“I go fishing up in Maine every summer,” Dale Carnegie wrote in the mid 1930s. “Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I find that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I go fishing, I don’t think about what I want. I think about what they want. I don’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangle a worm, or a grasshopper, in front of the fish saying, ‘Wouldn’t you like to have that?’”
This story prompted me to ask, why not use the same common sense when fishing for customers?
Secret #29: If you want to motivate other people, it’s more important to think about what they want, rather than what you want.
To succeed in sales, we have to motivate potential buyers to “want to” take action. But we also have to recognize that different people are motivated differently. While some people are motivated to run fast toward Gold Medals, many others will run even faster from German Shepherds.
By position benefits in a way that motivates both, you can potentially double the perceived value of your product or service, which significantly increases your probability of success in making a sale.
My first book created quite a stir when Chapter 3 opened with this sentence: Traditional reference selling is highly overrated.
That divergence from traditional sales thinking shocked the establishment as virtually every sales training program created in the last 40 years talks about the importance of reference selling.
References are important—but so is differentiation; and it’s no longer an effective to use references just like everyone else. In Question Based Selling, our goal is to show sellers how to be different from everyone else. One way to accomplish this is to create a sense of momentum in your sales using The Herd Theory—which is a technique that ironically leverages “everyone else.”
Salespeople tend to listen with ‘happy ears,’ hoping to get some indication that they are making progress within their opportunities, and that they are heading in the right direction. As a result, sellers tend to ask “hopeful” questions like:
“Mr. Customer, does your boss like our proposal?”
“Would next Tuesday work for a conference call?
“Are we still in good shape to wrap this deal up by the end of the week?
Unfortunately, asking hope-filled questions tend to yield less information that also tends to be less accurate than the alternative. In short, we live in a culture where it’s easier to sidestep the truth, or event tell a little fib than it is to share information that is different than they obviously wouldn’t want to hear.
In Question Based Selling, we leverage a strategy called neutralizing the Disposition of your questions. It’s uncanny, but if you are If you are open and willing to invite good news and bad news, instead of just thinking about your own goals, you stand to receive exponentially more (and more accurate) information about the status of the opportunity.
Therefore, it’s much more productive to invite complete information by asking questions like:
“Mr. Customer, does your boss have questions or see any problems in our proposal?”
“Would Tuesday work for a conference call, or is that too soon to get all the key people together?
“Are we still in good shape to wrap this deal up by the end of the week, or do you think it could stall once it hits the CFO’s desk?
Critics of this could argue that it gives the customer an “out.” But I believe most customers know that they don’t have to buy from you. Therefore, I will gladly trade all of the “outs” customers don’t know they have for the volumes of accurate information I receive in return.
Have you ever noticed that you can’t actually touch a significant portion of your company’s value proposition? it’s true. Things like innovation, ease of use, and cost effectiveness, not to mention your own credibility, experience, preparedness, integrity, and thought leadership are important factors that can affect a customer’s buying decisions.
These qualities are highly intangible, however. You can’t just open your sales bag and hand the customer some credibility. Instead, the intangibles that comprise your value proposition must somehow be conveyed to potential customers in a way that is more compelling than your competition.
In the Live Q & A session, Tom answers questions on the goal of your phone call, the best way to recover from a previous sales call that didn’t go well, and how to feel more confident when you start a new sales job in an unknown industry.