Understanding the Mind of the Buyer: Using the First Secret of Human Behavior to Sell More Effectively
In a difficult economy, such as the one we are experiencing now, selling is of course even tougher than it is in good times! It’s tougher to get loans, properties have a lower mortgage value, budgets are crunched, people are fearful for their jobs and choosing to spend money—on anything—may not be very appealing.
In the financial services industry, small and large firms have been particularly hard hit with many firms experiencing the threat of being sold, consolidated or closed. Business uncertainty means employee uncertainty and often paralyzes those people charged with making buying decisions. So, what’s a salesperson to do? How does he keep focused and selling rather than adopt a “Why bother” attitude?
The first secret of human behavior in our Five Secrets to Successful Selling program is, “It’s all about the prospect.” Unfortunately for many salespeople, it’s really all about the salesperson and this comes through to prospects during the selling process. More than ever in difficult times, it’s important to recognize whether the perspective is on your needs—as salesperson—or on the prospect’s need and concerns.
Before we think about the prospect’s perspective, it’s important for a salesperson to recognize her mental state during tough times. If one adopts a mindset of futility or fear this will come across in a sales interaction. It’s more important than ever for the person selling to be selling something they believe in and can feel confident that the prospect needs. But it’s also more important than ever for the salesperson to take the time to look at the process and engage conversations from the prospect’s viewpoint—not to commiserate, of course, but rather to understand what might make the prospect want to buy.
Secret One seems fairly simple on the face of it—practice active listening, consider what makes the prospect “tick” and focus on the features and benefits that matter to the prospect. If it is so easy, why don’t most salespeople sell like this? Why do many salespeople find themselves into the selling process without really knowing what they need to do next to move the prospect to the next step?
Often it’s because we hear what we want to hear in the sales process—or we’ve been taught to “overcome objections”—any objection. In reality, the prospect wants us to connect with them—by listening actively to what they are sharing and to really dig down and learn what’s beneath the concerns, questions or issues they may raise in the process.
How does this work? First, the salesperson needs to check his ego at the door and put aside the compelling need to “sell someone”, but rather to adopt an attitude of, “My job is to understand you (the prospect) and figure out with you whether this product or service is the right one for you.” In the beginning, it’s an exploratory attitude to see whether or not the prospect is a fit for you—not all sales are good sales, even in bad times! Taking the attitude of “I want to learn about you and what you care about” is a very different message than, “I need to sell you my product or service – now!”
Understanding the mind of the buyer goes deeper, too. Once the prospect starts to talk to you, you’ll want to engage in reflective listening with a desire to really understand them. Note however, as sales professionals we are not being paid to act as a psychologist, so your role isn’t to uncover their deepest fears and desires—it’s to understand and listen for what they are telling you about what they need and what they care about so that you can make a truly educated decision about whether you can help them or not. We sometimes refer to this as “doing detective work”.
Learn how to answer a question—with a question. But, always answer with a question and a “WIIFM” for the prospect (“what’s in it for me?”) As an example:
Prospect—“Why is your technology solution better than any other one?” You—“Actually there are so many answers to that question, I could go down a lot of different paths about what I think makes us better. However, what matters is what’s important to you. What are those qualities, or considerations that matter to you? What would you look at to evaluate one firm from another?”
You have asked a deeper question to learn more about what this person really cares about, but you have done it in a frame that shows the prospect it is for their concern, not yours. And, the truth is—it is! We spend a lot of time in any sales process telling others what matters to us, about our product or service—and not learning what matters to them. What they care about and want to hear about.
The rule of thumb is that you can ask three probing questions, without giving any answers, before the prospect becomes irritated with you. So, be sure to pick your questions well—identify those hints the prospect gives you where you believe there is more information to know and understand and then probe on those questions. Before you can give useful information to the prospect you do have to understand what is useful to them. Start to have this attitude with all of your exchanges and find yourself knowing more about the prospect, more about what they care about and more about what you should focus on during the process.
Resist the urge to “overcome objections”. When it comes to offering resistance, most people want someone to acknowledge their resistance—not barrel through it! If a prospect gives the objection “There is too much going on here right now. I can’t even focus on this”, it’s not your role to show them how they can focus on it. It’s your role to understand what’s happening with them, respect it and see if it is a “movable” obstacle or not. You can only do this if you learn how to probe and operate with a true desire to understand the mind of your buyer.
Once you begin to approach prospects like this, you’ll find yourself having the “Ah-hah!” about what they need and how they’d like to be sold to—or not. You’ll close those prospects who match well with your product, service and firm and you’ll cease to waste time with people who are probably never going to buy or, if they are, not for a long time!