There is a new paradigm in business today. Our customers and prospects are time starved and in control as never before, and we must work harder, faster and smarter to reach them. In fact, it has never been easier to reach large numbers of people with our sales and marketing messages, and never more difficult to actually connect with them. And bombarding that audience with large amounts of infill and information is not the path to move, persuade, convince – and sell.
Research in neuroscience tells us that reasons lead to conclusions, while emotions lead to actions. And every single decision we make, including every buying decision certainly, is rooted in – and driven by – emotion.
So why in most sales interactions are we trying to inundate the left brains of our prospects and customers with data and specs and stats when it’s their right brain that is going to do the buying?
Trade Show Takeaways
I was speaking at an IT conference recently, and before I went on, I walked over to the exhibit hall and just roamed the aisles of the trade show for a while, eavesdropping on snippets of conversations.
Here are a few of the things I gleaned from the experience:
Sales people are way too fascinated with the features and benefits of their products and services. Features and benefits, features and benefits. That’s all I heard. Here’s the problem with that. You can’t reason your way to a sale. You won’t get the prospect or customer to simply “conclude” you offer the best features or the most value or the best people. You instead have to make an emotional connection for a buying decision to occur. And that leads us to this…
When focusing on concrete product specifications sales people ignore their prospects’ two primary motivators; trust and respect. We do business with people we know, like and trust. Simple as that. So the sales journey is less about infill and bullet points, and more about getting to know one another. Besides, by the time you actually have a conversation with a prospect or customer they are typically more than halfway through the buying process anyway. They already likely know about your product specs. That’s not what they need you for now. So have a real conversation instead. Get to know each other, understand their pain points, and see if there is alignment with your solution(s).
Most salespeople are unable to describe their product or service clearly and briefly. Remember the elevator speech? People have a very limited attention span these days, and you have to create a connection quickly, or you’ll lose them. I can’t tell you how many people I saw in the exhibit hall trying to squirm their way free of a sales person who isn’t even partway through their spiel. You must quickly make your way through a succinct and streamlined story that is customer-centric and demonstrates value. This will allow you to show up differently.
Pressing prospects for an appointment before they are ready to buy greatly reduces the probability of ever getting the sale. Obviously one of the aims of a conversation at a trade show or industry event is to harvest business cards and make appointments. I get that. And there is a place for that. But don’t make that your singular objective. Don’t press it to the point that it’s all you are focusing on. The prospect or customer will easily pick up on that and turn you off. I signed up for a whitepaper the other day from a big marketing automation company, and within 20 minutes, I had a really pushy person following up on the phone trying to get me to make an appointment with a sales person. I hadn’t read the whitepaper, didn’t have any experience with the company, and was not ready to have a conversation with a sales person, exploratory or otherwise. But she clearly was not going to end the call without an appointment. So I ended the call, didn’t read the whitepaper, and didn’t do any more due diligence. I was just done.
Here are the benefits of using the right brain approach instead:
You take the customer to the place where buying decisions are made. It’s the place where emotions and feelings reside and where your customer finds connections with you. And it takes the conversation away from data and facts, away from processing and organizing, away from skepticism and transactions.
Your customer is conditioned to actively listen to a story. That is how we are wried, and it happens at the subconscious level of the human brain. “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience,” says Robert McKee, former USC professor and creator of the “Story Seminar. “They are the currency of human contact.” When you wrap your product or service into a story, resistance begins to fall and fade. You break down the feelings of “being sold” in the mind of a customer. So tell stories instead of spewing out the same old features and benefits junk.
Tell tales of transformation. Contrast equals value, and the value you bring to a customer or prospect is the difference between what is and what could be. This is their world without your solution, and this is their world transformed with your solution. Companies want sales people to come in and tell them something they don’t already know about a problem or missed opportunity. Instead, most only talk about themselves. Your sales and marketing messaging needs to feed the brain the thing it craves most to make a decision — contrast.
Keeping all these things in mind will allow you to truly build relationships that create loyal, satisfied customers, moving beyond transactional selling to a role as trusted partner.
This approach doesn’t replace or negate product knowledge or institutional knowledge about your business vertical; it merely accelerates your ability to connect and communicate in a way that will be better received by your prospects and customers.
Customers don’t want to be talked at and pushed. They want to be understood.
Conversations That Close
Through your sales stories, you need to help them understand three things:
John Kotter, a former Harvard Business School professor, says, “Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.”
In other words, by creating an emotional connection.
So if you want to create more closes from your conversations, ditch the product info and the specs and the features and benefits that are processed in the left side of the prospect’s brain. And instead engage the “right” part of a prospect’s brain, where the emotions reside, and the buying decisions are made.