~~The Introduction: An Introduction to Introductions, or Karl Schaphorst and The voice of Magic! ~~
Karl Schaphorst is an insightful and knowledgeable Sandler trainer who returns to us to talk about a presentation he did with regard to the place that money has within the sales conversation. What typically happens in the mind of the salesperson during a conversation is that they believe that for some buyers it is only about the money. Karl suggests, though, that it is never about the money.
If we truly understood the people we’re selling to and our clients and the reasons why they’re buying then we would know what all the issues that are really at stake are which they hide behind in price. But, unless a salesperson is trained to go deeper then it is difficult to go past and get out of the pricing game. In a lot of buyer seller dances there is posturing that takes place and the salesperson will willingly submit to the authority of the buyer. If that is the posture in the conversation then the salesperson will have a hard time getting out of the conversation about price.
The price discussion is a smoke screen. Their prescription begins with price—and is the most important thing to them in their mind—Karl suggests looking for the compelling reason to purchase in order to find the reason on why someone would make a change. Rather than participate in the race to the lowest price and commoditize our product or ourselves we should be willing to engage in a conversation that looks at our best interest and establishes an equal business stature position that builds credibility for all parties.
It is our job to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions. We can’t just assume what it is, in Sandler we believe emotions make up a majority of it. But, when we get into a price conversation—price is a piece of intellectual information. So if we only talk about price then we remove the emotions from the conversation.
Imagine you were going to the doctor. You enter with a bad attitude and you feel fine and you’ll be charged out of your pocket. You’re mad and frustrated. The doctor starts asking questions and they want to make sure that you’re feeling alright.
Then they start poking around and start inspecting things. Then they start poking—once it hurts the questions start. After the questions becomes the suggestion of tests. Afterwards the results come and the verdict is appendicitis. If we don’t treat the impending rupture then this could kill you.
Once a doctor tells you that you have appendicitis—that is the opportunity to negotiate over price regarding procedures and concerns for the future.
Or it won’t happen because once you switch from being cost conscious to thinking about the emotional impact of a serious illness and infection. Once we overcome any objections to the price we can have a serious conversation about the value that comes with committing to change. Without moving away from price into emotion, we avoid the serious conversation that comes with engaging value.
The biggest challenge as business development professionals is taking the professional posture of the doctor who feels entitled and responsibility asks pointed questions to uncover the true reasons that people would engage to do business with us. So what goes on in the psychology of the seller to ask those important questions to uncover the real reason a person would want to do business. How do you become comfortable asking those questions?
~~The Conceptual: Smokescreens as a Defensive Mechanism?, You Mean They Aren't Telling me Everything?!~~
A lot of sales sell from the position of submission for so long that they forget how to have a conversation about value versus a conversation about affordability. You need to prepare, practice, and know intuitively what your value is. Question that we ask matter and when we talk to clients we need to figure out what they have to say and what we need to ask to help them discover what their intentions and driving motivation is. The sales presentation is not enough, you need to have a value conversation about the prospect.
We as business development folks let it become about the money when we allow it to become the centerpiece of the conversation instead of getting closer to a conversation about the real issue. If we’re going to be able to have a value conversation then the only way we can do that effectively is we have to have rapport with the prospects. They have to be able to trust us to engage in a conversation that can become emotional. We need to separate ourselves from the outcome of the sales call. If a salesperson entered thinking they don’t need the business then they can push back against the prospect in order to really have a meaningful conversation.
If you go in looking like a salesperson, except to be treated like one. So we need to enter looking like a doctor, we need to enter and tell it as it is and get closer to the truth. A salesperson is confident, energetic, persistent, well-spoken, helpful, and competitive. There’s nothing wrong with these attributes, but it’s the perception. If someone is confidence that can be seen as cocky. Knowledge can be seen as arrogance. Persistence can be seen as pushiness. Competitiveness can be seen as greed. These negative connotations can be associated with the stereotypical elements of a salesperson that can lead people to a cost only negotiation. We need our salespeople to behave in a way that is attractive.
If you want to come across as non-threatening then you need to start at a position of humility. If you want to appear genuine then you shouldn’t have all the answers and allow for some uncertainness. Instead of being highly energetic and well-spoken you need to struggle and allow the prospect to see you as someone who needs help and that they’re willing to help. We need to learn to act in a way that is attractive to prospects, rather than act in a way that seems like an overeager salesperson who is trying to sell something.
Our behavior can be seen as unattractive. When we project confidence and business suave it can come off as overeager. We need to change our mindsets to mindsets of wealth—we are independently wealthy and we don’t need the sale—this stance of objectivity allows us to avoid emotional engagement and engage with accuracy to help prospects actually talk through and engage with issues. Customers may not be comfortable talking to the vulture on the wire, but they will share the information that we’re looking for with a doctor. We want to use a pattern-interrupt to come off as a doctor rather than a salesperson. Greatness is made, it is not born; you can learn to do this and have deeper conversations that will lead you to deeper margins.
We need to get away from the intellectual talk of selling—such as features and benefits. If we separate how the mind works into three areas—the what, what they do, the how, how they design / produce—once we separate these we expect a buying decision to take place, but these are not inspiring motivators to change. So, after the intellectual information becomes the goto transition to the conversation on money. If we don’t ask the why to understand what differentiates your product or service then you won’t be able to ask the specific questions that are necessary in order to help open your prospect to understanding and working through their motivating reasons to change.
~~The Technical: Vulnerability and Transparency, or You Really Think I Can Change?!~~
How do we take someone from an intellectual conversation to an emotional conversation? Typically byers deflect sellers to commoditize their product using the smoke screen of cost. If people buy emotionally how do we get people away from price and features and benefits and move them into an emotional discussion of what they’re really looking for?
If you want to get away from price you have to uncover the emotional reasons of why. If we discover that then we win at the margin we want. Karl takes us through the technical exercise of how conversations naturally move from the intellectual to the technical and what that looks like in a conversation and how you can continuously probe in your business conversations to get to the place you’re looking for.
“An uncomfortable exercise is this: Jim, tell me something that’s important and meaningful in your life.”
“My wife, Joan.”
“I’m going to ask about her but I don’t want you to reverse me with a question and I don’t want you to give me the same answer twice. So, Jim, tell about Joan.”
“Her name means God’s Gracious Gift, Joan means God’s Gracious Gift. She’s my business partner. Extremely smart. She’s really good at about everything that she does.”
“That’s great. So, tell me some more about Joan.”
“I think her compassion toward others is really compelling. She will always find time to help anyone who really needs help and she’s really good at giving attention.”
“Yeah that’s great. What does Joan really mean to you?”
“As the mother of our kids and the grandmother to our grandkids she is God’s gift. She is a great lover. She gives love to everyone in her world. And I guess what Joan means to me, I mean it is awkward, putting into words what she means to me—but she does mean the world to me.”
“So can you tell me more about that?”
“Not without crying. I am emotional and sentimental. It’s almost silly.”
“This happens every time. It’s not a trick. It’s just a biology and understanding psychologically how it all plays.”
“Literally I am tearing up because I’m putting into words something that started intellectual and very quickly moved into the emotional.”
“It’s uncomfortable for you and me. I was nurturing, empathetic and there and it’s difficult to be there as a salesperson.”
This exercise works across a lot of fields. If someone brings up a conversation or a focus that they don’t care about then we won’t get anywhere because if the issue you’re trying to drill into is not important then you will not find emotional information on that issue and you will know that there is information that you need to move past and find some other pain.
So a technical example of this conversation in sales:
“Why should we resell your equipment instead of brand X that we’re using?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t, can I ask you a question?”
“What is it about buying equipment that makes it such a commodity, I mean what is it that makes what we do nothing special?”
“Well I think the equipment. If the equipment is standard, standard is standard.”
“Everyone makes good equipment, Jim. So it’s probably not the equipment. Do you feel like things are handled properly when you are challenged with real situations?”
“Ultimately yes. I guess one challenge we have is that some of the repairs and warranty stuff is being backlogged and our current suppliers aren’t able to provide us the parts that we need because it’s a busy season.”
“Tell me a little bit more about that.”
“I’ve got an emergency right now where I’ve got a client who bought a high end piece of equipment 12 or 15 months ago and it’s just fried and I’ve got to replace it, but to replace it I’ve got to use a different product and to solve this I’m going to have to void two warranties and still be waiting for the pieces for the original high end product.”
“Well does that cost you a lot? I mean is that a high cost issue?”
“Put yourself in my shoes. I’m going to go out and service something 2-3 times because the supplier didn’t warn me about the new equipment or the lack of repair issues. They should have field tested it better but shame on me, I shouldn’t have been the guinea pig.”
“So how do you feel about this situation?”
“I’m not happy you can tell. You’re getting me worked up, Karl.”
“So imagine we could come in and provide a solution for this so the product you get from us wouldn’t have parts availability issues. I’m not sure we can be 100% on that, but lets assume we could. What would that mean to you? What would that mean to you personally?”
“Personal is piece of mind. Knowing that as the owner I’m not extended by my sales team who are selling a product that I can’t service.”
“Jim, we might be more expensive than your competitors. Do you think we should keep talking?”
“Actually I do.”
In this example Karl doesn’t get eager when he sees what he can fix, instead he maintains the distance of a professional that listens for specifics and then asserts themselves by saying, “not sure I can help. But, let’s see if we should have a conversation.”