We began the discussion in our last blog about what customers actually mean when they say “no” to a sales rep’s attempt to engage.
In the context of sales, customers are typically saying “no” to being sold or “no” to a sales call. They are not necessarily rejecting your solution.
However, “no” is a word that sales reps hear all too often. Most customers are not interested in speaking with sales reps – they are overwhelmed with information, they’re disinterested and disengaged.
How can sales reps adapt to the growing number of unreceptive customers and prospects?
The Truth About Traditional Selling
Traditional selling methodologies focus on how to sell (obviously, this makes perfect sense). But the truth is, if a customer is unreceptive (as most of them are) any attempt to “sell” will only backfire.
The traditional approach to selling sabotages our ability as sellers to convert the disinterested. We need to shift the focus from selling, to first cultivating receptivity.
Here’s the principle that applies: when someone is unreceptive, the more you try to persuade them with logical arguments, the more closed off they become.
So what’s a sales rep to do?
What we need to learn from this is that the receptivity of the customer is far more important than our message.
Imagine you’re a farmer trying to grow a healthy crop. There are two factors – the soil where you plant and the seed itself. If the soil is not fertile, the quality of the seed doesn’t matter – it won’t grow.
The same idea applies in sales. If the customer (the soil) is not receptive, your value proposition (the seed) won’t matter. Therefore, we need to shift our focus from selling to creating receptivity.
How can sales reps create receptivity?
When we’re in a conversation with another person attempting to gain influence, there are usually two points of view – two polarized perspectives. This is what we are paid to do as sellers: to influence our customers and change beliefs.
But how? How does one influence others? How do you get someone to see (and embrace) your point of view?
It’s all about receptivity, which begins with:
- An Invitation – If you haven’t already, check out our previous blog for the full breakdown on how to get the invitation. Below is a brief recap.
- Validating their Point of View – We’ll dive into this step today.
Getting An Invitation
Until someone asks for your perspective, you don’t have influence. Here’s a quick recap of the four keys to getting an invitation:
1 – Your Objective = Their Whiteboard
The first thing we need to do to get an invitation is to change our objective. We need to make our customer the hero of the story. Our objective needs to be their whiteboard.
2 – Drop the Rope
Any time you’re in an interaction with a customer or prospect, there’s an invisible tug-o-war happening. There’s a certain tension that naturally exists between customers and anyone with “Sales” on their business card. To remove this pressure and tension, we simply need to Drop the Rope.
3 – Create Contrast
The third key to getting an invitation is to create contrast between your solution and others. Either how you solve the problem, who solves it, or another factor that makes your offer unique. There has to be a compelling reason for them to engage.
4 – Ask Permission
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to ask permission from your customer. Until they say “yes,” the emotional shift to receptivity has not occurred – they’re not yet open. Remember, until the soil is fertile, you cannot plant the seed.
Validating Their Point of View
Now that we have the invitation, how do we get the customer to see our point of view?
As we say at ASLAN, sellers need to “Take the Trip” from their own point of view to the customer’s point of view: “Tell me why you think/believe…”
When the customer articulates their perspective, you, the seller, will typically have an “Oh” moment – a revelation. That’s when you know that you’ve successfully Taken the Trip. You understand why they think the way they think or believe what they believe:
“Oh, that’s why they see the world that way.”
It begins to make sense. And it’s not about someone being right and someone being wrong, it’s about understanding their perspective.
Once you have that “Oh” moment, feed it back to your customer.
“So what you’re saying is, the reason that you____ is because…”
Be able to articulate their perspective, as well or better than they can. Because the truth is, validating their point of view is actually more powerful than sharing your point of view.
When you do articulate their perspective, the goal is to have your customer say, “Exactly.” That’s the magic word, that’s how you know the door to influence is open. Again, the goal is to create that fertile soil before we plant the seed.
Until those “Oh” and “Exactly” moments occur, your customer will be unlikely to Take the Trip back to see your perspective. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
So, how do we fully Take the Trip? Conceptually, we’ve discussed why we need to Take the Trip – so here are some specifics and tools on how exactly to go about it.:
Using the LEAD Response
How sales reps respond to what the customer says will ultimately determine the destination. If you don’t effectively respond to what they say, you won’t truly create openness and receptivity.
For sellers to be able to influence, they need the truth. We need our customers to share the unfiltered truth about why they believe what they believe, who’s involved in the decision-making process, what are the real decision drivers, etc. Customers will only share that information if you’ve effectively cultivated receptivity.
You have to use your “question allowance” wisely and respond effectively to their answers. Here’s a framework that we call “LEAD” designed to help sellers effectively respond to their customers.
Listening seems like the most obvious component of any conversation; it’s common sense, but not always common practice. Listening is a statement of value.
The key to listening is to clear your cache. Think about your computer cache – it stores all kinds of information, images, etc. to make your online experience more efficient. As people, we function similarly. Our brain, in its desire for efficiency, works against us when it comes to listening. Once we’ve heard or experienced something multiple times, our brain does not want to “download” it all over again. But this inhibits our ability to effectively listen. By “clearing our cache,” we wipe out all previous memories and experiences that might cloud our understanding, in order to download new information fresh. Only then can we truly hear what our customer is telling us.
Validate what your customer is saying. You may hear them, but if they don’t feel like you care, then they will shut down.
Sellers, and frankly anyone, can get into the habit of simply listening to respond – listening with an agenda. We’re just waiting for their lips to stop moving so we can jump in with our argument. This diminishes receptivity. The key is to validate the customer’s response by acknowledging what they said, repeating it back to them, and demonstrating that you understand.
The goal is to send the signal that you care.
Drop the Rope:
We’ve explained what Drop the Rope means, but the key here is to embrace negative information. Sales reps often hear feedback like, “We already have a solution,” or “We don’t have a budget for that,” or “You’re too expensive.” Whatever the customer says, Drop the Rope. Don’t counter or argue with negative information.
Instead, respond with something along these lines: “You know, we may not be a fit. It might not make sense to consider another provider at this point. My goal is just to understand what you’re doing now and see if what we’ve been able to do to help others might also be effective in your situation.”
Remove the pressure to increase receptivity. You will have your day in court – but you can’t make your case until the customer shows up. Receptivity must come first.
If you want to learn more about reaching and converting unreceptive customers, check out unreceptivebook.com.