By David Gee
Our audiences today are time starved and in control as never before, and we must work smarter to reach them, whatever it is we are "selling." And bombarding them with large amounts of infill and information is not the path to move, persuade, convince – and sell.
Research in neuroscience tells us that reasons lead to conclusions, while emotions lead to actions. And every single decision we make, including every buying decision certainly, is rooted in – and driven by – emotion.
So why in most sales interactions are we trying to inundate the left brains of our prospects and customers with data and specs and stats when it’s their right brain that is going to do the buying?
Let's review some of the ways the experts claim the two hemispheres of the brain function in terms of oral and written language.
Left Brain: Logic, practicality, statistical data, analytical thinking, technical problem-solving, proposal evaluation, arithmetic projections, procrastination, structured resistance, laconia, and pessimism.
Right Brain: Enthusiasm, creativity, visualization, humor, emotional response, impulse actions, upbeat feelings, analogies, allegories, rhythm, and optimism.
Sales data shows when the appeal is strictly to the left brain, the decisions are delayed, concepts are over-intellectualized, price becomes more of an issue, and the potential for conflict increases.
Trade Show Takeaways
I love going to trade shows, of all kinds, and I have been to lots of them. They provide fascinating portraits of various industries, including glimpses of the psychology of buyers - and sellers - and the way our brains buy.
For all the differences in business verticals and spexcific products on diaplay though, there are lots of commonalities, in fact, more than you might think.
Here are a few of the things I see and hear at every trade show, including boat shows.
Sales people are way too fascinated with the features and specs of their products. Features and specs, features and specs. Listen to the sales spiels in any aisle at any trade show and you will hear the endless spouting of features and specs, including how their features and specs compare to the competition. It's as if the sales person is going to earn the sale if they just pour enough stuff, enough reasons to buy, out of their head and into the head of the prospect or customer. Here's the problem with that. You can't reason your way to a sale. You won't get the prospect or customer to simply "conclude" you offer the best features or the most value or the best whatever. You instead have to make an emotional connection for a buying decision to occur. And that leads us to this...
When focusing on concrete product specifications sales people ignore their prospects' two primary motivators; trust and respect. We do business with people we know, like and trust. Simple as that. So the sales journey is less about infill and bullet points, and more about getting to know one another. Besides, by the time you actually have a conversation with a prospect or customer they are typically more than halfway through the buying process anyway. They already likely know about your product specs. That's not what they need you for now. So have a real conversation instead. Get to know each other, understand their pain points, their needs, their wants, their budget, and see if there is alignment with your solution(s).
Most salespeople are unable to describe their product or service clearly and briefly. Remember the elevator speech? People have a very limited attention span these days, and you have to create a connection quickly, or you'll lose them. I can't tell you how many people I always see in the exhibit halls trying to squirm their way free of a sales person who isn't even partway through their spiel. You must quickly make your way through a succinct and streamlined story that is customer-centric and demonstrates value. This will allow you to show up differently.
Pressing prospects for an appointment before they are ready to buy greatly reduces the probability of ever getting the sale. Obviously one of the aims of a conversation at a trade show or industry event is to harvest emails and phone numbers and make appointments. I get that. And there is a place for that. But don't make that your singular objective. Don't press it to the point that it's all you are focusing on. The prospect or customer will easily pick up on that and turn you off. I signed up for a whitepaper the other day from a big marketing automation company, and within 20 minutes, I had a really pushy person following up on the phone trying to get me to make an appointment with a sales person. I hadn't read the whitepaper, I didn't have any experience with the company, and was not ready to have a conversation with a sales person, exploratory or otherwise. But she clearly was not going to end the call without an appointment. So I ended the call, didn't read the whitepaper, and didn't do any more due diligence. I was just done.
Here are the benefits of using the right brain approach instead:
You take the customer to the place where buying decisions are made. It's the place where emotions and feelings reside and where your customer finds connections with you. And it takes the conversation away from data and facts, away from processing and organizing, away from skepticism and transactions.
Your customer is conditioned to actively listen to a story. That is how we are wired, and it happens at the subconscious level of the human brain. "Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience," says Robert McKee, former USC professor and creator of the Story Seminar. "They are the currency of human contact." When you wrap your product or service into a story, resistance begins to fall and fade. You break down the feelings of “being sold” in the mind of a customer.
Tell tales of transformation. Contrast equals value, and the value you bring to a customer or prospect is the difference between what is and what could be. This is their world without your boat in it, and this this is their world, transformed, with your boat in it. Life is better with your boat! Your sales and marketing messaging needs to feed the brain the thing it craves most to make a decision — contrast.
Keeping all these things in mind will allow you to truly build relationships that create loyal, satisfied customers, moving beyond transactional selling to a role as trusted partner.
This approach doesn’t replace or negate product knowledge or institutional knowledge about your business or your products and services; it merely accelerates your ability to connect and communicate in a way that will be better received by your prospects and customers.
Customers don't want to be talked at and pushed. They want to be understood.
Conversations That Close
Through your sales stories, you need to help prospects and customers understand three things:
Why should I buy?
John Kotter, a former Harvard Business School professor, says, “Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.”
In other words, by creating an emotional connection.
So if you want to create more closes from your conversations, ditch the product info and the features and specs that are all processed in the left side of the prospect's brain.
Instead, engage the "right" part of a prospect's brain, where the emotions reside, and the buying decisions are made.