I recently came across a social media post that provided the following sales career advice: if a sales manager during a job interview asks you to “sell me this pen”, immediately get up and leave. That sounds like great advice unless you need the work.
If you have skills, experience, and confidence a “sell me this pen” manager does feel a little bit Wolf of Wall Street, or Glengarry Glen Ross. Real life is never as simple as a movie script.
Whether you are new to sales or you need a refresher, I want to provide a brief post outlining an effective sales process. It’s a roadmap you can use to better prepare how you communicate with prospects improving your chance to complete the sale successfully.
- Speak to a need
- Identify an emotional event that will motivate action
- Describe the ideal outcome
- Stir or calm fears and insecurities
- Address relationships that could impact the decision
- Frame in a gain-logic-fear sequence
- Reinforce with data
I will break down each step and provide examples of how to apply them. More importantly, I can explain why this model is effective and will help you win more business, close more deals, and approach each opportunity with greater confidence.
Speak to a need
There is an old marketing saying that goes: no one wants a drill, what they want is a hole. The wisdom of this phrase is that we need to understand the motivations of our prospect to truly understand what they actually need. Is it convenience, speed, safety, confidence? By understanding what your customer wants you are able to speak to is in deeply personal and specific ways. In many cases the need is visceral and basic. Acceptance, love, security, and achievement. Early at Dyn, we spoke to our prospects need for love and achievement this resonated with early adopters who are recognized for picking winners and leading the pack. We were able to sell love because the early adopter received personal attention and was promoted and celebrated in our story. Love is intoxicating.
As we grew as a company we shifted our message to speak to a different need. Once you scale to a point where individual care can become a challenge you need a message that can speak to the need of the early majority: acceptance. In our rapid growth period we promoted our customers heavily and held events that would drive the need for acceptance. Even though our marketing message was Dyn offers performance, our customers heard Dyn offers acceptance and security.
Take a hard look at your business. What are you selling? Who are you selling to? Why are they buying? If you can understand why; you can authentically speak to that need.
I know that there is a segment of readers who answered the why question with a “price” answer. Lowest price, best value, high end. The thing I need to reinforce is that this is a logical need, not an emotional need. You will use logic in step six. This step is about emotional needs.
When a person enters a car showroom they are in search of something that speaks to an emotional need: performance, safety, convenience, comfort. When a person searches for airline flights online they are motivated by emotional needs: convenience, comfort, safety, speed. If you understand your customers on this level you are better able to speak to this basic need and use language that will engage them.
Recently a friend shared a story online. His car dealership cold called him offering to give him better financing to trade in his sports car. When he shared that he paid cash for his car they hung up. He was amazed at the experience. Why not ask probing questions? Even based on his answer to the first question you can learn that price and financing did not speak to his most basic needs. If they asked how he felt about his car, they could have learned that he loved driving, was a proud owner of this vehicle and loved sharing his experience with friends. Maybe that car was the key to his career success and he felt confident and smart as a result. Knowing this, a dealer might offer him an opportunity to double down on that feeling.
When it comes down to your business, put yourself in your customers mind and heart and speak to their needs.
Identify an emotional event that will trigger the motivation to action.
The core of any sale is the moment when the decision is made. If you can identify an emotional event that speaks to the need that will trigger the motivation you will greatly improve the odds of closing. What are triggering events? Moments of truth. Major and minor events. Perceived and real deadlines. Mr. Jones, when was the first time you ever used a pen? Kindergarten. The last time? I don’t know. Both events are unremarkable. How about Mr. Jones in our lives there are only a handful of times when we truly remember using a pen. Signing the paperwork for our first car, our first home, a passport, marriage license and birth certificate. Mr. Jones, when the moments are important we clearly sign our name in ink. In this narrative we elevate the experience of using a pen from mundane to important.
By identifying an event you are able to anchor the emotional need to time allowing you to create a timeline to work to or against. A trigger event is a moment in time.
In business you may identify a narrative of the first day on the job, or the date of a promotion, or an external event that impacted their job. What causes them concern or fear, arrogance or pride, comfort and joy is the event that will trigger them to move to or away from something.
An authentic emotional need paired with a triggering event is a very powerful motivator.
Describe the ideal outcome
By describing the ideal outcome you can impress upon your customer the emotional win they long for.
This is the core of your sales pitch. It is specific, it is aspirational, and it is clear. When you engage with our business we can give you the love, security, or pleasure you need. It will work and you will be happy having decided on this path.
Ms. Lopez, imagine your neighbor’s face tonight when you park your new car in your driveway? Everyone on the leadership team will be impressed with your numbers.
The core of this step is about reflecting back a clear understanding of your prospect. Armed with a clear story you are now able to provide a pitch that will draw a narrative for the prospect that will in their mind provide a specific fulfillment of their emotional needs. If you are simply presenting your product features and benefits, then you may be missing critical information that will persuade your prospect to react.
Remember my friend who was cold called by his auto dealer offering a financing deal? The barrier to overcome was never a financial one. It was a sense of pride and love of the driving experience. If the conversation lasted long enough to learn of this need, a sales professional could describe in great detail the feeling of sitting in a new car, turning over the engine, and opening up the acceleration on the road. Describing the ideal outcome will give the prospect permission to experience the win in their mind and heart.
Stir or calm fears and insecurities
There is nothing more powerful than one’s own insecurities and fears. Even when the stars align doubt can creep into the experience. Once you deliver the sales pitch watch for clues of this. Listen to the questions posed, and understand the motivation behind any questions asked. This is the part where you overcome objections. It is not about an answer for each question asked. It’s about assurance.
Is there a fear of missing out? If so motivate them to move fast. Is there a concern over appearances? stir pride, vanity or inspire confidence. Is the prospect unsure about a feature, do they need to be built up? Then create an environment that will drive the ideal solution for them.
In the film Godfather 2 there is a scene where Michael Corleone and his bodyguards are seeking the name of a girl Michael has an interest in. When describing this girl to a shopkeeper they discover that they described the man’s daughter who reacts hysterically. One of the bodyguards suggests they leave immediately, but Michael asked him to collect the shopkeeper and bring him to Michael’s table. At this moment Michael calms the man’s fears by calmly making his intentions known and asking for his blessing in having them soon marry. This is a dramatic example, but it provides a great point in making sure you are able to understand how fear and insecurities can help close or derail a sale.
Address relationships that could impact decision
Who is the decision maker? There are too many deals lost because the decision maker was never in the room when the sales pitch was given. I have spent countless hours chasing deals that were never going to close because I never addressed the relationships that mattered.
If we can go back to the automobile example. If the prospect is buying a family vehicle you need to understand who will be riding in the back as an influencer, or a spouse as a veto bearing decision maker. The financial and emotional collaborators need to be addressed. With B2B sales the challenge can be understanding that a decision maker may never use the product and therefore has limited table stakes in getting it right every time. At Dyn we worked very hard to earn the trust and buy-in from the network engineers. Our experience led us to believe that the influence of these key people resonated far beyond their company. By earning this confidence we received deals that we never would have won otherwise.
Addressing relationships is a way to show awareness and understanding. Please be smart about this.
Frame in a gain/logic/fear sequence
There is a psychology theory that studies human drive. What it shows is a sequence our brain uses to address discomfort or discontent. We are problem solvers and are driven to resolve our discomfort in an effort to restore a comfortable state. Our motivation impacts our drive to respond. Using this information marketing executives, copy writers, and sales professionals have developed this sequence to help motivate their audience to respond to their messaging. The use of the sequence speaks primarily to our behavior and increases the odds of a response.
This is the mechanical aspect of the framework. When presenting the argument please present it in the gain/logic/fear pattern.
- Gain equals take action get results
- Logic means clear pitch you want we have
- Fear can equal time, loss, fomo, consequence of inaction or wrong choice.
When framing your pitch messaging or composing follow up emails always lead with what your prospect can gain with you. What is in it for them? What is a top priority for them and by them taking action they can get to that gain. The meat of the pitch sandwich should allow for a logical argument. Here is the basic rationale to bring the deal to a close. You can use a few different techniques to draw the prospects mind to the core logical argument as to why you are talking. My advice is to keep it simple and easy to digest. Finish with a clear argument where inaction results in discomfort or disaster. Where a wrong choice will haunt them.
I find the behavioral and psychology of decision making fascinating and I could write more about it, if you are interested.
Reinforce with data
Back everything up with data. Reinforce your position by using data points that support your message. This is an opportunity to reinforce the close by sharing the data that locks in the buyer’s decision. We are the fastest growing company in New England. Four out of five dentists prefer. The independent firm of Measure and Track show. There is usually independent industry or product data that can be shared to complete the story. Do your homework and use this data to build confidence, and leave the transaction with a strong finish.
At Dyn we used to share performance data supplied by Catchpoint. I remember many of my sales colleagues leading a sales pitch with a Catchpoint report. Unfortunately when you present the data up front it leaves room for challenge, doubt, and sometimes confusion. If your prospect is looking for holes in the data, they are not engaged with you.
Dealmaking is a craft and like most crafts it is part art, science, technique and some intangible magic. If you are interested in honing your craft in pursuit of mastery you will need to push the edges of your comfort zone and study ways to improve. You might be a tactician driven by productive efficiency study strategy, game theory and heuristics. If you are more strategic and theoretical gain a deeper appreciation of the proven techniques of the craft and challenge yourself to be better. Either way this is a great playbook for entrepreneurs and founders because early leadership, talent and customers truly inform your business at scale.
The reason why this framework is more effective in moving deals is it is based in psychology and uses very basic human needs to motivate and influence. If you are interested in learning more about this I recommend you read Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein. I also invite you to join the Nudge group on LinkedIn. For the truly motivated there is a growing field of expertise in behavioral economics and the value of this expertise has served me well.
Brian Brady is a Studio Operations Manager at Inkwell Interactive Game Design and Development Studio at Southern New Hampshire University. Follow him on Twitter: @BBrady.