Most people (business people included) have an unrealistic view of selling.
They tend to look at it as a unidirectional process. You tell buyers about your product and why you think they should buy it. But that’s not how successful selling works.
Buyers don’t care why you think they should buy it. They care why they think they should buy it. Do you see the difference?
Selling is a process of stimulus and response …
You send up a trial balloon — a question or a statement — and you read the response.
Inside that response lays a clue to the other person’s internal representation of the world and the proposition you wish to promote.
What does the other person want?
What does he believe?
How does he think?
If you listen, all will be revealed.
Only then can you go to work setting the frame for a purchase. Only then can you go about reframing the person’s worldview if necessary, so your product becomes the perfect solution to their problem.
So you ask the questions …
“How do you see yourself enjoying this eggplant ice cream, Mr. Customer?”
“I don’t think I would enjoy it, doesn’t sound like my style.”
“Doesn’t sound like your style? Really. I’m shocked! Why do you say that?”
“I’ve never heard of something so silly.”
“Silly in what way?”
“Eggplant is a vegetable. Ice cream is flavored with fruit.”
“Is vanilla a fruit?”
“Well no, I don’t think so. It’s a spice isn’t it?”
“Do you like vanilla ice cream?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Did you know you liked it before you tried it?”
“No, I suppose I didn’t.”
“Then how do you know you won’t like this delicious Eggplant ice cream?”
“Well I suppose I don’t.”
“Then why don’t you try it? If you don’t like it I’ll buy it back from you. Deal?”
You may laugh at this silly exchange, but this is all there really is to selling.
You ask questions to uncover the person’s worldview, their relevant desires, and objections to buying.
Then you show how your product or service meets their desires while reframing their objections.
You do this in one-to-one selling… face-to-face… on the phone… with an email… via chat …
But what about one-to-many selling… does the same principle apply?
No, not exactly.
For one, no two people receiving your sales message have the same worldview.
So you have to be much more inclusive in the benefits you present and the objections you counter.
Does that mean you can fall back on telling them why YOU think THEY should buy it? If you’re the perfect prospect for the product, this may well be the thing to do. Telling a simple story about your own experience can be a powerful approach.
But what if you’re not the perfect prospect for this particular product — what then? If you’re not an ideal buyer you’re likely to mischaracterize the market. You’re almost sure to present the benefits in the wrong order, or miss important benefits that are important — same with objections.
Here are a few different strategies for solving this problem …
Method 1 – Probably the best approach — if you can swing it — is to observe a number of actual sales encounters where the same or similar products are being sold.
Tag along with an expert salesperson. Eavesdrop in the call center. Obtain email and chat threads between sales staff and potential customers. Be the salesperson yourself, even better.
Record everything and have it transcribed. Then go through the transcript and copy and paste the benefits articulated by the prospects into a spreadsheet, categorizing them as you go along. “Save money” and “keep expenses down”, for example, go in the same column.
Method 2 – Another approach is to find twenty or thirty people who’ve bought similar products and talk to them about their experience. Not an interrogation, mind you. Not a survey, either.
A free-flowing, friendly conversation, where your goal is to find out why this person bought… what they expected to gain from the purchase… and the thoughts that were running through their head when they did.
Of course, consciously, they have no idea about any of this. So the first answers you get from each person you interview aren’t likely to tell you very much. You’re being told things the other person thinks you want to hear and that make them look smart.
“Why did you buy the Slinky Sphinx?”
“Well they’re made of Corinthian leather”.
Feed it back to them in a way that validates them, and dig deeper.
“That’s interesting, why is Corinthian leather important to you? Why not plastic or plain old garden variety leather?”
And down the rabbit hole you go. Keep drilling gently until you get an answer that ties directly to the person’s self-image.
People don’t buy things because of what they’re made of or how they’re made… or even for what they do. They buy things because owning them makes them feel better about who they are.
Again, record everything and have it transcribed. Then copy, paste, and categorize benefits and objections into a spreadsheet.
Method 3 – A third approach is to go through people’s responses to sales relevant questions online.
You can write a blog post that poses a question. You can do a webinar that invites questions. You can ask open ended questions on your website. You can find related threads on other blogs where people are discussing the topic at hand.
Pick implied objections and desired benefits out of the various thought streams. And then you guessed it — copy, paste, categorize.
In this case you’ll have no idea what benefits will actually lead to a sale, but at least you’re getting a read on what people say they want (or don’t want).
With all three methods, the next step is to count up the number of responses in each of the categories to determine which benefits are likely to resonate most strongly with your target market and which objections are most common.
Then you can start testing appeals and rebuttals in your marketing.
When sales start coming in, keep the process going. Solicit feedback. Read the correspondence that comes in from the field. Analyze and respond to the feedback by creating new tests.
Until next time, Good Selling!