The first job I interviewed for after college was in sales with a wholesale distributor of hardware and garden supplies. Of course I had no any experience or training in sales, and the president of the company wouldn’t hire me for that reason. So I asked him how I was supposed to get any experience if no one would hire me without experience. Here’s what he told me: “If you want to make a career of selling, get into the life insurance business. They’ll train you to sell the right way, and if you can sell that stuff, you can sell anything.”
So I got into the life insurance business, and made a career out of it for more than 15 years. Why did I get out of it? My major in college was psychology, and almost from the beginning of my selling career I was intrigued by the psychology of the purchase decision. I wanted to understand why some people say “yes” and others say “no” to the same proposition, even though they are equally qualified to buy. And although what I came to learn certainly helped me to sell better and sell more, it also led me out of the business (even though I still get renewal checks every month) and into marketing communications, where I’ve been ever since.
Over the years I’ve read and studied everything I could find on the psychology of the purchase decision, and I’ve learned so much that I wish I had known when I was selling life insurance. Communication experts have discovered many different and valuable techniques for engaging, informing, and compelling qualified sales prospects to render a buying decision – rhetorical, semantic, cognitive, psychological and linguistic techniques that can improve persuasive communication by as much as 400%.
Some of these expert authorities and the books they’ve written include:
Dr. Kevin Hogan, author of “The Science of Influence”
Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of “The Psychology of Persuasion”
Shelle Charvet, author of “Words That Change Minds”
Dr. Duane Lakin, author of “The Unfair Advantage” of Neural Linguistics
Ron Stubbs, author of “Eight Barriers to Communication”
Tony Buzan & Richard Israel, authors of “Brain Sell”
Rebecca Piirto, author of “The Marketing Power of Psychographics”
James Robertson, author of “Selling the Mind’s Eye”
Marvin Sadovsky, author of “Selling the Way Your Customer Buys”
Ron Willingham, author of “The New Psychology of Selling & Persuading People”
Over the years, I’ve learned that you’re losing potential sales or prospective clients because many of the ones who are qualified to buy (meaning they have both the need and the ability to pay) and should be saying “yes” to meeting with you, are currently saying “no.” And despite what you might think, they say “no” for one or all of three reasons: 1) they don’t really listen to you; 2) they don’t really understand what you’re proposing; or 3) they don’t really trust your objectivity and credibility. Because they say “no” before they “know” … before they know why they’re saying “no.”
Don’t you believe that the products and services you provide are beneficial to people? And if people really understood what you and your products can do for them, that they would buy? Of course you do. Then why don’t they always buy, or at least give you an opportunity to present yourself and your products or services. Because they say “no” before they even know what they’re saying “no” to. Because they don’t want to be “sold” – they don’t want to be persuaded or pressured into a decision. So they’re not really open-minded, which means they’re not really listening to you.
Oh sure, they might pretend to be listening, they might nod their heads, but they aren’t really hearing you; they’re not really processing the information. That’s because their brains process as little as 10% of what they hear, and as little as 20% of what they read, which means they’re not actually comprehending what you tell them.
And often they don’t respond because they don’t trust or believe someone with a profit motive; because they’re cynical and defensive; or because they don’t want to be “sold,” persuaded, convinced or manipulated into a decision. Also, they often presume to know or think they understand more than they actually do, which is why even well qualified prospects won’t always listen to your proposition, or agree to meet with you. It’s why they say “no” when they should be saying “yes.”
I could write an entire article on each one of the following examples of specific techniques I’ve learned, and many others as well. Here’s a brief description of some of the major discoveries; many of which you will already be familiar with and may in fact be using. Combined together, they can literally sell FOR you.
For example, Psychographic Profiling of target market prospects enables you to identify your best clients, and understand how they think, why they might be predisposed to a particular proposition, and which words, terms, and phrases will resonate with them. It does require substantial research, but the right words delivered to the right people can make turn an indifferent prospect into an enthusiastic one.
Another example is Rhetorical Psychology. There are seven questions every prospective buyer must have answered (if only subconsciously) before he or she will make a confident and deliberate decision to buy your product or service. Emphasizing benefits is not enough. Your prospects need all seven questions answered at some time prior to making a decision. And if the decision is negative or deferred, it is usually because at least one of these questions was left unanswered.
1) “What problem do I have that your product or service can solve for me?”
2) “What’s your solution to my problem”? or “How does your product or service solve my problem?”
3) “How will I personally benefit?” or “What will it mean to me to solve this problem?”
4) “What does it cost?” or “What will my return on investment be?”
5) “How does your product or service compare with competitors or alternatives?”
6) “What proof or assurances do I have to mitigate or alleviate my risk?”
7) “What must I do, or what is the process by which your product or service will solve my problem?’
There are also Decision Paradigms that should be considered whenever presenting any product or service to a qualified prospect. Even Fortune 500 companies (who should know better) make these mistakes or omissions all the time. Five of the most important Decision Paradigms are:
1) People want to buy, but they hate to be sold.
2) People won’t buy if they don’t believe you, and they won’t believe if they don’t trust you.
3) People decide to buy for their reasons, not yours.
4) People make decisions subconsciously, and rationalize them consciously.
5) People make decisions of their own volition through repetitive exposure to the same message.
Intellectual Alignment is another critical element of effective communication. This requires determination of the proper vocabulary, and the maximum number of syllables per sentence, that correspond with the intellectual level of your target market audience. You might be surprised at how many words you use (especially legal terms, technical jargon, and mathematical concepts) that even well educated people don’t easily or readily comprehend.
Neural Linguistics refers to the way in which both the sight and sound of words create neurological and psychological inferences, as well as cognitive interpretations that effect the brain’s ability to process language.
Cognitive Semantics refers to sentence structure and composition, as well as phrasing, articulation and enunciation subtleties. All have subliminal or subconscious influence on the way our brains process and interpret language.
And Sensory Synchronization refers to how little we retain of what we hear or read separately, but how we will remember up to 50% of what we read and hear simultaneously.
Of course these are just a few examples of the science of communication. But here’s the problem: where do you, as a sales professional, find the time to read through all these books and learn all of these techniques, so that you can use this information in your own sales presentations, to improve your response rates, and increase your closing ratios?
That’s why I developed the WebPrez, which incorporates more than 40 of these communication techniques into five-minute narrated presentations on relatively complex topics (produced especially for financial products and services) using all of this expert knowledge to virtually “sell” for you … presentations that can deliver in as little as five minutes what might otherwise require a one-hour face-to-face meeting. WebPrez can be delivered to anyone, anytime, anywhere, privately and conveniently, in their home or their office, over the Internet, through a web link in an email message. WebPrez is an easy way to get clients, prospects, leads and referrals interested in the products or services you offer.
Of course all of these techniques and this expert knowledge can also be incorporated into your own presentation style and marketing materials. And I would encourage you to do so. You can begin with some of the books I’ve listed above. They’re all available on Amazon.com, as well as at other major bookstores.
Dan Vi?al is president of The WebPrez Company in San Francisco, which specializes in producing automated sales presentations for financial products and services. After a 15-year insurance career, and several more years as a business consultant specializing in marketing communications, Dan has founded and managed several Internet businesses, including Target Market Direct, an automated lead generation service; NetPreSys, a multimedia portal for b2b marketing networks; and Advisor Resource Alliance, an interactive continuing education system for CPAs. He can be reached by email at [email protected], or by phone at 877-932-7739. And you can learn more at www.webprez.com.