For the next several months my blog will focus on the attitudes, behaviors and knowledge that makes a great salesperson. I believe that these are fundamental qualities of a great salesperson. And fundamentals are the basis of successful sales whether we are in “normal times” or dealing with a pandemic. Great salespeople know buyers make a decision when they have a compelling reason to change. One of the most valuable skills a salesperson has is the ability to help the buyer find a compelling reason to change.
First Understand The Buyer’s Habits
We are all creatures of habit. Buyers keep placing orders with suppliers who they have come to trust because it’s easy. For years I went to the toothpaste display and grabbed a tube of Crest. Never gave any of the other brands even a glance. Then I developed tooth sensitivity. My dentist recommended I change to Sensodyne toothpaste. I now buy that brand. Think about your own purchasing decisions. What compels you to change? How can you relate this to changing a prospects buying habits?
Sometimes You Need To Create A Compelling Reason To Change
There is a legend about an executive recruiter. (Must be a legend. I’ve heard it from several different sources over the years.) He was riding on an airplane in the seat next to a CEO of a large company. The CEO asked the recruiter how he got executives to change companies. The recruiter replied: “They don’t know how unhappy they are until they talk to me!” What is happening with your A-list customers during the pandemic? Which are surviving and which are thriving?
“Paint The Picture” Gets The Prospects Vision
Great salespeople know how to ask good questions. Early in the qualifying process they seek to uncover problems a prospect has they can solve. One technique to do this is asking them to “paint the picture” of what the “perfect solution” would look like. You might call this the “Monet technique”. Monet was a French Impressionist painter. He painted landscapes using small brush strokes. Up close the paintings looked like a series of colored splotches. At a distance they were beautiful images of what he saw.
The “paint the picture” technique is like a Monet. Each question and answer in the conversation between salesperson and prospect adds another “splotch” to the painting. Great salespeople encourage the prospect to tell them current problems looking for the ones they can solve. The more detail in the picture the better chance the buyer will find a compelling reason to change. My mentor Jim Wilson puts it this way: “It is much easier to sell someone their own picture than to sell them one you create for them:
- If you could change one thing about your current situation, what would it be?
- In a perfect world, how do you see it?
- If you had your druthers…?”
Great salespeople have a “tool box” full of good questions to get the prospect talking about the current situation and how it needs to change.
All Purchases Are Emotional
Yes, that’s true. It took a while for my “engineering mind” to understand it. But think about it. Even the toothpaste example earlier showed an emotional attachment to a brand. Ever bought a home or a car? Wasn’t it how you felt about the vehicle or house what tipped the decision? True after you made the selection, then the rational mind cataloged all the reasons it was a good decision. Think about how the executive recruiter convinced his prospect to change jobs. He put them in “pain.”
Pain is a very strong emotion. We all will do most anything to get rid of or avoid pain. The rules for combatting COVID-19 are creating pain for many businesses. Are your A-list prospects in pain?
No Compelling Reason To Change?
The job of the great salesperson is to discover the prospect’s pain early in the qualifying process. If the prospect is 100% satisfied with the current situation why would they change? If you find prospects:
- Have no need for what you are selling.
- Are fine the way they are.
- Can’t afford you.
- Won’t pay your price.
- Have unreasonable expectations.
- Have no commitment to change the status quo.
Find out quickly and move on. Great salespeople find the pain quickly.
Square Pegs Don’t Fit Round Holes
Are you one of those salespeople who pushes a product or service? What’s your level of success selling buyers something they don’t want? If you don’t have what the buyer wants either move on or change the discussion. Here’s a simple example: My granddaughter is a Girl Scout. And you know they sell cookies as a fund raiser. I’d rather not buy cookies. So Charlotte says: “You know Papaw, you can just make a donation and we will send the cookies to a soldier.” Sold! Charlotte changed the discussion and I wrote her a check.
I learned a lesson when I was selling safety products. A large railroad company was looking to reduce what they paid for the safety products they bought. We had many suppliers of similar products so I started looking for equivalent products which were priced less than what they were buying. In discussion with my VP of sales about how to approach this company he said let’s change the discussion from saving money on product purchases to reducing accidents and injuries. Initially the buyer was looking for 5% savings. By implementing a program which included new more expensive safety products, we reduced the overall cost of accidents and injuries by 20%. The railroad won. And my company won. Rather than trying to fit your product or service to fit the situation. Change the perspective of the buyer.
What You Can Do Right Now To Create A Compelling Reason To Change
- Ask prospects to “paint the picture” of a “perfect world”
- Find the prospects pain quickly
- Change the discussion to create the pain
- If there is not a compelling reason to change, move on