Tell your customer he’s a loser!

Today I’ll give you a simple “what if” question and use your response to discuss a powerful tool in selling. (Some of the content below is excerpted from “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by the Nobel-winning economist Daniel Kahneman.) You are offered a gamble on a coin toss. If it’s tails, you lose $100. If it’s heads, you win $150. Would you accept this gamble?

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedTo make this decision, you have to weigh the psychological impact of a $150 gain versus a $100 loss. Although the expected value of the gamble is clearly positive, you probably dislike it. Most people do, as their fear of losing $100 is far more intense than their hope of gaining $150.

In many experiments similar to this one, psychologists and economists have concluded that losses loom larger than gains and that most people are loss averse. In almost all of my sales training programs I discuss the following simple premise as one of four reasons why people buy: “Everything I do, and everything you do, is done for one or both of these two reasons; either to gain something we don’t have, or to avoid losing something we do have.”

And while it’s easy to demonstrate that self-interest is a powerful buying motive, you can see from the above coin experiment that loss aversion is far more powerful than the desire to gain. In fact the loss aversion ratio has been shown to be 1.5 to 2.5, that is, the amount you stand to gain has to be between 1.5 to 2.5 times the amount you stand to lose in order to make a buying decision.

There are numerous studies on this subject. One I found interesting was conducted by Devin Pope and Maurice Schweitzer at the University of Pennsylvania on how professional golfers putt. They analyzed over 2.5 million putts and found that pros putt more effectively for pars than birdies. Why? Because missing a birdie putt is a foregone gain, not a loss, but missing a par putt is a big loss.

What does this have to do with selling? It means that you have spent your sales career focusing on helping your customer see the benefits of your product or service. In sales training you role-played benefit statements and other “here’s what’s in it for you” conversations. I’ve written a number of posts here on this subject.

But if loss aversion is approximately twice as powerful as the desire to gain, then it stands to reason that you will be more persuasive when you can show your customer why the present way he is doing something is costing him money, or could cost him money in the future. This is why so much insurance gets sold, especially product warranties, which are often be a bad bet.

Down here in the Dallas area we have a store called Stacy Furniture. The owner does his own TV ads and they’re kind of hokey. But at the end of each one he drawls, “If you’re not shopping at Stacy’s, you’re burning money,” and the screen shows a handful of cash on fire in his hand. Corny, but effective.

Ask your prospect how he’s doing it now, whatever “it” is. And look for sub-optimal behavior. For example, he uses a service he pays for monthly, but doesn’t use all its features because he doesn’t understand them. Your service is easier to use, and you’ll show him how. You tell him, “Right now you’re spending $200 a month on services you don’t use. What could you be doing with that $200 each month?”

Think Like Your Customer

Fable Friday: “Can you hear me all right?”

Many years ago in northern New Jersey I was conducting a prospecting workshop that included live customer calls following a morning practice session. I had made the point with the learners that it’s important to get the prospect engaged early in the phone call with a compelling and useful question, rather than the artificial and cheesy “How are you today?”

I’ve written about this in the past so I won’t belabor it, but I will remind you that if you’re doing telephone prospecting, NEVER say “How are you today?” after the greeting. Just don’t do it, okay?

So we go through some good and bad questions to ask and one guy raises his hand and says, “I used to work for Merrill Lynch and when I started, they didn’t hand you a book of customers. You had to prospect on the phone.  We were always looking for that one killer question that would get people to talk to us.  Finally I found it.  When I call someone, after the greeting I always say, ‘Can you hear me all right?’”

And at this, every one of the learners began to laugh, as the question seems rather silly.  I said, “Wait a second.  Don’t laugh.  Let’s find out what happened.”  So I asked the guy and he said, “Everyone who hears this question always answers it. I have no idea why.”

I told the learners to try it on their first few phone calls and come back and share the results. Sure enough, no matter how the rest of the call went, the prospects all replied, “Sure, I can hear you just fine.”  I didn’t encourage the use of this question, because I wanted to get them to think of better, more topical questions, rather than those that attempted to trick or manipulate the prospect.  Still, I had to admire the guy’s ingenuity for thinking of it. I still have no idea why it works.

In my office I get tons of telemarketing calls, but if I’m not too busy I always answer them. I like to find out how people are doing and if there are any good approaches out there.  Sometimes if I get a bad one I’ll tell the caller that I teach this skill for a living.  Some will then ask me, “How did I do?” and I’ll tell them how they could have made the call better.  They are generally grateful for the feedback.  Telemarketing is a tough gig.

One day I got a call and when I answered, the caller identified himself with his name and company and then said, “Can you hear me all right?” I briefly wondered if he had been in my workshop!  I did ask him why he asked me that question, and he told the truth.  He said he learned it from another guy on the job who told him it was a good question to ask to get the prospect to talk to you.

Now don’t go using this one yourself, as in the long run you aren’t being sincere with your prospect, even if it does get him to talk to you.  I’m just telling you a story here.  On your own telephone calls, work hard to…

Think Like Your Customer

“Can you give me some ideas on how to get past the gatekeeper?”

In every prospecting workshop I do, this question ranks as number one in frequency. I’ve never done a workshop where someone doesn’t ask it, so today I’ll give you some tips on dealing with it, along with a couple of other suggestions for telephone prospecting.

The biggest challenge most prospectors have is mindset.  Instead of thinking, “This person is a colleague of my desired prospect and I should make every effort to make him or her a friend of mine,” they instead think, “This person is my dreaded enemy, trying to interfere with my job goals.”  Now that’s no way to think like your customer, is it?

Remember the old line, “How do you destroy your enemies?  Make them your friends.” So here’s what you should do.  First, get all the negative thoughts out of your head. Begin by losing the expression “gatekeeper.” This person is an administrative assistant and did not apply for the position of “gatekeeper.”  The job no doubt has a number of important duties aside from keeping you away from your prospect, so show some respect and consideration for the position.  Your prospect is important to you.  The admin works for the prospect.  Therefore the admin is important to you too.

On your first call, befriend the admin.  In my own calls I carefully and clearly spell out why I want to speak with the prospect and I tell it as if the admin is entitled to know my value proposition, and I ask for help.  “Can you put me through with him?”

If I call a number of times and can’t get through, I express to the admin my disappointment and apologies that I have taken up so much of his or her time.  “I seem always to be calling at the wrong time.  I feel bad, as I know you’re busy too, and yet you’ve been very patient with me.  I appreciate it.”

Then I ask the admin for help.  “I’m sure you have better things to do than talk to me all the time, so let me ask you what you think I should do. Is there a better day or time of day when I could call when (name of prospect) is not so busy?  I’d appreciate it if you could suggest a better way to do this. I’m sure he would be pleased to speak with me if I just got him at the right time.”

I promise you that every experienced and successful salesperson does it exactly this way.  There are no tricks, manipulative tactics or bullying that are better than your simple, professional kindness to everyone you speak with in sales. Remember too, that once you land this prospect, you will rely on the admin for help throughout the relationship, and you can safely bet that the admin will recall very well how you conducted yourself in your early calls to the company.

There are no gatekeepers out there, only potential friends and customers, so…

Think Like Your Customer

From the Righteous Brothers—a prospecting tip you can take to the bank

 Fable Friday returns once again with this story from 1964, when Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote the great song, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”  When the Righteous Brothers recording of the song was introduced in January, 1965 it went immediately to number one and stayed there for several weeks. 

 The song made a comeback in 1986 in the movie “Top Gun,” for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember the first release.  But no matter your age, it’s a safe bet you’ve heard it at some time, since it holds the record for the most plays on radio at over 8 million.

When Mann and Weil finished writing the song, they suspected they had a hit on their hands, so they flew to California and showed it to Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers.  They talked about the power of having Medley with his deep bass doing the solo opening of the song, “You never close your eyes any more when I kiss your lips…”

Hatfield wasn’t so sure he liked that idea upon learning that he would have to wait until the chorus before joining Medley’s vocal.  He said to Medley, “What am I supposed to do during your long solo?”  Medley, who knew the song would be a blockbuster replied, “You can go straight to the bank.”

And with that as my corny transition, let me give you another one of my prospecting tips that you can take to the bank too. 

 A big part of the consultative selling process is filling your pipeline with new names, and perhaps you make it a habit to ask satisfied clients if they have any names they can give you.  “Do you have any names of others who might benefit from our solutions?” you ask hopefully.  And if you’re honest you’ll admit you rarely get any names this way.  Most of the time your clients reply, “I can’t think of anyone just now, but if I do I’ll let you know.”

 The fact is, this method just doesn’t work.  So here’s one that always works, and it makes perfect sense.

 Sit down right now and create a “desirable prospect list” of the top 20 or 30 companies you would like to do business with.  Bring the list with you on every client call, and after you’ve done something to make your client happy, show the list and say, “I can only be successful if I bring in new business to my company, so I’d like your help if you can.  Here’s a list of my top prospects. Will you look it over and tell me if you know anyone who works for any of these companies?”  And if they look over the list and tell you the name of the people they know, just ask if you can use their name when you call.

They will always know someone, and often more than one and they will usually say, “Sure, tell him I said to call you,” or “Feel free to use my name.” And presto, you have not only some prospect names but a warm referral to get in the door.  It’s a foolproof method you can take to the bank.  Give it a try!

Think Like Your Customer!