“First make sure you are right, then go ahead.” Davy Crocket
“Acting on a good idea is better than just having a good idea.” Robert Half
“My formula for success is rise early, work late, and strike oil.” Paul Getty
A) Deal Making
B) How Do Customers Analyse Information In Order To Make Decisions?
C) The Main Ways of Making Decisions
D) Developing Your Ability To Sell To Preferred Decision Styles
E) Closing Off
A) Deal Making
You have targeted and identified your market, made your approaches and developed rapport. You have then listened for needs and matched them to benefits that you offer. Along the way, you dealt with questions and objections whilst maintaining enthusiasm and energy. All that is left now is to finalise the deal. If you have done your job properly this should be as simple as asking, “Shall we go ahead then? or similar. Your whole contact has been leading to this moment where a prospect turns into a customer.
If anything comes up other than yes then you have to jump back a stage. There must still be some objections or problems holding things back. Be careful here of red herrings. If people do not have the money for example, they are often reticent to say they cannot afford it sometimes.
Your actions in the selling situation (what you say and do) are driven by your attitudes (how you think about your work). For this reason, I dislike the term “sales presentation.” A presentation is a one-way process, a monologue during which you “present” your products and services to the customer. If you consider your primary task to be that of making presentations, you become predisposed to monopolizing the situation by doing more telling than selling.
Customers rarely discuss their problems, needs and concerns without some urging on your part, and they certainly won’t buy unless they believe the benefits you offer will fully satisfy these needs. To help customers achieve this understanding, you must involve them in the selling process and engage them in productive dialogue. Simply talking to your customers does nothing but keep the focus on you, effectively removing them from the selling equation. Any sales approach that ignores the customer is doomed to failure from the start.
B) How Do Customers Analyse Information In Order To Make Decisions?
You need to size up a future client and tailor your presentation to their individual buying strategy. You should have been looking to give-away clues to how they come to decisions from the first time they spoke to you.
Traditionally, people promoting their business create empathy with prospective customers by finding out what their future customer is interested in and then talking about that. Let us say their interest is baseball. Fortunately I was taken to a baseball match by a Texan friend of mine Mike Spiller to see the Astros play in Houston and had it all explained to me. So I would now be comfortable to talk on this subject. If on the other hand you have never been to a baseball game in your life, the conversation would be one sided at best.
Establishing decision-making styles will help you to recognise how best to present your proposal. Let us assume you can identify the types of information a person naturally responds to, and you have the flexibility to offer the same kind of information. Then you will be able to generate a feeling of understanding and enhance communication in a very powerful way regardless of subject matter. Like most of the techniques taught so far, the real convinced of just how influential this simple technique can be is using it yourself.
Everybody sorts their experiences in terms of what is important for them. We reveal our methods for coming to decisions as we speak and after half a dozen or so sentences they rapidly become clear to the careful listener. What we talk about, what we leave out, what we complain about. You can find out someone’s decision-making strategy by asking simple questions and listening. Having established them, you then incorporate them in your presentation. You will be talking their language and have rapport, attention and interest.
Any open-ended question will elicit someone’s natural inclinations for analysing information. The really clever questions are those which also elicit their buying strategy. How they make decisions and direct the client’s mind towards owning what you are selling, for example, ‘What exactly is it that you like about our products/services?’
C) The Main Ways of Making Decisions
Now let us look at the most common styles of how people make decisions. As we discuss these they will start to fall into place as you identify people you know well making their decisions in this way.
The moving towards or moving away from preference. ‘Moving towards’ people are motivated by promotion, pay rises, a bigger house, car etc. They are moving towards those objectives and things that they want to have. Anything you offer will stand a better chance of success if you show someone how it can help them towards their objectives. Ask someone what motivates them and ‘how’ they answer will indicate if they have a clear direction in their motivation.
‘Moving away from’ people want to move away from things, usually problems. For example, one customer of mine is not so much motivated by what he can get as by what he can avoid. He clearly wishes to feel secure and will move away from the threat of losing his business. I presented my case to him in these terms, making him feel confident that he was not exposed to risk and that it would make him more secure and thus more away from the things he wishes to be at a distance from. He bought because I sold to him in a way that he could relate to and was motivated by.
The positive or negative preference. Most things can be stated in the positive or the negative. What we are looking for here is someone who predominantly phrases things in one or the other all the time. Again it is a strong indicator of how they come to decisions.
Many of course, are somewhere in between, and for them this decision-making category does not apply.
‘How are you?’ Fine. or Not too bad.
I want a keen price. or I do not want a high price.
I am overweight. or I am not my ideal weight.
I want delivery this week. or I do not want delivery after this week.
I want a good service. or I do not want a bad service.
The influence direction preference. When a prospective customer to your business is influenced in making a decision about what he thinks about you, there are four possible sources of influence:
Firstly, yourself. How do you sound and look to him. What are his first impressions about you? What people has he known in the past that you remind him of?
Secondly, others. What would those that he knows and trust make of you? Another manager or colleague, or perhaps mentally asking himself, if xxxxx was here right now what opinion would they form?
Thirdly, written and other material. Your web page, e-mails, sales brochures, reviews, articles, testimonials, reviews, references etc.
Fourthly, a mixture of the above.
In practice I have found that one of the above patterns usually stands out clearly. If this is the case, it means that the influence direction is not important for them and should be ignored. If when weighing somebody up, you haven’t decided in five minutes, you can safely ignore this category. This in itself is a valuable deletion.
The similarities or differences preference. ‘Similarities’ deciders are constantly looking to compare any new information or communication with what they know. They match it up with something they are familiar with in order to judge it. When selling to someone like this you have to establish the favourable ‘references’ and make sure that you compare with these.
For example, on a recruitment assignment I was working on I noticed that the Financial Director (the client) constantly compared all the candidates to a previous employee he had once had. Clearly I was going to win a placement when I came up with a candidate with a similar background and personality. So I continued questioning about this previous employee. I found someone (who did not incidentally fit the formal specification at all) and gave him a thorough briefing before the interview. He was offered and accepted the job at interview. Needless to say the candidate was also a similarities decider and this is one of the reasons why they got along so well.
‘Differences’ people are easily spotted as they respond with the opposite or exception to what you are saying. Often such people are thought of as being deliberately difficult. However, they are just running their ‘decision-making programmes’ in the only way they know how. That is how they process and learn. Recognise this and respond in kind.
You will have no doubt if someone is a difference decider, it is very easy to recognise. For example, once while selling training seminars I recognised that my future client was a difference decider. So I changed my presentation and stressed the differences of my courses to alternatives. I was now speaking a language he understood easily and he was comfortable with what I was saying. Being on his frequency it was fairly straightforward from there to secure an order.
The general or specific preference. The generalist likes to look at the big picture in order to get a clear impression before making a decision. Price is rarely a major influence on these people. Showing potential overall payback will be a far more effective selling strategy. The entrepreneur Richard Branson is in this category.
Specific sorting people want all the details and scrutinise the figures with a toothcomb. Your price will be looked at carefully in comparison to those of your competitors. This does not mean that specific deciders will choose the cheapest. In fact, they will analyse value for money of each alternative. Through a presentation they will constantly be asking you questions requiring very precise detail. Do your homework thoroughly and you will get the deal.
The short-term or long-term preference. Those who are orientated to the future (see above) are often easily divided into short or long-term thinkers. In the recruitment industry this is a very valuable type of person. In considering a new candidate, does your client talk about what can be achieved in the next three months or three years? If three years, telling the changes that your candidate could achieve in the next three months won’t get you far. Talk about long-term values, consistency, stability, seeing things through. A simple question such as ‘What would you like the new candidate to achieve?’ will soon supply you with the information you need. They will of course be giving you far more information than they realise.
The task or relationship orientated preference. A very important category if you are looking for a job or trying to secure a brief as a recruiter. Ask, ‘Tell me about the job itself?’. Observe the way the employer or prospective client answers.
The verb tenses. People using the past tense, when you listen to them are always referring back. What happened back then as a good guide for the future is a typical belief that they would have. ‘We tried it that way last year in our Southampton factory and found that it did not work,’ might be a typical type of statement that you might hear.
Remember your Verbal Aikido skills, try a question such as, ‘Has there ever been a time that you have done it this way and it was successful?’. With that question you are achieving two things. Firstly, you are matching his ‘past deciding’ style. Secondly, you are challenging the implied assumption in his statement that because it did not work last year means that it will not work now. The message here is obvious, if you have identified that someone makes decisions with reference to the past, tie your offer to his past successes. References and testimonials are very influential to these types of people as by indication they refer to the past. Past- oriented people invariably use the past tense of verbs, i.e. I thought, was, decided etc.
The present tense users. ‘What I want to know is what can you do for me now?’ The word ‘now’ used repeatedly is a good indicator of a present-time person. Telling this person what you have done for others in the past or the effect of accepting your offer in six months will be a waste of breath. Present-time people are spotted quickly because they invariably use the present tense of verbs, i.e. I think, am, decide etc.
The future tense users. ‘What will it do for me?’. A ‘future’ person is always trying to get somewhere. Find out where that is and show him how you can help. Watch for frequent use of the future tense, i.e. I will, might, would etc.: ‘I can see where this will lead.’ ‘I will give you an order if you will shave 10% off price.’ ‘I will give it some thought.’
As you might have guessed, ‘future people’ tend also to be motivated more by moving towards ‘good news’ than distancing themselves from ‘bad news’.
Notice the difference between ‘I will ring you in three months to see what you think of the products’ and ‘I will visit in three months, at that time we can look back at how the products have improved your general operations’.
In our brains we code time. As you might imagine, the future for most people is hazy and uncertain whereas the past is clear and concrete. When you use the future tense therefore the subconscious mind says ‘maybe’. When you use the past tense it is accepted by the subconscious mind.
The way to adapt this for your business is by projecting yourself into the future looking back. Verb tenses are also a very interesting pattern that people use. The most common tense of which gives away how they think. I have noticed for example as a generalisation that British and American people, when asked the same question, will respond quite differently in this regard. The British people tend to use the past tense much more and the Americans the future tense.
Other decision preferences. The above are the main categories of preference I have come across repeatedly. Very few people will not fit clearly into one of these. When you look for it, the preferred way of making decisions will appear obvious. The method of making decisions is formed very early on in life and becomes part of the basic ‘software’ of how people make sense of the world around them. It will show up clearly in their general behaviour. Try to spot something in their language that keeps recurring. When you have this you have the key that will unlock their decision-making style. Other patterns that I have come across are, Money, Numbers, Places and People.
Think of someone you know for each of the categories above.
How can you use this knowledge in your sales calls?
Take three highlighter pens, green for future, red for past and blue for present. Now take something written by three different people in your industry and highlight each verb use appropriately. When you have done this, think about how you can use this knowledge to help your selling.
Now use other coloured pens and look for any other repeated patterns.
D) Developing Your Ability To Sell To Preferred Decision Styles
Once you have identified the decision-making method, the trick is to match your own approach and presentation to that method. It will obviously be easy, if not automatic, to match the decision-making methods that are similar or identical to your own. The real skill in persuasion is communicating in a pattern which is not yours, but that of the recipient of your communication. Often, particularly at first, it will feel unnatural by definition. Making this effort is what I call customer service.
Many of my clients in the recruitment industry have told me that their staff seems to have great success with some clients whilst with others they don’t seem to make any breakthroughs. Often the reason is that the successes are coming when they are talking to people with the same or similar ways of processing information as them. So I suggest before you start analysing what somebody else’s decision-making methods are, find out what your own are. At the end of this chapter is an analysis sheet I have designed for this purpose. Ask your closest work and/or social colleagues to complete it for you.
Recognising and talking back to somebody in their preferred patterns is the quickest to learn and most practical sales technique that I have ever come across. It is also extremely powerful. I have personally observed individuals significantly increase their performance level by doing nothing more than concentrating on this technique.
The way to develop your skill at this technique is practice. It is best to practise in a controlled group with an experienced tutor. However, much learning can be gained by practising in your own group of at least three people and discussing the results. Put one person in ‘the hot seat’ and ask them any open-ended question. Ask them to tell you about their favourite sport, their holiday etc. Get them to talk for five minutes and record what they say. If they falter, ask more open-ended questions to keep them talking. With reference to the assessment sheet at the end of this chapter, each of you assess what you think are their preferred styles for all the categories. Then put a circle around the three that you think are the most critical. If there are any categories that you are unsure of, ask a question that will give you that information.
When you are ready, ask the person to leave the room. Exchange notes with each other until you agree the three most crucial decision-making methods.Then choose a ‘matcher’ and a ‘mismatcher’. The job of these two people is to make a two-minute presentation to the person and try to sell them something. What you choose to sell is not important but it should be the same thing, for example a house, a car, a holiday, a boat or an insurance policy. It need not be related to what the person spoke about. Now ask the person back into the room. The ‘matcher’ goes first and makes his sales presentation using the three key decision preferences. Then the ‘mismatcher’ makes his presentation.
To illustrate, say the agreed three key methods are, Past, Generalising and Differences. The ‘matcher’ sells his product with reference to the past, tried and tested, etc, with generalisations as to the benefits and applications while stressing the differences. The ‘mismatcher’ talks in the future about what will happen in highly specific details, stressing the similarities. Afterwards, sit down and ask the person from whom he would buy. When you are in the ‘hot seat’ it will amaze you how much more appealing the matcher’s presentation is. This is a vital experience because you will appreciate just how powerful this simple technique is and it will motivate you to become proficient at it. Your results in developing rapport and persuading will clearly increase.
(Circle the decision-making method preferred)
E) Closing Off
If after you have done all the above the future client says something like, “ …well, let me think about it”, don’t let them of the hook so easily. Behind this statement might be many things, such as they know they have not got the budget, or decision making authority, or more likely that somewhere in their mind is an objection that is casing them to pause. Probe for it, “May I ask what exactly do you have to think about?”. You have done a lot of work to get this far, so don’t be easily fobbed off now.
Sometimes they are just fearful of making a decision and you have to put your proposal in a way that makes it easy. Some people will put off all sorts of decisions and actions until they become critical. Sometimes you may find that a prospect is such hard work there are just easier fish to fry. Time management is always an important skill to master for entrepreneurs. You need to be constantly asking yourself if you are using your time at maximum effectiveness.
Selling has been described as the art of getting to yes. In fact if you can get someone to repeatedly respond yes irrespective of content they will have formed the habit with you.
Call someone on the telephone and have a clock next to you that alarms in exactly five minutes. Tick a piece of paper each time you can get them to say the word, “yes” in any context, content being irrelevant. Notice how you achieved this and then repeat the exercise on a different person.
At the start of each week I suggest that you ask yourself if you are continuing to rationalise and defend bad business decisions. We often do this because we have invested a certain amount of time and money and we need to get this back. In reality any past money invested or profit spent is irrelevant to our current decision making. Admitting bad decisions and changing them is perhaps the best decision you can make. In selling if you put a lot of effort to into something that has not worked, learn the lessons and move on.
At the end of a conversation you need to seal everything up neatly. If this means a form to be signed get it done then. Things left have a habit of being left for a very long time. You don’t want to be playing chase up, after all your hard work and success.
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