Empathy in sales is great. Except when you take it too far and assume your prospects approach buying decisions the same way you do.
I was concluding a training session that I was delivering in Florida for a national association. As I brought the program to its natural conclusion, I let the audience know I would open the floor to answer any questions they may have.
Several hands went up. The third person I called on made a statement, rather than asking a question.
“Keith that sounds too salesy. I could never do that with a prospect.” He was referring to the four qualifying questions that I claimed are guaranteed to bring in more sales when meeting with any prospect.
“Sounds too salesy?” I wanted to confirm I heard him correctly. I responded to this gentleman with a question.
“To whom?” I wondered.
“To me!” the person replied. Those questions that you suggest we ask every prospect sound way too salesy to me. There’s no way that would work with my prospects. (Said a different way, “There’s no way I could ask those questions. I’m scared!”)
“Well, I can certainly appreciate the fact that these questions may sound a bit different or as you say, salesy, to you (especially if you don’t ask the prospect the challenging, more important questions). But what about your prospects? How do they sound to them?”
“When you ask these questions to your prospect, do they tell you that it sounds salesy to them?” I clarified.
“Really? Is that what they told you?”
“Not exactly,” the person said and then continued with, “I really don’t know. I’ve never used these questions before.”
“Oh, so if you did use these questions, you’re assuming that they will come across as salesy or unfavorable to your prospects, is that what you’re saying?”
I thanked this person for their comments and clarification and then asked the entire audience how many people felt the same way. That is, if they actually took the time to ask these questions (which they never did) they felt that it wouldn’t work for them. A majority of hands went up.
I then asked a question to the audience. “How many people have heard of the Sahara Desert?” Most of the hands in the audience went up. I then asked, “How many people here have actually had the first hand experience of visiting the Sahara Desert and experiencing it for themselves?” No hands went up.
“So, then, how do you know it even exists?”
Silence. I then continued, “If you’ve never experienced it, then how do you know it’s real? Just like the questions I suggest you start using that will make your sales efforts pay off more than ever. If you’ve never used these questions, then you really have no idea whether or not they will work or how they will be received by your prospects.”
I was building my case. I then turned to the audience and said, “Do not sell the way you buy.”
Now, you may feel at this point that I’m contradicting some universal selling principles. After all, conventional sales wisdom handed down through the ages suggests how important it is to empathize and sympathize with your prospects and clients.
However, there’s a very fine line between understanding and respecting someone’s decision making process; and assuming that everyone makes a purchasing decision in the same manner and using the same criteria that you do. Moreover, there is also the faulty assumption that your prospects respond in a similar fashion to the type of sales approach and the type of salesperson that you respond to and would buy from.
I then shared a personal example of the dangers of selling like you buy. “If I sold in the same manner in which I make a purchasing decision and then in turn, transfer those values and beliefs on each prospect that I speak with, assuming they buy the same way I do, then I could tell you with great certainty that I would not be up here talking with you today.”
Creating Your Own Objections
Reason being, when I make a purchase of any substantial amount, I take the time to research my options and learn about the different products or services available. By the time I’m ready to actually make the purchase, whether it’s something for my home, a television a car or a computer, more often than not, I will know more about the product, the competition and the marketplace than the person who is attempting to sell it to me.
My point is, if I started selling the way in which I make a purchasing decision, I am now putting my values, thought process and beliefs on the customer, assuming they purchase the same or in a similar way that I do. The result? More objections, less sales.
Picture this; I’m speaking with the prospect and they start sharing some major buying signs with me. My response, if I was to sell the way I buy, would sound something like this.
“Mr. Prospect, I know you’re ready to move forward and I’m happy to earn your business. However, I actually think you should wait, speak to a few of my competitors, shop around a little more and definitely do some more research. Then, after you do so and when you are ready, call me and I’d be happy to help. Oh, and remember to ask for an additional discount when you do call me back, okay? Have a great day!”
There’s a phrase for this type of selling behavior, which I refer to as:
What if I was talking with an impulsive or assertive prospect who was ready to buy? I would be talking myself right out of the sale!”
Lets defuse a costly myth. The old adage of putting yourself in their shoes is really a costly assumption that destroys many a selling opportunity. Why?
Because when you “look through their eyes” or attempt to see things how you assume they see them, it is still really what you see, not what they see.
The result? You develop a sales process based on how you think they buy rather than how they actually make a decision. Why? Because how you think they buy is really how you buy. (Is your brain twisted enough yet?)
If you truly want to wear their shoes, then you need to know how they think and what is important to them. Therefore, the only way to uncover how the prospect likes to process information, make a purchasing decision and the criteria they use to do so is by asking better questions.
Now, lets take this same ineffective model of selling like you buy and turn it around for a moment. If this belief of selling like the way you buy is getting in the way of taking certain actions or asking certain questions when on a sales call, then what about other things that you are doing or saying which you think are safe to you but in fact, are not safe or comfortable for the person you are speaking with because you’re still operating off the same tool, costly assumptions!
Don’t believe everything you sell, I mean, tell yourself.
Salespeople who sell in the same manner in which they buy are sure to have a lower number of satisfied clients as well as fewer sales. Take a look at some different scenarios where utilizing your own beliefs, assumptions and value system can have a detrimental effect on your performance and income.
- Since Carol usually shops around before choosing which company to buy from or which product to buy, she accepted the prospect’s reason for doing the same. Like herself, she couldn’t expect people to make a decision during the initial consultation.
- When Mike makes a purchasing decision, he usually purchases the least expensive item available. He thinks you can get the same top value at a lowest price. Although he represents one of the highest quality products in his industry, the amount of money he sold for was always at the lowest profit margin. Mike had a hard time asking for more money, even though he was offering his customers the most valuable and effective solution for them.
- Robert hated hearing sales presentations. When he went out on his appointments, he was always done within thirty minutes. In order to effectively cover all of the necessary information and provide the right solutions for the prospect, the average time a salesperson should invest during an appointment was between two to three hours.
- Dana was very indecisive when it came to making a purchasing decision. Because this was inherent in her personality, she offered her customers many different alternatives. The end result was confusion on the consumer’s end, on Dana’s end and no work order.
There are salespeople out there who are even more indecisive than their prospects. Picture this. “I’ll ask for the order now. No, I’ll wait a little longer. No, I might miss the opportunity to do so later, so I better do it now.” This can clearly put a damper on your performance as well as your mental health.
- There was never a “right time” for Bob to purchase a new car. When a prospect explains to Bob that they have other commitments and priorities, he totally understood and told them that he would call them back when the time was right.
- Rhonda always bought from salespeople that were overzealous and aggressive. She tried to emulate that same disposition on every sales call she went out on.
Sell in the manner in which you were trained to sell, based on your core selling competencies and best practices and stick with the proven selling sequence that works for you and within your industry or profession, while asking better questions to uncover how your prospects and customers make buying decisions and the factors they consider when doing so, including the factors that are a priority for them. You cannot expect your customers and prospects to purchase in the same manner as you do.
If you sell in the same manner as you buy, you are instilling your beliefs onto the other people. Since every person’s beliefs and buying habits are different, every person processes information differently. What is important to one person may not be important to another. To take it to another level, when presenting to a customer or prospect, when they are qualified correctly, including how effectively you uncover their buying process, there will never be two presentations exactly the same.
While one person might weigh company stability and the quality or value of the product or service as the most important aspects in making their decision, another person might weigh price or payment terms as the most important factors.
Learn to adapt your presentation around the values, buying process and priorities of each individual. In the end, people make purchasing decisions based on their style of buying, not yours.