In his recent book, Change or Die, author Alan Deutschman claims that although we have the ability to change our behavior, we rarely do. In fact, the odds are nine-to-one that when faced with a dire need to change, we won’t. Most smokers who are presented with a wealth of scientific data on the dangers of tobacco do not quit smoking. Our beliefs are what we feel in our gut and those beliefs are hard to change; we spent a lifetime developing and defending them. This explains why providing information rarely changes how people think or act.
This also explains why your best presentation may have absolutely no positive effect on your prospect’s desire to buy. And finally, this phenomenon explains why most salespeople keep shoveling information, features, benefits, and fancy presentations at prospects, even though those tactics don’t cause people to buy.
Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge because people see the world through their imagination, not through facts and figures. Deutschman says the same thing in a different way, using terms like ideologies, conceptual frameworks, and belief systems. Whatever you call them, these are the mental structures that shape how we view the world.
Somewhere along the way, early in our sales careers, we come to view the selling world as a place where we must convince buyers to love our stuff by providing them with information, facts, figures, and compelling reasons to buy. Traditional sales training reinforces this notion by emphasizing the presentation as the most important step in the sales process. Somehow we forget that WE never bought anything based on a presentation; we buy things because we want them or need them, not because a sales person tells us they’re great.
Would you like to make more sales? Try to make this change to your selling behavior: STOP talking about your features and benefits and STOP dumping extraneous information, brochures, and fancy PowerPoints on prospects. Wait as long as you can to tell the prospect anything about your company, your product, or your service. Spend the first fifteen minutes talking about the prospect. Find out his problems, concerns, fears, and desires. Make your process about your prospect, not about you.
Now the problem with that is what we’ve already said, it’s not easy to change ingrained habits. First of all, it’s hard to resist the temptation to impress our prospects with our knowledge, even though we know, intellectually, that people are not impressed with knowledge. Secondly, when a prospect asks a question, we believe that it’s our duty to provide an immediate, detailed answer.
Deutschman’s answer to making a difficult behavioral change is a three-fold process:
Recognize that you can change and definitely improve your sales performance. But it takes a concerted effort to change long-term, ingrained habits. A half-day get-motivated program won’t do it. There are people in your industry making twice as much money as you by selling the same product to the same market as you. There’s a reason, it’s called behavior. Make a positive change to your selling behavior and you’ll make a positive change to your income.