The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Presentation

You’ve made it through your first meeting and perhaps subsequent meetings with the prospect. These meetings were designed for you to build rapport, learn what the prospect needs and what it will take to land his/her business. Now comes the big day; your opportunity to present.

Just for clarification; I use the term “present” when you’re sharing intangibles such as insurance, accounting and other services. When you have a tangible product where you show how it works or involve the prospect, I call that a demonstration. Either way, it’s your chance to build compelling reasons why the prospect should choose to do business with you and your company. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t talk yourself out of the sale – You might have 10 items to cover but if you sense prospects are satisfied after hearing their top three issues addressed, cut it short and ask if they’d like to get to the paperwork. Poor salespeople have a tendency to talk themselves out of the sale during this part of the sales cycle. Here’s a visual from the movie Jerry McGuire,  when Tom Cruise made a long speech to Renee Zellweger asking her to marry him and she said, “You had me at hello.”
  2. Involve the prospect – If possible have the prospect handle your product as you demonstrate it. If not, make sure you ask plenty of questions to keep the prospect mentally involved. What you don’t want to do is drone on and on in a monologue because the prospect will tune you out.

The two principles of influence you want to focus on during this phase are consistency and scarcity. Both of these principles are great when it comes to motivating people to action. Let’s take a look at why.

The principle of consistency alerts us to this reality; we feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and what we do. This is why it’s so important to ask the right questions during your initial meetings. Perhaps the most important question is something like this: Exactly what will it take for me to earn your business?

This is not only important because of consistency but also because you might learn some things that you know you can’t come through on. If that’s the case, let the prospect know you won’t be able to help them and move on to another prospect where you might be able to help.

Scarcity highlights the human tendency to want things more when we believe they are rare, going away or can’t be gotten elsewhere. Throughout your presentation you need to highlight aspects of your product or service that are unique to you or your company. Maybe there’s not one thing that’s unique but perhaps there are several features that, when combined, make your product or service unlike any other.

This is important – it’s not enough to talk about what you think is unique. You need to frame it in such a way that prospects realizes that by not going with you they lose something; i.e., that uniqueness that you offer. Six months to a year down the road why might prospects regret not having gone with your recommendation? That’s what will give them pause to think long and hard about what you’re offering.

It’s not often a sale is made without resistance. Objections might come after your presentation or they could be peppered throughout. Next week we’ll cover how to effectively use different principles of influence to handle objections.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Qualification

You made it through the first meeting with the prospect, rapport was established and he/she liked you enough to allow you to come back and continue the sales process. And you enjoyed the prospect enough to want to pursue the business. Now it’s time to determine if you can do business with the prospect. By that I mean, after you do your fact finding, you have to honestly assess whether or not what you have to offer can help him/her.

On the flip side, you also want to figure out whether or not you want to pursue the prospect any further because not all business is good business. If you get sense that prospects’ demands will be more than you want to take on, or if you begin to get the feeling you might not like working with them, this is the time to politely back out of the process. Better to not take on a customer than to have to end up “firing” him/her.

As you qualify the prospect through a series of well-planned questions the principle of consistency becomes very important. During the follow up meetings after the initial contact, you want to ask LOTS of questions. A rule of thumb is that a good salesperson should talk no more than 25%-30% of the time. That might be contrary to what you’ve experienced with salespeople in the past because a misperception about salespeople is they have to have “the gift of gab” to talk people into anything. Nothing could be further from the truth! Excellent salespeople talk so little because they ask good questions that allow the prospect to do most of the talking. Excellent salespeople are also good listeners because it doesn’t do any good to ask the right questions if they don’t care about the answers.

  1. Here are some benefits of asking good questions:
  2. They allow the prospect to feel in control of the situation.
  3. They help you gather information so you can understand the prospect’s needs.
  4. They will let you know whether or not you should go forward. If you can’t meet the prospect’s needs or requirements then be honest, remove yourself from the sales process and go work with prospects you can help.
  5. They help you tailor your presentation or demonstration.

You will be able to tie back what you ultimately propose to what the prospect told you in earlier meetings. This is where consistency becomes a powerful principle to leverage the sale.

One more point about questions. Whether you win or lose an account, you should always try to understand why. Replicate your winning behaviors and change whatever led to you not making the sale. When you lose, you need to see if there’s a question or two you can add to your qualification process to avoid that from happening again. For example, if you find out the prospect’s brother-in-law works for the company the prospect is currently doing business with then add a question in your qualification process to uncover that next time. Refining your questions over time will make you more efficient and successful.

Last, consider scarcity as you go through the qualification phase. People naturally want more of what they don’t have, can’t have or perceive as going away. By asking the right questions you can start to highlight what prospects might be missing currently and they’ll want it more.

An example from insurance might be the following:

Agent – “If you’re like most customers I work with you probably want to make sure your building is fully covered in the event of a total loss, correct?”

Prospect – “Of course. I can’t get stuck paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket if the building burns or a tornado takes it down. That’s why I buy insurance.”

Agent – “How about your employees? If your business was shut down for six months or longer would you want them to come back when you reopen?

Prospect – “Sure. Without them I have no business.”

Agent – “I thought so but right now you don’t have business income coverage. If you can’t pay them while the rebuilding is going on they’ll end up looking for other jobs so they can pay their bills and feed their families. Should I include this coverage in your quote?”

Prospect – “I never thought about that. I couldn’t afford to hire new people, retrain them and do all the other stuff you have to do with new employees. Yea, include it so we can see what it will cost.”

Tom Hopkins, a well-know sales trainer and author regularly tells audiences, “If you say it, they doubt it. When they say it, they believe it.” Telling prospects what they need is never as effective as them seeing the need themselves and verbalizing it. This comes about more easily when you know you product or service and ask the right questions.

Next week we’ll delve into the presentation or demonstration with a prospect looking to leverage certain principles of influence that will help that go smoothly.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Initial Meeting

Congratulations! Your prospecting efforts have paid off and you’ve set up your first meeting with the prospective client. Now comes the fun part because you’re going to start building relationships, selling and enjoying success.

First impressions matter and your initial contact will determine whether or not you go any further for several reasons:

  • Judging the book by its cover. Growing up we were told never to judge a book by its cover, but we do. Sometimes we do it consciously and sometimes it’s subconscious, but we all do it. Your prospect will do it too so leave nothing to chance. How you dress, act and prepare can make all the difference for that initial impression which happens in less than 30 seconds.
  • Do they want to do business? As you talk, beyond the initial judgment we just touched on, the prospect will be assessing many things as he/she decides whether or not to go forward.
  • Do you want to do business? The prospect isn’t the only one making a decision. Not every prospect is a potential fit for you and you should be assessing whether or not this is an individual or company you can, or want, to do business with.

There are two chief aims of this meeting: build rapport and ask enough questions to assess whether or not you can, or even want to, do business with this potential client.

Sales trainer and author Jeffrey Gitomer is fond of saying, “All things being equal, people prefer to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still prefer to do business with their friends.” This goes to the heart of the principle of liking, which says people prefer to say, “Yes” to those they know and like.

Here’s a great example – ladies’ home parties. Whenever I ask an audience how many ladies have been to Tupperware, Mary Kay or Pampered Chef parties, nearly every female’s hand goes up. I can also tell by their reactions they don’t particularly want to go to those parties so I ask why they go. Inevitably they say, “Because a friend invited me.” They’d have no problem saying “No” to a stranger but when it’s a friend it’s hard to say “No.”

The more you put someone at ease, the more you offer genuine compliments and the more you connect over what you have in common, the more the other person will come to like you. But wait, there’s more! As you employ this strategy you will come to like them too and when they sense you really like them everything changes!

Another way to build rapport is to engage the principle of reciprocity. The reason this builds rapport is twofold. People feel positively towards those who give to them. Secondly, if what you give or share benefits them in some way they feel more positive towards and more indebted to return the favor. That’s effective use of this powerful principle of influence.

Here’s an example. Someone who went through one of my Principles of Persuasion Workshops gave his copy of Influence Science and Practice to a client’s son who was just starting out in business. He was amazed at the look on both of their faces and knew what he’d just done was appreciated and would make a difference in their relationship going forward.

Knowing what to give and what you can connect on or compliment requires some up front leg work. Doing a little research online and talking with people who know the prospect shouldn’t take much time and might be a goldmine of ideas on how to leverage both liking and reciprocity. Again, one major goal of the meeting is to have the opportunity to go to the next step in the sales process so building rapport is a must.

Next time we’ll look at the qualification process where you really begin to understand the prospect, his/her business and needs. Two principles of influence are especially helpful in this phase of the sales cycle.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Prospecting defines a prospect as “a potential or likely customer.” By extension, prospecting is the act of searching for potential or likely customers in hopes of setting up an initial meeting.

How salespeople go about prospecting varies by industry, product or service, and personality. Here are just a few ways in which salespeople tackle prospecting:

  1. Cold calls – Getting on the phone and asking to speak to a decision maker.
  2. Mailings – We all get marketing fliers and brochures in the mail where businesses hope we’ll respond.
  3. Email blasts – It’s easy to find email addresses to build a database. This approach is more effective than mailings because you can send the same message to hundreds or thousands at a time with little effort or cost.
  4. Door hangers – Bypass the mailbox and go door-to-door leaving marketing material.
  5. Door-to-Door – It used to be the case that salespeople simply knocked on doors to meet people and sell their wares. This is a very time consuming and expensive approach!
  6. Internet – You can search by various criteria to see who or what businesses in a geographic area fit your customer profile with a goal of target marketing.
  7. Conventions – Going to some event where you set up a booth and interact with customers.

The list could go on and on and I’m sure you’re thinking of a way or two to prospect that I’ve not touched on. Creative prospecting means doing something to stand out from the crowd, something that makes people take note and listen to you when they’re not paying attention to others.

The focus of this article is not to cover the different ways of looking for customers. The purpose is to talk about the principles of influence that will give you the best chance to stand out using whatever approach is best for you. You have one overriding goal when you’re prospecting – to get an initial meeting with a potential decision maker.

When you’re requesting time with someone, did you know they’re listening to their favorite radio station? That’s right, they’re tuned on to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? In other words, with all the other salespeople who would like their business why should they meet with you?

First and foremost, and this can’t be emphasized enough, you have to believe in your company and product. Will doing business with you make the prospect better off in the long run? If you don’t believe it will, if you doubt your company or product, prospects will sniff you out like an animal smells fear. It’s a survival instinct. For the sake of this series I’m going to assume you have that belief in your company, product and your potential to help the customer.

Knowing the prospect is uncertain about whether or not to give you consideration, the three principles that come into play most prominently when prospecting are consensusauthority and scarcity.It’s natural for the vast majority of people to feel comfortable going along with the crowd. That’s the principle of consensus at work. It’s natural because we look to others when we’re not 100% certain of the course of action we should take. Just remember the old adage, “There’s safety in numbers.”

In your marketing material, emails, phone calls, etc., can you tap into this principle by talking about all customers you already serve? The more you have, the more that consensus comes into play. Allstate Insurance did this effectively many years ago when its spokesman Dennis Haysbert stood in the Rose Bowl and said 100,000 people would watch a game there on Saturday. He went on to say Allstate filled the stadium ten times with the number of people who made the switch last year. When more than one million customers switch insurance companies you can bet many viewers called an Allstate agent or went online to compare!

If you don’t have a huge number, or even of you do, it’s always more effective when you can point out customers or clients who are just like the prospect you’re talking to. After all, dealing with a restaurant owner can be very different than dealing with a grocery store owner, or hotel manager for example. When talking to one of those business owners, if you can refer to other restaurants, grocery stores or hotels you do business with, the prospect will feel more comfortable and you’ll gain much more credibility.

Speaking of credibility, the other principle of influence that comes into play is authority. When people are unsure what to do, quite often they want to defer to an expert, someone they view as having superior knowledge or wisdom. This can be conveyed through your title, years in business or years of experience, awards you’ve won, degrees you’ve earned, credentials and designations. Any opportunity to get this information in front of a prospect conveys you have expertise. It’s a strong reason for them to consider meeting with you as opposed to someone who lacks expertise or has not conveyed their expertise.

The last principle that could come into play is scarcity. It’s a natural response to want things more when we believe we can’t get them anywhere else. Does your company, product or service have something unique or a combination of features that make it unique? This is important because you want the prospect to see he/she can’t get something exactly like what you’re offering anywhere else. If so, and you point it out so they understand what they might lose by not considering you, that might be enough for them to give you that initial meeting.

So the three principles to thoughtfully consider as you approach potential clients during the prospecting phase of the sales cycle are: consensus, authority and scarcity. Engage any or all of these ethically and correctly and you should land more initial meetings with prospects.

Next time we’ll look at the initial meeting with a prospect and how to leverage that opportunity using the principles of influence.

The Psychology of the Sales Cycle – Overview

Selling, like most endeavors you want to succeed at in life, requires a disciplined process, sharp skills, and good planning. Just as there are specific sales skills that need to be honed through continuous learning and practice there are parts of the sales cycle that require attention and planning. Sharpening your sales skills and refining your sales process are great ways to ensure success over the long haul.

I will be devoting a series of nine posts to exploring the sales cycle, looking at which principles of influence are most appropriate to focus on at different points in the cycle. My goal for this series is to help you understand how to get the most “bang for the buck” when you’re selling.

Let’s start with the sales cycle. Other sales trainers may combine some of these steps and in some businesses the cycle might look a little different. I see the typical sales cycle as an 8-step process, which includes the following sequence:

  1. Prospecting – Looking for new potential customers or clients.
  2. Initial Meeting – The first contact with a prospect.
  3. Qualification – Fact finding sessions primarily designed to assess whether or not you can – or want to – do business with the prospect.
  4. Presentation – Presenting your service or demonstrating your product to the prospect to show him or her how it meets some need they have.
  5. Objections – Dealing with reasons the prospect might bring up that indicate a hesitancy to move forward.
  6. Negotiating – Potentially altering pricing, terms and/or other aspects of your product or service in order to reach a final agreement.
  7. Closing – Getting the prospect to agree to do business with you and your organization.
  8. Referrals – Getting the names of people or organizations you can approach using the client’s name as a lead-in.

The six principles of influence, as popularized by Robert Cialdini, we’ll look at in conjunction with the sales cycle are:

  1. Liking – We prefer to do business with people we know and like.
  2. Reciprocity – We feel obligated to give back to those who first give to us.
  3. Consensus – We look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations.
  4. Authority – We often defer to those with superior knowledge or wisdom (i.e., experts) when making decisions.
  5. Consistency – We feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do.
  6. Scarcity – We desire things more when we believe they are rare or diminishing.

Another psychological concept that will come into play throughout the series is the contrast phenomenon. This isn’t a principle of influence but is a psychological concept that works in conjunction with the principles of influence at different times. Contrast, sometimes known as “compare and contrast,” alerts us to the reality that two things will appear “more” different depending on what was presented first.

I encourage you to stay tuned because if you do, your ability to sell, and getting to yes, will be much easier when you add the science of influence into your sales approach. Next week we’ll start with prospecting.

Influencers from Around the World: The Importance of Preparation Before the Sale

This month our Influencers from Around the World post comes from Marco Germani by way of Italy. Marco has been a guest writer for Influence PEOPLE from the start. He combines great knowledge (he wrote a book about persuasion in Italian) with real world experience (he travels the world selling wine). This month’s post is excellent because I can attest to the need for preparation in sales, or any endeavor in life, if you want to succeed. Read Marco’s words of wisdom and enjoy!
Brian Ahearn, CMCT® 
Chief Influence Officer


Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Importance of Preparation Before the Sale
A professional athlete would never dream of
starting a major competition without any warm-up. This would increase the risk
of getting injured and, in the best scenario, drastically reduce the
possibility of delivering a great performance. Similarly, a professional
salesperson should never approach an important sales call, without the proper
What you do in the 10-15 minutes prior to a
face-to-face or telephone conversation with a potential customer may determine
the outcome of your presentation. It is therefore surprising how most
salespeople completely ignore this principle and too often enter a meeting with
a client having no strategic preparation of any kind. Far too many people just
listen to the car radio on the way to the appointment filling their brain with
commercials, low quality music and what I like to call “chewing gum for the
Let us instead summarize, in three points,
what a professional salesperson should do in the minutes leading up to a sales
The first – and Golden Rule – when we are in
front of a customer is not to ask any question where the answer can be easily
found somewhere else. For example, if I ask my customer information about his
company, which I could have found on his company’s website, I am just showing
him I didn’t care to do my homework before the meeting. This is a very bad
start for any salesperson. If, on the other hand, I say to the customer, “I
understand your company has manufacturing facilities in three countries, sells
about 80% of its production outside the U.S. and is one of the top three players
in the market,” I’m showing my potential customer I’m a professional, serious
and committed person who cared enough to learn as much as possible about his business.
In addition to showing concern it also prevents wasting the prospect’s time.
This is a very good start, which builds trust and opens the door to the
possibility of starting a partnership.
In the minutes immediately prior to the
meeting, it is also a good rule to briefly review your marketing material
(presentations, any samples to show, etc.) to make sure everything is in order.
Mentally summarize the objectives of the meeting, recall any previous contact
with the customer and how you initially met. This is necessary in case you need
to refer to past details and it gives you a clear, ideal picture of how you
wish your perfect meeting would unfold.
Shortly before the meeting put yourself in an upbeat
mood and be sure to establish a positive winning attitude. Picture in your mind’s
eye the best possible scenario, in which everything goes as planned, and the
sale ends in the best possible way, with great benefit to all parties involved.
This positive attitude will be perceived by the customer, who will understand
he is dealing with a sales professional, who is prepared, confident and ready
to help him make the decisions that are in his best interests.
These three simple steps, if carried out
diligently before a sales appointment, can greatly influence the final result.
Often I hear salespeople complain about how hard it is to “bring home” a sale,
or how customers are difficult and never seem ready to make a buying decision.
If they do not do the preparation I’ve described, or preparation of any kind, then
they’re the ones to blame, not the customers! Preparation is 80% of success;
let us never forget about it!

Setting the Stage for the Up Front Close

If you’re in sales you can probably relate to
the following scenario. You met with a prospective client and immediately had
great rapport, which opened the door for you to compete for their business. You
gathered the necessary information and provided them a better deal than they
currently had. They asked for time to think it over and consider a couple of
other quotes. Despite all the positive indicators, in a follow up phone call
you learned they opted for another provider. You’re left wondering what you
could have done differently to seal the deal.

Sound familiar? One way to reduce the odds of
that happening is to engage the principle of consistency through a technique
known as the “up front close.” Consistency is the principle of influence that
tells us people feel internal psychological pressure and external pressure to
be consistent in what they say and do. Getting someone to commit to you early
on exactly what it will take to win their business is what the up front close
is all about. It might look like this:

“Mr. Smith, I’d like to know exactly what
it will take in order for you to move your business to our firm. If I can’t do
something you require I’ll let you know right away and save us both time. How
does that sound?”

 Your goal is to find out all the things you
need to do for the customer in order for them to make the switch to your
company. If you can’t meet the price, delivery date, service requirements,
etc., then let the customer know and remove yourself from the sales process as
soon as possible. If you think you can meet all the requirements then go for it
and use their requirements as leverage during the sales presentation.
During a recent coaching call a graduate of
one of my Principles of Persuasion (POP) workshops asked how he could easily and naturally work his way into
the up front close. That’s a great question because you don’t want to jump
right into the up front close in the first five minutes of meeting a potential
customer. It takes some finesse but you can do it! Here’s how I would envision
using questions in a natural, ethical manner to move into the up front close.

Salesperson – It looks as if business is going
great and you seem like you’re very busy.

Customer – Never been busier but I suppose
that’s a good thing in this economy.

Salesperson – Agreed, better too busy than not
busy enough. With all that’s going on I’m going to guess saving time is pretty
important for you?

Customer – You bet. I’m usually in here by 7 a.m.
and rarely leave before 6 p.m.. I even put in extra time on the weekends.

Salesperson – I have many days like that myself.
If you’re like most people I talk with buying insurance isn’t high on your list of fun
activities. It’s not like planning a vacation or shopping for a new car. Knowing
that, I have an idea that might save us both a good bit of time when it comes
to your insurance. Would you like to hear it?

Customer – I’m all ears.

Salesperson – Since the insurance buying
process is a necessity I’m sure other agents are competing for your business. While
that’s a good thing, you probably don’t want to deal with any more agents than
you have to in order to complete the process, right?

Customer – Exactly. It’s a necessary evil and
time consuming. That’s why we only put it out to bid every two or three years.

Salesperson – Here’s what I propose that could
save us both time. I’d like to know exactly what it would take in order for you
to move your business to our agency. If I can’t do something you require I’ll
let you know right away and remove myself from the quoting process and save us
both time. How does that approach sound?

Customer – I think that’s a great approach.

From this point forward the salesperson has to
use good questioning techniques to learn the key factors in the buying
decision. The conversation should end something like this:

Salesperson – We’ve covered a lot of ground
today! If I understand you correctly we need to do A, B and C in order to
become your new insurance agent. Am I correct?

Customer – That’s right, A, B and C are

Salesperson – And there’s no other reason you
wouldn’t make the switch if we do A, B and C?

Customer – Nope. You do those three things and
we’re in business together.

If you return to the office and realize you
can’t do all three just let the customer know right away. But, if you can do
all three that becomes you’re leverage to easily ask for the business when you
present your proposal. Will everyone say “Yes” at that point? No, because
sometimes things change. However, using this approach will get far more
customers saying, “Yes” because the psychology of consistency drives them to naturally
do that.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Using Scarcity with Qualified Prospects

Last month I hosted a webinar on the principle of scarcity for the Cialdini “Influence” Series. During the 30-minute webinar I introduced participants to the ethical application of scarcity when it comes to managing salespeople and increasing sales.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know scarcity is the principle of influence which alerts us to the reality that we place more value on things when they’re rare or becoming less available. We see this principle at work constantly:

  • Advertising – Perceived limited time or limited availability gets customers to act in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.
  • Relationships – When we lose someone we love we often wish we’d done more for them or with them. The mere thought of losing someone could change our behavior.
  • Work and School – Deadlines drive much of our prioritization and activity when it comes to school or work.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples where you’ve seen your behavior influenced by this psychological principle. What I want to explore is a question that came up as the webinar was ending. Someone asked if personal preference played into scarcity’s effectiveness. It was a great question, one I’d never considered before. The example that came immediately to mind as I pondered the answer was something from my childhood.

When I was young I collected baseball cards. This goes way back to the days before you could buy whole sets of cards. Kids got their baseball cards when they bought the bubblegum packs with cards inside them. From there we traded to round out our collections. I still remember the most famous card was the 1909 Honus Wagner. Although neither my friends nor me knew anything about Honus as a player we knew there were only six in existence and that made it the most valuable card. The card is reportedly worth $2.8 million today!

Certainly anyone reading this would love to have that card but for the most part baseball cards are only valuable to those who collect them. When I showed one of my old cards to Jane and told her it was worth about $200 she said, “Hmmm, four pairs of shoes.” She could have cared less that my Ted Williams 1956 Topps baseball card was in very good condition and she never would have paid $200 for the card because baseball cards mean nothing to her.

Much like beauty, scarcity is in the eye of the beholder. For example, hearing a furniture outlet is having a half price sale that ends Sunday will do nothing to incent my behavior if I’m not considering getting new furniture for my home.

A large part of selling is contacting qualified prospects. Qualified prospects are those people or organizations that are in the market for what you sell. When a prospect realizes they may lose out on a great opportunity that could fulfill their need, quite often scarcity will impact their decision to act.

Another category of qualified prospects would include people or organizations that might not see their need for what you sell unless you can arrange to meet with them and show how your product can positively impact them. Once you’re talking with this type of qualified prospect, introducing scarcity might be enough to get them off the fence to make a decision.

In the Principles of Persuasion workshop I emphasize this point – scarcity is best used to motivate behavior. If you’ve already established some relationship and the prospect isn’t unsure about what to do – they’re just not making a decision – then scarcity can be just the thing to get them over the hump. However, just indiscriminately telling people they’ll lose something by not acting when they could care less about what you’re offering is a recipe for failure in sales.

Here’s my sales advice – really get to know your current and prospective clients. Understand their business and their needs so you can match your product offering accordingly. Once you’ve done that, when you have genuine scarcity make sure you introduce it during the sales process because that might be just the thing that helps you make the sale.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Cialdini “Influence”
 Would you like to learn more about influence from the experts? Check out the Cialdini “Influence” Series featuring Cialdini Method Certified Trainers from around the world. Next up is Hoh Kim talking about Authority on April 17.


Don’t Ask, Don’t Sell

One of the biggest reasons salespeople fail to make the sale is simply because they don’t ask for it. It’s easy to tell someone all about your company, product or service. After all, a good salesperson will know about these things backwards and forwards. However, asking for the sale (a.k.a. “closing the sale”) can be scary because of the fear of rejection.

Some of the biggest regrets people have are not when they stepped out and failed but when they failed to step out. When we don’t take a chance we’re often haunted by what might have been and ask ourselves, “What if…?”

Studies show people who ask for favors often underestimate the number of people who would be willing to help. In fact, they underestimate it by a lot! In one study, when asked how may strangers they’d have to ask to walk them a few blocks to a location they’ve been unable to find on a college campus, most people assumed they’d have to ask seven or more strangers before one person would take the time necessary to help. However, when they actually asked for help, the number of people they had to approach was only two or three before they got the help they needed. If you knew people would most likely respond positively to you twice as often as you thought they would, you’d probably have a lot more confidence to ask.

Having been a consumer all my life and teaching sales for the past 20 years, I can tell you most salespeople fail to ask for the sale. They might fear being seen as too pushy or believe the prospective customer can sort out all the product features, weigh the benefits against the cost, and make a decision that’s in their best interest.

But here’s the problem – as consumers, when we’re making purchases sometimes we’re overwhelmed by all the choices and price points. And the more money we’re about to spend the scarier it can be because we want to make sure we make the best choice. We want to avoid “buyer’s remorse.” A salesperson can alleviate much of that anxiety throughout the sales process but in the end the salesperson still needs to ask for the sale.

One way to lessen the fear and increase the odds of hearing “Yes” is to learn up front exactly what the customer is looking for. If the salesperson can meet the customer’s requirements, then simply asking the following should work: “If we can get you A, B and C at a fair price, would you seriously consider buying from us?” Most people will agree to that; then it’s up to the salesperson to show their product or service has all the required features. This is known as “the up-front close” in sales circles.

The reason this approach can be so effective is because the principle of consistency comes into play. This principle of influence tells us people generally live up to their word because they feel a little bad about themselves when they don’t. If someone says they’ll strongly consider you, your company or your product/service, then odds are they will if you can deliver what you said you would.

Once the salesperson has asked the right questions up front and then clearly shows how their offering meets the requirements it becomes much easier and more comfortable to take the next step and ask for the sale. It’s like dating. Wasn’t it easier to ask for a date when you knew beforehand the other person was interested in you?

Here’s my persuasion advice. You don’t have to live with the regret of what might have been. Remember, people are more likely to say “Yes” than you probably think. If you use the up-front close the odds that a customer will say “Yes” are significantly better. So remember – Don’t ask, don’t sell.

High or Low? Comparing Makes it So!

William Shakespeare penned this famous line in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Two people can experience the very same thing and one person views it as good while another person sees it as bad. This happens because when we make judgments about good and bad we’re making them in relation to something else.

If you’re in sales and I asked what objection do you face the most when trying to make a sale, I have no doubt the vast majority of people reading this would say, “Price!” When someone says your price is too high it’s because they’re comparing it to something else.

Is $20,000 a lot to pay for a car? Some of you reading this don’t think so because you may drive a high-end car like a Mercedes or BMW, and your ride costs much more than that. Others might view $20,000 as expensive because you’re not into cars and therefore pay a good bit less than that for your vehicle of choice. In both cases, you’re comparing what you’ve paid in the past to $20,000.

As a salesperson here’s what I want you to remember:

“There’s nothing high or low but comparing makes it so.”

The next time you face the price objection, recognize this simple fact and then look for ways to ethically change the prospective customer’s point of comparison.

In the end everyone wants to feel like they got a good deal or great value. In our sales training we define value as follows:

V = WIG / P

Value (V) equals what I get (WIG), divided by price (P). If I can get more for the same price I feel like I got a better deal. Or, if I can get the same thing but pay less, I still believe I got a better deal.

This is where you’ll see advertisers tout “25% more” or “2 for 1.” In both cases you get more (WIG) for the same price (P). On the flip side we see sales all the time. During a sale we get the same item (WIG) for less money (P).

I’ve often shared the following example in training.

A company in Southern California sold spas and hot tubs. Prices ranged from $6,000 on the low end to $15,000 on the upper end. As you might imagine, most salespeople started low and tried to upsell customers. The problem with that approach is once you start at $6,000 the $15,000 spa seems very, very expensive…by comparison.

During a consultation with Robert Cialdini it was mentioned that people who bought the $15,000 spa used it more than some rooms in their homes. The logical question was – how much would it cost to add an additional room to a home in Southern California? Most people said anywhere from $60,000 – $80,000. Ah ha! A potential new comparison point!

Dr. Cialdini advised the spa client to start the sales process with the $15,000 spa and weave the room addition question into the sales conversation. It might go something like this:

Salesperson – “Customers who bought the XP5000 spa love it. In fact, many say they use it as much or more than any room in their house and quite often use it to entertain. If you were to add a room to your home how much would that cost?”

Customer – “I don’t know, maybe $60,000 or $70,000.”

Salesperson – “Well I have good news. You don’t need to spend $60,000 or $70,000 to get that enjoyment because the XP5000 is only $15,000.”

And how well did this approach work? Sales for the high-end spa rose 520% in the three months following the change in sales approach. In the three months before the change, the company only sold five high-end spas. In the three months following the change they sold 26 spas!

No new advertising, no television commercials, and no price discounts were needed. All of those approaches would cost a good bit of money. Instead they simply tweaked their sales conversation to include a legitimate new point of comparison.

So for my salespeople out there, here’s your take away when dealing with the price objection – “There’s nothing high or low but comparing makes it so.” Look for legitimate comparison points then weave them into your sales conversation. If you have a good product that’s worth the asking price you should see sales take a nice jump up as you reframe how customers view your price.