Yesterday’s Sales Psychology post looked at the mental make-up of salespeople themselves and broke down the beliefs required to successfully pitch products.
Today, I’m counting backwards through my Keys to Sales Success by analyzing the logical, rational approach to sales. You’ll get specific tips that show you precisely how to rationalize the dollars right out every prospect’s tightly guarded wallet.
If you’ve just discovered this website, I’ve got good news: This article is part of a series and for the month of September I’m giving away thousands of dollars worth of consulting, plus a bunch of other great stuff.
To be in to win just subscribe to this blog, tweet the posts in the series and participate in the comments. Check out the full details right here.
Emotion versus Logic (battle of the sales gurus)
In the 70s and 80s every sales training consultant worked hard to convince the world’s corporations that the secret to their customer’s dollars lay in the artful manipulation of logic and reasoning.
In the 90s some clever person figured out that emotion made the big difference. The gurus started saying things like “People only ever buy what feels right”.
They’re both right. James Chartrand summed it up perfectly in a comment the other day:
“We buy on emotion and justify with logic.”
Both elements are critical parts of the same sales equation. If you want to be the best salesperson possible, you must master both.
It’s also worth noting that sales techniques lacking logic tend to create buyers remorse. Why? Because the right feeling might make you hand over cash but it’s “good decision making” that’ll keep you happy for weeks to come.
Good decisions need to be rationalized and justified. Here’s how to make sure it happens every time…
A few weeks ago, I was unfortunate enough to get pitched by an “emotional sales” trained sales rep. I was shopping for summer clothes – having just finished my recent mountain hermit experience. Having already decided to buy an armful of stuff, the eager shop assistant asked me if I was “… on the lookout for shoes today?”
When I replied with a noncommittal mumble, he dragged me over to a rack of beautiful Italian business shoes, loudly describing the various kinesthetic and emotional good vibes that other customers had reported after wearing them.
The poor guy was doing his best. In his defense, I was wearing a suit and tie. He thought I looked like someone who might buy a pair of overpriced shoes.
The problem? I already own a pair. I was wearing them. I wasn’t looking for business shoes – I was looking for sneakers.
First step: Find the Buying Criteria
Our buying criteria is the logical checklist that we hold at the front of our conscious mind while shopping for anything. It’s what we tell ourselves we want.
Eliciting the buying criteria from your prospect must always be the first step in any sales pitch. This fundamental piece of rationalization must come before everything else.
Why? Because otherwise you don’t know what the hell the person wants!
The shoe salesman had a fantastic opportunity to show me sneakers, but he assumed my buying criteria and pissed me off by delivering a “hard” emotional sell for something I didn’t want.
Opening your prospect’s mind to other purchase opportunities is a valid argument, especially in retail… but it’s only ever appropriate after you find out what they’re really after in the first place.
The over-eager shop assistant missed the chance to sell a pair of sneakers (which they DID stock) simply because he didn’t think to ask “What else are you looking for?”
Finding the buying criteria is easy. If you’re involved in face to face sales, just ask. People will appreciate it. If you’re selling online, simply make sure that your landing page gives people ample opportunity to find what they’re looking for. Even better, clearly list what you’ve got so that the people who don’t want it can move on, fast.
Second step: Give reasoning suggestions
Once the buying criteria has been established and you’ve confirmed that you have what the prospect wants, it’s time to do battle with the inner critic.
Don’t start meditating on the voices in your head – I don’t mean your inner critic, I mean the prospects! As a salesperson, you need to be able to reach inside their mind and silence the subversive outbursts of that voice of so-called reason.
The inner critic isn’t always negative or destructive. It’s main objective is to keep us safe. This can be either deadly or fantastic, depending on the situation. In the context of purchases, the inner critic pipes up to protect us from impulsive, stupid decisions. This is good news for trigger happy consumers but bad news for you, the salesperson.
And it gets worse…
While your prospect’s inner critic is trying to talk them out of buying your stuff, it is also playing an insidious psychological game. It adopts the form and voice of nearest and dearest family and friends. Is that manipulative or what?!
The prospect will unconsciously hear their partner’s voice, questioning (or berating) them for making an unnecessary purchase. Perhaps they’ll hear the voice of a good friend, doubting their judgement. Some people (more than you’d think) hear their parents warning them to watch their spending.
No matter what the judgement, criticism or question is, the unconscious mind wraps it up in a voice that pushes enough emotional buttons to get noticed. Like a shapeshifter scrooge, it morphs into an authority figure who’s opinion the prospect values.
This is what you’re up against.
The good news is that your prospect is up against it too. She desperately wants to buy what you’re offering, but the voice of the critic weighs heavily on her mind.
How to silence the inner critic for good
When crafting your pitch, scripting your patter or writing your copy, you need to list the logical, rational reasoning with which your prospect might disarm the voices in their head.
At the penultimate moment of the sales process, it’s likely that your prospect will be paralyzed by the inner critic and it’s emotional hold on their thinking. This vice-grip prevents your client rationalizing to the best of their ability.
Enter the salesperson – it is your job to help!
Here’s the formula to craft your critic-busting pitch:
1. Think of all the people who will be affected by your prospect’s decision to buy. Depending on your product, you may need to include even people who would notice your prospect’s purchase. e.g.
- Close friends
Not all of these will be relevant – it all depends on your specific product.
2. List every rational justification for your purchase you can dream up.
3. Test them out with your own inner critic. Run through the list of people you’ve got and imagine them berating you for buying your stuff. Are your reasons good enough to shut them up?
4. Go back to step three and be twice as tough. I shouldn’t even need to explain why.
5. Incorporate your new found rationalization into your pitch or advertising.
My business took off through rationalization.
Years ago, I often struggled to successfully pitch my consultancy services to large corporations. I didn’t know it at the time, but every time I failed it was due to a lack of rationalization.
When I pitched a “decision maker” their inner critic would morph into their boss. Even as I spoke to them, I’d see their eyes glaze over as they heard questions like:
“You’re a manager, why do you need a consultant to help you manage your people?”
“Why can’t you sort out your own staff issues?!”
“How is this expense justified?!!”
Everything changed for me when I figured out what was going on. I started pitching executives a trial service. I’d develop their sales people or leadership team and deliver a comprehensive, empirical Return on Investment Report upon completion.
I’d even show them an ROI report from a previous client, just to give them a taste of what was to come.
An ROI report completely justified the expense. The ability to drop a slick folder onto their bosses desk was music to their ears. The inner critic slunk away with it’s tail between it’s legs!
Want to boost sales? Rationalize and justify the decision to buy, for every prospect who crosses your path.
What do you think? Share your ideas for rationalizing your product in the comment section below this post.
34 Comments+ Add Comment
I liked the article, especially the ROI. I think that’s the biggest asset when you can show the projected numbers.
I’m personally having a problem doing the ROI for my website/blog. Too much pressure to deliver immediate income.
Demonstrating ROI can be pretty tricky if you deal with intangibles. I found it tough when I got hired to do leadership consulting…. luckily though, I connected with an HR consultancy who could do some clever things with pre & post analysis, then run their results against researched stats.
It’s all about what you do Gary – what do you do?
Oh no! You mean I have to deal with TWO (or more) inner critics?
Mine is a big enough PITA.
Seriously, you make some very good and useful points here. If I can come up with the rationalizations that will satisfy my inner critic, they ought to be good enough for anyone’s inner critic. Also, when I learned that the first step of any persuasion process was eliciting the other person’s criteria, sales discussions suddenly became much easier.
It still blows my mind when people forget to simply ask “What are you looking for?”
… it speeds up the whole process phenomenally. When you’re selling an idea, it’s all about asking “What would you have to see/feel to change your mind about this?” …. although you don’t always have ask that overtly.
It blows my mind (and not in a good way) when people ask close-ended questions:
“Can I help you?” No.
“Are you looking for anything?” No.
“Did you find everything you’re looking for?” Yes.
Doesn’t matter if the no/yes is a lie – it ends the whole sell right there.
“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR” is so wide open and *can’t* be answered with a yes or no. It’s a brilliant way to ask people what they want without getting shut down.
I really like this post. It has a lot to do with my career, in that part of my job is to dismantle arguments a potential customer might have against buying. I have to reassure them that they’re making the right choice – by giving them the answers.
You guys sell what I would consider “significant” purchases (in terms of price AND impact) … so the inner critic will always be even more vocal in your prospect’s mind.
That said, I suspect you have a few tricks up your sleeve for silencing it, too 🙂
Reminds me of a conversation I had with someone. “I told them they’d get a rockin’ WordPress site, but they weren’t biting.”
“No. They are not getting a rockin’ WordPress site. They’re getting a system that helps them sell, reduces their expenses, increases their income and makes their life a whole lot better than what it is now.”
Hey Peter, I’m catching up on your latest posts. This one is by far my favorite. I’m finding myself jotting down notes so I can internalize these solid concepts. Finding the buying criteria is a step I make sure to do first when I’m on a sales call. I ask “Are you looking for A or B.” Just to understand where their mindset is at within the call.
Great stuff, I’ll follow-up with your previous posts later this evening.
That’s awesome Tony. Buying criteria is a no brainer – I almost didn’t include it in the post until I realised that there are still loads of people out there forgetting to use it.
Not hard to learn and implement though.
This was awesome. I especially enjoyed the examples you used from your own life. Oh, how I love them examples!
If I’m understanding this right, rationalization is basically what someone will get out of my product? Like the increase in ROI you were talking about, and this is probably why testimonials are so powerful (+ other factors of course).
I guess one thing I could use for my ebook is the amount of hours of frustration, overwhelm and confusion people save by getting a clear path to how they can follow their passion.
Good stuff sir!
Its about being able to give them ammunition to shut up the other people in their lives…. whether they’re real or merely in their head.
The classic example is any kind of car sales. Porsche make a SUV that can do 0-100 in less than 6 seconds. It also has 11 airbags.
The acceleration is for daddy. The airbags are for him to rationalize the purchase to his wife and kids.
I agree with the example, just hope the airbags do not get used.
Totally agreed on this.
I can’t tell you how many times clients told us that they decided to work with us because we have more information on our site that helped them make a decision. And our site could certainly be better still.
Seems pretty simple, but a lot of people miss this for some reason.
Hi Naomi, thanks for stopping by!
Your site is rife with rationalization “ammunition” so I can see why it’d be working out for you 🙂
I love how you don’t beat around the bush and get straight to the point with examples and explanations. A lot of the times when I am reading a blog they fluff it up with so much repetitive stuff that I end up leaving it or skimming through.
My largest rationalizer I use when pitching for web design jobs is my testimonials — I am starting to collect a impressive list of them. So far my clients have all been referred to me by someone I know so there is already a level of trust but then the testimonials make it that much stronger. However, I am not sure how much weight the testimonials will hold when dealing with a cold prospect; I feel like I need something more.
I completed a moving companies website recently and it is receiving multiple free quote requests everyday through the contact form on the site. I could use this, but I think I need to take it a step further and get the bottom line: how much $ the website is directly generating.
You posted this in a comment a few posts back but I wanted to re-say it so more people could check it out. You suggested I take screenshots of potential client’s competitor’s websites (tongue twister huh?) and add them in the pitch. Still think this is an awesome idea and can’t wait to try it.
Yep. I think that idea is great (I would, I suggested it). It helps rationalize the purchase because the client can tell their inner critic “We’re doing this to catch up with and surpass our competition’s website!”
Very, very powerful stuff – especially for small biz owners.
So how do you rationalise Coaching for individuals, or micro business, where you don’t have the HR system to prove ROI? That’s where I struggle a lot. Sure, a client “feels better” or “has a breakthrough” but it’s really hard to put that into rock solid ROI, especially when every business, client and issue is different.
I can see that this is lacking on my website, but have no idea what I can do about it. Testimonials from clients maybe?
Here’s what I’d do about it – find out what they want, and then help them imagine having that. You can’t prove ROI, necessarily, because coaching also requires participation on the part of the client – if you coach them and do nothing, then all they have are tools they don’t use, right?
But let’s say you point out to them something like this:
“If just one hour of my time helps you free up five hours of yours – every week… what would you do with those five hours? You could take up that hobby you’ve been dreaming of. You could spend it alone reading a book in silence. You could start working on that product you know will earn you money. And that money will help you buy what you need to make more products, and more money… and free up even more time.
All it takes is an hour. What are you waiting for?”
*disappears to copy and paste James’ brilliance*
That’s gold James (as I’m sure you know) because you’re so right – if the person doesn’t do anything, that’s not necessarily the fault of the Coaching. Why is it so obvious when I look at what you’ve written and why couldn’t I see that before? (I don’t expect an answer to that)
Awesome comment :). Nothing like some free professional copy haha. Although it wouldn’t work for my business, it is still nice to see how it’s done.
Peter, what you did so well with your ROI report is you allowed the prospect to visualize himself being successful and appreciated.
I had a conversation with a fellow yesterday who truly believed his dad’s company needed to take my workshops – and he asked me quite baldly “how do I get it across to him that he needs this?”
I told him not to talk about web marketing or website traffic or any of the technical-sounding stuff, but to talk about more prospects, more sales and more repeat sales. I reminded him that he was going to help his dad get a government grant to pay for the training that would give him all those – so he was bringing his dad a really valuable opportunity.
It’s never the content that I need to sell, and I try very hard to focus on that. It’s what the content DOES for the prospect. One of the most useful things I ever learned was that sales prospects only hear radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). That’s one of the reasons I named my business as I did.
I love that “radio station WIIFM” haha. Stuff before that was good too; real world examples are always great to see. Good luck on landing that job!
I will work on rationalizing a purchase by transforming an area of conflict and a great deal of work and spending for Universities into a hands-off way they can profit in that area. Thinking in terms of what “the boss” will think is a great approach, and one I think I will see success with, especially since I am selling to people lower in the administration.
Justin, rationalizing for the “inner boss” (and the real one) is even more important when dealing with more bureaucratic organizations – like nonprofits and government.
We’re all storytellers. The things we sell are props for our customers’ stories, and the rationale is the plot outline. After they buy from you, they are going to want to prove how smart they are by telling their inner critics, friends, families and bosses about how the purchase meets – no surpasses – the rationale.
You’re giving them a reason to brag. Of course this has an emotional basis. But logic has its place in it.
Well said Carl!
This is my favorite post so far. I’m going to use the five steps for my own copy.
I once had a client who asked an impossible question, took stock for a beat then said: “I’m saying to you that I have something in mind, tell me what it is, aren’t I?” I enjoyed that enormously as, in my experience in that particular world, most would have been frustrated that one hadn’t instantly read their minds. Natch, the next step would be to begin with the leading questions…
We both cracked up.
It’s always wonderfully refreshing to see other work their way out of the little traps they create in their heads, isn’t it? 🙂
Wow. I’m just starting to really work on my sales process, starting with my consultation. I did one yesterday that didn’t go so well (I booked a shoot but I suspct only because it was a freebie), and asking ‘What are you looking for?” might well be the perfect opening question. And working on objections/justifications sounds like a really hard piece of work but oh so useful. Brilliant.
A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star and climbs it while playing a violin. (E.de Goncourt, French writer)
LOVED IT! I am a life long sales person. I have sold watermelons, kool-aid, advertising, insurance, merchant services and even worked on some top notch political campaigns. Wait, at one point in my life I got sucked into Amway.
BUT IT ALWAYS COMES DOW TO FIND THE NEED AND FILL THE NEED