have a monologue that leaves our prospect wondering, “What’s in this for ME?”
When we’re in an uncomfortable position, it’s human nature to wax eloquent about what we know best. The result is a conversation loaded with too much information, that doesn’t highlight anything truly unique and that’s all about us, our products and our services.
But what does your prospect care about? (Hint: NOT you!)
Most bad selling conversation are fall into one of the three categories I’ve mentioned above:
1. Too Much Conversation About Your Product/Service
The human brain is looking for clarity and when you drown it in information, it tunes out. That’s because the old brain, in charge of fight, flight or freeze responses is all about survival. When you throw a bunch of information at your prospect, their old brain will quickly determine that it will take too much energy and expend too many calories to process the conversation.
The result in person is that waxy look that comes over their eyes as you lose the conversation. In a virtual meeting, it’s even worse as they check their email and think about what’s for dinner.
2. Nothing Unique
The old brain is scanning the environment for threats and dangers, so when you show up to their office, the lights go down, the powerpoint comes up and you start the conversation with, “We’ve been in business since 1929, we have lots of great clients, we offer world class service, blah, blah, blah…”your prospect’s brain goes to sleep. Why? It’s surveyed the environment, there’s no mystery or intrigue involved and their brain says, “I’ve seen and heard all this before, i’m safe!” and then promptly tunes you out before you’ve made it to the 3rd slide.
By the time you’ve gotten to the good stuff, how their world will be better as a result of using your product or service, they’ve tuned you out and you’ve lost the sale.
3. All About YOU
Your prospect has goals they are trying to achieve. They have challenges they are trying to overcome and those challenges impact them professionally and personally in a profound way. But when you drone on and on about YOUR company, YOUR products, YOUR track record, they get the distinct feeling that they are not the center of the conversation.
Again, who does your client care about? Themselves! If you could read their mind at this point in a sales conversation you might see a little bubble pop up with the question, “What’s in it for ME?”
So how do you overcome these bad behaviors and deliver a conversation (not a monologue) that’s designed to help their brain understand your unique value in the marketplace and make it easy for them to make a decision?
There are 5 Things you can start doing TODAY that will dramatically improve your sales conversations.
I. CHECK YOUR INTENT
Before you ever engage a prospect, either over the phone on a Discovery call or in person in an expanded conversation, ask yourself this question:
“How will my prospect be better off as a result of doing business with me?”
Asking and answering that question has the dramatic effect of centering the conversation around the world of your prospect. It will keep you from seeing your prospect as a “sale” with dollar signs dancing over their heads remind you that this is a PERSON with problems that you can solve.
If your product produces greater efficiencies that free them up to spend more time and energy on their core business, you aren’t selling a product, you are giving them back the gift of time. If your service helps them to achieve their goals, you’re not selling a workshop, you’re selling them success, prestige and yes, financial benefit.
Ask the question. Answer the question and throughout the conversation remind yourself of how their life will be better off. Notice I didn’t say “how will their BUSINESS be better off”. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a B2C or B2B company, all sales is actually H2H (Human to Human).
When your INTENT is clarified around your prospect’s goals, you are communicating empathetically and will stand out above 90% of your competition.
II. KNOW YOUR PROSPECT'S GOALS & CHALLENGES
Executives are tired of playing 20 questions. If your prospect is interviewing 2-3 other companies who do what you do (and they are… and they can!), imagine the frustration of answering the SAME questions over and over and over.
Leading questions like, “What keeps you up at night” or “What pain points are you experiencing” causes your prospect to give voice to their frustrations over and over again. When they do this, a hormone called cortisol is dripping on their brain, they feel bad and the result is that it makes them closed to possibilities, not open to new experiences.
You’re a professional in your field, so you should have done your homework and from your experience should already know, walking in the door, both the high level goals of the person sitting across from you and the challenges they face. You shouldn’t have to ask!
Executives today are looking for sales professionals who are credible and speak with authority. I can confidently tell you from our experience that when we’re speaking to SVP’s of Sales, generally they are all facing mounting pressure from the C Suite to meet ever growing quotas, overwhelmed with improving the performance of their sales teams, their job is ALWAYS at risk (average tenure of an SVP of sales in 2016 is only 18 months!) and a small percentage (maybe 20%) of their reps are producing 80% of their revenue! 60% are barely making or missing quota and the bottom 20% are a drain to the organization.
The conversation (in our world) might sound like this: “In speaking with other SVP’s of Sales, we understand that they are responsible for crushing a quota that’s going up every year while improving the effectiveness of their sales organization. But they are challenged with pressure from the C-Suite to increase revenue, while dealing with the 80/20 split where a handful of reps are bringing in most of their revenue while most barely make or miss their quota.”
Instead of playing 20 questions, lead with INSIGHT.
III. ARTICULATE WHAT IT MEANS TO THEM
Now that you’ve lead the conversation with insight into their challenges and goals, make it conversational. Ask them, “I’m curious, what does this look like in your world?” If you’ve done your homework, you’ve likely hit the nail on the head and they will validate and expound on their challenges. We’ve had SVP’s of sales respond to the 80/20 challenge and say things like, “It’s actually more like 90/10! Two of my reps are basically carrying the entire company!”
At this point, you want to make an emotional connection with your prospect, letting them feel the impact of their challenge by asking questions like, “What does it mean to your company if you can’t overcome these challenges?” Even more pointed, “What does it mean to your team or your personally if you can’t get past this?" To get more insight, you could ask, “What have you tried to overcome these challenges on your own?”
Now, your prospect give voice to and will actually hear themselves detailing how serious the problem is. They experience the emotion connected to their problem when you ask impact questions. There’s a formula we use in our instruction that goes like this:
When you experience an emotion, hormones are released that cement that emotion into your memory. It’s the old brain’s way of saying, “Remember this situation” be it positive or negative. This is important because humans are roughly 2-3 times as likely to run FROM a threat/danger as they are to run TO a solution. This will make the idea of sticking with the status quo at the end of your conversation (the biggest threat to your sales success is the status quo, NOT your competition) a virtual impossibility.
IV. SHOW THEM WHAT THEY CAN DO DIFFERENTLY
Notice at this point of the conversation that you’ve said NOTHING about you, your product or your service. The entire conversation has been about your prospect, THEIR goals, THEIR challenges and what it MEANS to them.
It will be difficult to stop yourself from providing relief to your prospect as they detail (sometimes emotionally) how difficult their challenges are, but you need to hold back from the “we can help you” comments. Daniel Kahneman, in his groundbreaking research (detailed in his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow”) discovered exactly HOW the human brain perceives value. It’s in a contrasting worldview.
By detailing your prospect's challenges and expounding on what it MEANS to them, you’ve given them an accurate understanding of their Present State (PS) and by showing them what they can do differently as a result of using your product or service, you are going to paint a picture of a Future State (FS) they could have by engaging your company. The greater the distance between their PS and their potential FS, the greater the value they perceive.
We call these statements, Value Positions. NOT Value Propositions. Why? Because when you a proposing something, it’s a suggestion. You should be confident enough of the value you provide to take a POSITION in the marketplace of the unique value you, your company and its products and services provide.
A Value Position has three important characteristics:
- Important to PROSPECT.
- Unique to YOU.
- You can DEFEND it.
If you solve a problem that your prospect isn’t experiencing, there’s no value to them and they won’t engage you. If it’s not really unique to you, then why should they use you? Couldn’t they get someone else to do what you can do? Even worse, I bet there is someone else out there willing to do it for less! Finally, if you can’t prove it, where’s the credibility? How can you make statements that are indefensible?
You communicate this value in Value Position Statements, the single most important part of your selling conversation. These succinct “Imagine if” or “What if” statements are what your PROSPECT can do differently, NOT telling them the capabilities of your gizmo or software.
In our world, it sounds something like,
- “What if you could shorten the sales cycle?”
- “What if you could sell higher margin deals?”
- “What if you could drive higher adoption of additional products and services over time?
Notice you STILL haven’t said anything about what YOU can do. Up until this moment, the entire conversation has been about them… UNTIL NOW.
Now and only now, AFTER you’ve detailed their goals, spoken to their challenges and AFTER you’ve told them what that means and asked impact questions. AFTER you’ve painted a clear picture of how much better off their lives would be with several “What if” or “Imagine if” statements, NOW you can say those magic words…
You can. ONLY with <Your Company Name>.
V. PROVE IT!
But that’s not enough. You need to tell them how you’ve accomplished this before. You need to “land” the “What if” statements with a concrete example of how you’ve successfully implemented your solution with other clients. The best way to do that if with a SUCCINCT customer testimonial. It might sound something like this:
“That’s how an Atlanta technology company was able to increase the conversion rates on their first call from 8% - 47% in one quarter by utilizing the messaging and corresponding training we offer.”
That’s it. You don’t need to get in the weeds. Just give them a reason to believe… and they will!
We understand that it can be difficult to follow a conversation flow like this from heart, that’s why we’ve created a Sales Conversation Roadmap “Cheat Sheet” that you can download here.
I hope this guide has been helpful. Please leave your feedback in the comments section.
MasterMessaging is a sales consultancy that helps our clients increase revenue in predictable, replicable and sustainable ways. All based on applying principles derived from the latest in behavioral psychology. Principles ranging from how individuals perceive value to communicating in a way that overcomes the status quo.