Fable Friday: Those emotional Canadians

I used to work with a guy who would often say, “You have to assume that people are rational, and will always do the rational thing,” but over the years I’ve learned that the opposite is true in sales. People often do the irrational thing.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedIn fact, if you’re in sales you’ve seen customers or prospects who will pass up on dealing with you, because he likes the guy from Company X.  He’ll buy the product with the cheaper price even when he knows it won’t last as long as yours.  It’s long been known that buying is far more an emotional decision than a rational one.

I often ask in workshops, “How many of you have a financial adviser who handles your investment portfolio?”  All raise their hands.  Then, “How many of you really don’t like your financial adviser and don’t trust him?”  No one raises his hand.  So the decision on which financial adviser to select is mostly based on whether you like and trust the provider.

Demographers, who study the characteristics of the population for the purpose of helping us sell things, refer to the category called “A. I. O.s”, which stands for “attitudes, interests, and opinions.”  People buy things based on how they feel about things, far more than what they know about things.

Back in the 90’s I did a workshop for a bank in Canada and we reviewed some of the discovery questions that the relationship managers asked their customers.  All were in the area of pure facts:  “How many years has the company been profitable?”  “Do you get an audited statement?”  “What were inventory turns last year?”

We encouraged them to build into their conversation at least one affective question, getting at how the customer felt about his current situation, his opinion about what was best to do, how he felt about the consequences of not making a decision that would save money.

When we returned six weeks later to discuss how their new approach was working, we found they had not implemented it at all!  Puzzled, we asked why.  After an awkward silence one of them said, “Gregory, Canadian men don’t ask other Canadian men how they feel about things.”

This resulted in a great deal of hilarity, but I assumed it was simply true.  Men in general probably don’t like to ask people how they feel about things.  Of course such questions need not be phrased as if you’re Dr. Phil.  Why not, “I’m interested in your take regarding the choices before you, to make a businesslike decision to save on costs, or to do nothing.”  That’s an opinion question and a powerful one at that. Here are some others:

“If you could wave a wand and have this business running perfectly, what would have to happen?”

“What are the consequences of not knowing what your competition is doing?”

“How do your employees feel about your cost-cutting initiatives?”

“What do you think is your most pressing business issue right now?”

People buy based on how they feel about business issues.  Make sure your needs identification process has a few question built into it that get at what’s in the customer’s heart.  That’s how you…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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