Monday, October 19, 2009

Selling to Different Behavioural Styles: Options vs Procedures Preferences

Have you ever been really excited about something and ready to buy and then the urge suddenly faded away? Or have you ever presented a highly compelling new offering to a client who got really interested by the different options and choices you presented, only to find that in the end nothing happened - no sale.

Why? Often it is because we think that all people are like we are. We think that everyone sees the world through the same blue goggles that we do. If we get excited by lots of different and compelling options we think that they will to. Here is the problem: a lot of people (as many of 40% of all people) have a preference for procedures rather than for options. Most people have a dominant preference for one or the other and some have a preference for both. What are the implications for influencing others and for sales?

1) Options Preference: People who have an Options preference are motivated by opportunities and possibilities to do something in a different way. They are thrilled by unlimited possibilities and ideas.

When selling to an Options person the goal is to get them to think in terms of possibilities. Give them lots of alternatives. They want to examine all the reasons why they should buy. An Options person is motivated by choice, unlimited choice.

Don't make the fatal mistake of using this approach on someone with a Procedures Preference. Want to know how you can avoid doing this?

2) Procedures Preference: People with a Procedures preference like to follow set ways. They are interested in how to do things, not in why things are the way they are.

When selling to a Procedures person the goal is to get them started on a procedure because they are compelled to complete it. They want to see a clear step-by-step procedure to follow. They don’t want to be shown several ways of doing something. They want one way, the right way. Show them how to buy.

Identifying Behavioral types:

Options people: Are excited by choice and possibility. Have trouble following set procedures

Procedures people: Prefer to follow tried-and-true set ways. Get stumped when they have no procedure to follow.

Influencing Language:

Options: Opportunities; variety; unlimited possibilities; lots of choice; options; break the rules

Procedures: The right way; how to; tried and true; speak in procedures: first ….then …. lastly

Mobile Phone Retail Sales example:

“The first step is, I’ll show you the latest mobile phones that we have available today that match your usage criteria. Then you can take a good look at them, I will show you how they work and you can try them out. You can then decide which one you like best. After that, I’ll explain how the payment plan works and set up your new phone in our system for you. Then all you need to do is sign your new Service Agreement. Lastly, you can take your brand new mobile phone home with you today, all set up, fully operational and ready to go. You can start using it immediately without any hassle or delay. Are you ready to get started?”

Based on ideas from the book "Words That Change Minds. Mastering the language of influence." by Shelle Rose Charvet

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Buyer’s Journey

The Sales Cycle is dead. It has out lived its usefulness. Why? Because the sales cycle is all about us and our interests and not about the customer or his/her interests. The sales cycle is something that we do to the customer and not for the customer. We have all seen sales cycles that were driven by internal factors such as making the end of the quarter number or additional discounts designed to stimulate demand to offset a short fall in sales. This is about us and not them.

Consider the various steps of the sales cycle: Prospecting, Qualifying, Needs Identification, Proposing, Negotiating and Close. This language describes where we are in a series of actions that result in ‘closing’ the prospect.

The world has changed, things have moved on. Today, success in sales is all about understanding how people make buying decisions. The Sales Cycles has been replaced by the Buyer Decision Process. The good news is that there are 5 simple steps in the Buyer Decision Process and they always occur in exactly the same sequence. So then success in sales today comes from understanding where your prospects and customers are in the Buyer Decision Process and helping them move to the next decision step. Success in sales today means helping people to buy. ie. Put yourself on the same side of the table as them. This means replacing our traditional selling-centric paradigm with a buying-centric paradigm.

The 5 steps of the Buyer Decision Process*:

1. Person: You must always start here to create trust and personal credibility. The buyer won’t go the next decision step until you have successfully completed this step.

2. Company: ‘Sell’ your company before you start to ‘sell’ your product or service. Over look this step at your own peril.

3. Product: Many of us start here and spend most of our time on this decision step. Why? Comfort factor, probably. We understand our products and services, and we want to show our people how knowledgeable we are. In reality, most buyers today have done extensive research online. They know exactly what they are looking for and often they know as much or more about a specific product or service than we do.

4. Price (Value): Most buyers have done their homework and know exactly or have a very good idea what prices are and which products and services fit their budget and which one don’t. Help buyers navigate this step by validating their product choice and advising them on different options, packages, service bundles that will deliver superior value to the bottom line in their usage scenario.

5. Why Now? This is where you can be of real service to your prospects and customers. How often have you seen a prospect fly through steps 1 through 4 of the buyer decision process only to arrive at this step and suddenly get stuck in ‘inability to make a decision’ or ‘indecision to take action’. Your role here is simple. Create a sense of urgency by pointing out all the reasons why the buyer needs to take immediate action and more importantly help the buyer to calculate the cost of indecision or delay.

Remember. Everyone goes through exactly this decision process when making a buying decision. All you have to do is determine where they are in the process and provide the required information by asking insightful diagnostic questions that will help move their thinking to the next decision step in the process. Do this and you will add value by helping your prospects and customers make logical, rational buying and investment decisions. Use the Buyer Decision Process and your prospects and customers will reward you with more and higher value buying decisions.

*based on ideas from the book: Action Selling by Duane Sparks, The Sales Board, Inc.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unlocking Audience Participation

Have you ever sat through a really bad presentation, meeting or workshop? I guess we all have and more often than we wish to remember. What was it that made it bad? Now think about a really great meeting, workshop or presentation that you have attended recently. What made it great? What were those things that made it successful? Somewhere on your list will be involvement and audience participation. The signs of a highly successful meeting are the quality of discussion, the exchange of ideas and points of view, and the sharing of knowledge and experience, in short audience participation.

How do you unlock audience participation?

Start with the End in Mind. What are your desired outcomes for the presentation, meeting or workshop? List the Top 3 objectives you have as outcomes of the meeting. Think carefully about this when choosing a name for your presentation, workshop or meeting. “Quarterly Business Review” sounds like exactly that. A meeting who’s title is “Identifying and finding ways to remove costs that won’t negatively impact revenue growth” creates a totally different perception and expectation about the desired outcomes of the meeting. Set expectations upfront and challenge your audience to find at least 3 personal “Take Aways”: actionable ideas that they can put to work immediately.

Engage them immediately. Skip the personal introductions and normal meeting protocol. Go straight to your desired outcome and your expectations. Connect with your audience immediately by soliciting their ideas, input, agreement/disagreement, opinions and feelings. Encourage interaction and exchange of ideas. How? by asking questions. By asking for their opinions, asking for examples and stories that illustrate a point, or simply asking for their validation of the item being discussed. Get them involved and keep them involved through frequent and continuous inclusion. 

Think like a Facilitator. Use “the answer is in the room” thinking. How? Don’t answer the question, put it to the room. What is the difference between a Presenter and a Meeting Facilitator? When running a meeting or a workshop you are not a subject matter expert, you are a process expert. Your role is to liberate the tacit knowledge, opinions and collective experience of all participants. Leverage the power of simplicity. Speak less and say more. Remember, briefness equates to effectiveness. 

Maintain Momentum. Use stories, storytelling, anecdotes and humor to keep things moving. Energy and engagement tend to drop off after a while. You can avoid this by telling stories and encouraging participants to tell stories. Relevant stories embody key ideas and are memorable. People love stories, they engage us and they energise us. Start building a library of personal stories that you can use in your next workshop, meeting or presentation.

Finish Strong. Review key actions, learning points and agree next steps. Summarise their ideas; recognise the value of their ideas. Point out the positives, build on them, test and challenge them. Invite comments and inclusive group discussion. Do this and you will make your presentations, meetings and workshops productive, constructive, energising and highly memorable.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Adapt your Selling Style to Today’s Buyer Thinking

Buyer thinking has changed, forever. Pre-economic crisis buyer thinking rewarded relationship based selling. When the economy was strong, growing and things were relatively predictable, buyers rewarded continuity and business relationships.

Today Decision Makers are reassessing every spending and investment decision they make. They are looking for ways to reduce, delay or cancel purchases and investment decisions and they are seeking certainty that desired results will be achieved as planned. Maintaining a predominantly relationship focused sales approach will not cut much sway or add relevant value to buyers with a ‘spend less, delay or cancel’ mindset. To succeed in helping today’s buying decision makers you must move your style to a results focused approach.

3 Steps to Mastering Results-Focused Selling:

1. ‘Euroize/Dollarize’ the problem. Help your client to quantify the cost of his/her problem or lost opportunity by determining an approximate cost or financial benefit. This will allow the customer to prioritize their buying or investment decision and create a sense of urgency to take action. The rule is: the bigger the problem (€), the bigger the solution (€).

2. Use Creative Thinking (Divergent Thinking) Create a list. Work with your customer to draw up a list of as many possible ideas and actions that could minimize or resolve the problem and deliver the required outcomes. The goal is to capture the maximum number of possibilities without judging or eliminating any ideas. Target: Create a list of 20 possible solutions.

3. Use Critical Thinking (Convergent Thinking) Make a choice. In this phase of the process help the Decision Maker choose the best solution that meets his requirements: cost or investment, and delivers the desired results. Demonstrate how you can assure that the desired results will be realized? Provide value assurance by helping your customers achieve their desired results in a measured and predictable manner.

Relationship Based Selling is no longer a meaningful differentiator to buying decision makers in the post-crisis world. Buyers are looking for results and you must demonstrate that you are results-focused by helping them: 1) identify, 2) quantify and 3) deliver desired results. To succeed in tomorrow’s post-crisis business world you must become a Results-Focused Trusted Advisor.

Monday, February 09, 2009

From Chaos to Clarity

Success in sales comes from creating clarity in the mind of your customer. Clarity in understanding the problem to be solved, clarity in evaluating the possible solutions available and clarity in determining the real value to the business that each solution provides today and in the future.

Clarity helps the customer to move forward with commitment and confidence. How do you create clarity? The first step is to listen. Warning: Do not be deceived by the apparent simplicity or obviousness of this critical first step. Listening is the foundation of success in sales. Listen intently while the customer describes his or her current situation, and then describes their future desired state so that you can help the customer to quantify the size of the gap between the two and move your collective thinking to how to close the gap. The key to success here depends on your ability to listen intently and this means being able to temporarily suspend your self-interest and avoid doing all the talking. Listening is an underdeveloped skill in many sales professionals today and listening is vital to being able to create clarity for your customer. 3 simple steps to follow to create clarity:

Listen to Learn
Mind-set Tip #1: Listening to learn is vital to your success in creating clarity for your customers. It is all about wanting to learn which transcends the desire to simply understand your customer. When we are in learning mode we are open and receptive to new and different ideas and able to explore and play with them freely. Listening intently in this frame of mind will significantly help your customers to clarify their thinking and their decision making.

Listen with Your Eyes
Mind-set Tip #2: Listen with your eyes by focusing your attention on observing your customer. Observe the customer’s body language as she describes her challenges and the ideal solution she would like your help to deliver. Listen with your eyes in an objective and nonjudgmental way. Observe her thinking. Look beyond the words she uses. Look for the hidden drivers of her behavior. Focus your observation on looking for insights into how she responds to your questions, how she makes decisions and what motivates her to commit to take action.

Listen with Your Mind
Mind-set Tip #3: Listen with your mind by listening for the unconscious forces at work in the head of your customer. Think about how they process information. Do they want facts and figures and benchmark data, or do they prefer anecdotal customer stories and case studies, or do they show a preference for testimonials and references? This will help you to understanding how they: 1) think, 2) decide and 3) behave. Knowing this will allow you to navigate your way successfully through the complexity of their decision making process.

Success in sales today is about helping your customer move from chaos to clarity. Do this by listening to learn about how they think, process information and make decisions. When you create clarity your customers will commit to moving forward with you and be confident in achieving their desired outcome.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quantifying Value - The Ultimate Sales Tool

Understanding your own value – the value of your products and services – and being able to connect that value to your customer's business drivers is what makes customers want to buy. Customers want the benefits, the business benefits that your product or service can create and deliver to their business.

In today's business climate customers are critically reviewing and reassessing their businesses, rethinking their options, re-allocating resources and re-prioritizing their business strategies. You can assist your customers in this process by helping them to identify and quantify value gaps or value opportunities, demonstrating how value can be created, implemented and then measured to ensure that the value realised meets or exceeds plan.

Value maximisation followed by value assurance is what your customers desperately want and need today. Show him or her how they can achieve these two goals and you will create more than a customer, you will create a business partner for life.

Price Advantage -> Product Advantage -> Competitive Advantage -> Value Advantage!!!

To learn how to create your own Value Advantage read "The Prime Solution" by Jeff Thull. You will learn how to close the value gap, increase margins and win the complex sale. Go to to download a free copy of the foreword, introduction and chapter 1.