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To Buy is Human – Approaching Buyers the Way They Buy

People act on emotion and justify with logic. From complex to completely transactional, impulse purchases, emotions drive buying decisions. The examples are legion and science is stacking up one study after another that demonstrate how emotion influences the choices we make.

Daniel Pink says that to sell is human, likewise to buy is human. Though as humans we are certain that we’re making choices based on rational logic, our best interests, or organized facts, science says that we often don’t.

Emotion is why well-educated executives make multi-million dollar decisions with massive implications to their companies because they feel that one sales team cares about them more than another.

At a wine tasting party where researchers placed the price of the wine on the wine bottles, people exclaimed that wine with the higher price tag tasted better, even though every bottle was filled with the same low-cost wine.

In another study, German beer hall music lilted from the liquor store’s speakers on Tuesdays and French music on Wednesdays. Correspondingly German beer sales went up on Tuesdays with French wine sales increasing on Wednesdays.

On the sidewalk outside the store, researchers peered into brown bags and interviewed the patrons to learn why they purchased the beer or wine. Most shoppers gave logical reasons for the purchase: Saw it in a magazine, recommended by a friend, cooking steaks tonight, like the taste premium beer.

As humans, it is important that our self-image correlate with our decisions. So, we fall on logic to justify subconscious, emotional buying behavior – thus avoiding the pain of cognitive dissonance.

Despite all the tools, information, and data at their fingertips in our internet connected world, buyers continue to make irrational decisions. Am I saying that product features, quality, specs, delivery options and speed, service, technology, locations, price, and other tangible attributes of your offering don’t matter? Of course, not. These things absolutely matter – all are tickets to the game.

However, the sales profession inclusive of salespeople, sales trainers, sales leaders, and the marketing teams that support them are and have been, under the collective delusion that buyers make logical decisions that are in their own or their company’s best interest. That they weigh decisions rationally and choose options that make logical sense.

You Don’t Need to Look Far for Proof

Evidence upon evidence and data stacked on data refute this assumption. Frankly, you don’t need to look far for proof. I have no doubt that you’ve been frustrated with a prospect into which you’ve poured heart and soul. You’ve built the case why they should do business with you. You’ve analyzed their current situation and shown them how you can save them money, time, stress, and offer better service.

The case, the proof was irrefutable, and your references impeccable. There is even a compelling trigger event to drive urgency. Yet, instead of signing your agreement, they gave your competitor who’d taken them for granted, provided shoddy service, pissed them off, and overbilled them for the headache, a second chance. I know, I’ve been there and it’s maddening.

If we were to ask your buyer why he chose to remain with a vendor that was not working in his best interest, he would lead off with a number of what he felt like were logical, rational reasons. But refuting and arguing the facts would get you nowhere. The buyer would just dig in, unmovable.

What he would be unable to explain or unwilling to admit is his fear of making a mistake; or that there was just something about you that, at the sub-conscious level, he didn’t trust; or that because he avoids conflict, firing his current vendor would put him in an uncomfortable position. Layers of emotions – conscious and sub-conscious – driving his irrational choice. Yet he explains his decision in completely rational terms.

When All Things are Equal

As a sales professional understanding how emotions dominate and drive buying decisions is critical to supercharging your income and advancing your career.

When all things are equal, and in today’s marketplace there are rarely huge gaps or differences between competitors (at least from the prospect’s viewpoint), your ability to both influence the emotions of your prospects while regulating your own disruptive emotions, as you move deals through the sale pipe, gives you a distinct competitive edge.

Emotions are difficult to wrap our arms around and are sometimes hard to face. It’s so much easier to pitch the features of a widget than turn on empathy and tune into emotions. The brutal, inconvenient truth is you can pitch, challenge, teach, and offer insight to your heart’s content but it will not matter because, People buy for their reasons, not yours.

Approach Buyers the Way They Buy

Sales and buying are woven into the imperfect fabric of human emotions. No matter what you sell, your sales cycle, or the complexity of the sales and buying process, emotions play a crucial role in the outcomes of your sales conversations, interactions, and deals.

Sales EQ - Emotions Drive Buying Decisions

Most salespeople begin the sales process from a position of logic and over the course of the sales process shift towards emotion. On the other hand, buyers tend to begin the buying process at the emotional level and over time shift towards logic.

At the beginning of the sales process the buyer is asking a basic question about the salesperson: Do I like you?

In the same moment, the seller is delivering a pitch on product features they believe will generate interest from the buyer.

Few things make sellers more unlikable than pitching.

At the end of the sales process when the buyer is asking rational questions, putting objections on the table, and negotiating, the seller is reacting emotionally to perceived rejection, desperate not to lose the deal.

And so, it goes throughout the buying journey. At the emotional level, the parties are perpetually out of sync.

Of course, I’m not blind to the oversimplification of this example. Human interaction is complex and quite often non-linear. However, dealing with people in the context of sales conversations doesn’t need to be overly complex or overwhelming.

There are a handful of principles and frameworks that guide most human behavior most of the time. When you learn to master these simple frameworks, you’ll become a master of emotions and thus, influence and persuasion.

I’ve already shared with you one of the most cogent truths in sales. People buy for their reasons, not yours. It follows then that to be effective, you must approach people the way they buy rather than the way you sell.


Sales EQ: The New Psychology of Selling

Sales EQ Book Cover - by Jeb Blount Sales Specific Emotional IntelligenceLegions of salespeople and their leaders are coming face to face with a cold hard truth: what once gave salespeople a competitive edge—controlling the sales process, command of product knowledge, an arsenal of technology, and a great pitch—are no longer guarantees of success. Yet this is where the vast majority of the roughly $20 billion spent each year on sales training goes.  It’s no wonder many companies are seeing 50 percent or more of their salespeople miss quota.

Yet, in this new paradigm, an elite group of sales professionals are crushing it. In our age of technology where information is ubiquitous and buyer attention spans are fleeting, these superstars have learned how to leverage a new psychology of selling—Sales EQ—to keep prospects engaged, create true competitive differentiation, as well as shape and influence buying decisions. These top earners are acutely aware that the experience of buying from them is far more important than products, prices, features, and solutions.

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7 Keys to Leveraging Proactive Chat for Sales Prospecting

The biggest challenge sales people face when prospecting is getting prospects to engage long enough to convert that connection into an appointment, opportunity to gather additional qualifying information, or an immediate sales conversation. This is why I believe in a Balanced Prospecting Methodology that leverages all prospecting channels including telephone, email, social, text, in-person, networking, referrals, and, increasingly, chat to connect with prospects.

Chat is a powerful and rarely discussed channel that has the potential to be incredibly effective for engaging what are often your hottest leads. Chat operates as both a passive channel through which prospects engage you with questions and a proactive channel through which you approach and engage prospects who are exploring a page or information resource on your website.

Engage Prospects Early in the Buying Process

To gain a competitive advantage it is critical that you connect with and engage buyers early.  A person who is reading an article on your website, watching a video, or downloading a resource is there because of some level of interest in your product, a trigger event that has disrupted status quo, a problem they wish to solve, or an impending buying window.  In other words, highly qualified, hot prospects. Proactive chat, used effectively, connects you with these prospects in the early discovery phases of the buying process.

We know that buyers are doing far more research on their own these days. Some stats (though disputed by many experts) state that buyers are at least 70% of the way through the sales process before they contact a salesperson. Therein lies the problem. If you wait until the prospect is 70% of the way through the process to contact you your probability of closing the sales goes down exponentially.

However, when you engage prospects that are moving into the buying process ahead of your competitors, you gain a decided competitive advantage because you have the opportunity to develop a relationship and influence and shape buying decisions. While your competitors sit around waiting for the prospect to call, you are in the driver’s seat accelerating the deal through the pipeline.

Chat is a Powerful Component of the New Sales Arsenal

Generational shifts and advances in chat technology have moved chat from cutting edge to a powerful part of the new sales arsenal. One of my clients recently accelerated from $0 in sales via chat to a million dollars a month in revenue through the chat channel in less than two years.

Many of the chat tools on the market today (one of my favorites is Zopim) provide detailed, real time, insight into what your prospect is reading or downloading, how they arrived to a page, and how long they’ve been there, and their behaviour while they are there.  Powerful outbound prospecting tools like Tellwise go a step further and “pull” prospects onto chat enabled pages from prospecting emails called “smart messages.”

Leveraged correctly proactive chat, like text messaging, streamlines and accelerates communication. Used incorrectly it can be intrusive, impersonal, and damage the prospect’s experience while on your site.

7 Steps to Engaging Prospects with Proactive Chat

  1. Be patient: When a prospect hits your site the easiest, fastest way to chase them off is to immediately open a chat window and start talking at them. Instead you need to be patient. Give them time to get absorbed in the content.
  2. Soft Approach: When you open the chat window you have one shot to pull your prospect in and get them to engage. Mere seconds. If you approach them in an intrusive or blunt way they will at best ignore you and at worst bounce off of your site.
  3. Hook Them: Engagement is the name of the game. You need to hook them with an easy, but not cheesy, open-ended question that draws them into a conversation.
  4. Humanize the Experience: What you say and how you say it matters. Chat is one dimensional communication. Unlike verbal or visual communication all you have are words. Nuance and meaning are gleaned from sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and letter case. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Ask relevant questions based on how they are interacting with your site and key words they are using for search. Choose empathetic words that humanize the experience of communicating with you.
  5. Ask Provocative Questions: Once you have your prospect engaged ask deeper, more provocative questions. Get them talking to learn about their situation and gather qualifying information.
  6. Provoke Curiosity: Curiosity is powerful. When you have additional insight, information, and resources that might help your prospect with their problem or situation they will be more likely to move to the next step with you. You must become adept at provoking curiosity by bridging from their problem to your additional insight within the context of your conversation.
  7. Convert: Your ultimate goal is to convert the chat engagement into an immediate sales conversation or a phone, web-conference, or in-person appointment. Therefore you must ask for the next step. If you fail to ask you won’t get and rarely will the prospect do your job for you.

Finally, measure, measure, measure. Chat is a powerful tool and to perfect it you need to define your conversion funnel and relentlessly measure every step. Then analyse your data and make micro-adjustments until you’ve got a proactive engagement formula that maximizes the number of conversations you are able to create and the number and quality of conversions you make.


Fanatical Prospecting Book - Jeb Blount

 

 

Learn how to crush your number with more effective prospecting in my new book Fanatical Prospecting. In the most comprehensive book ever written on sales prospecting I teach you the real secrets that top earning salespeople leverate to start more sales conversations and close more deals. Download two free chapters now. 

 

 


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Sales Prospecting and The Paradox of Basics

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I’ve been teaching salespeople how to prospect since I was in my twenties. Prospecting skills – interrupting the day of a prospect via phone, email, social, text, or in-person – are basic, foundational, competencies for sales hunters (inside and outside). These same skills are also fundamentals that inbound salespeople must master to become skilled at inbound lead follow up calls.

Over the past few years though I’ve noticed an alarming trend: More and more self-styled gurus popping up and pontificating to the sales profession that one form or another of prospecting is dead. They pander to the salespeople who are scared of, uncomfortable with, or simply don’t want to do the hard work of sales.

At the same time I’ve observed legions of sales leaders who have lost the managerial courage to lead high-performing teams of sales hunters. Instead, in the words of my good friend Anthony Iannarino, they are “creating vegetarian sales forces [made up of] salespeople who don’t know how to hunt, and some who refuse to hunt.”

Left behind are the millions of salespeople who are frustrated, failing, and earning far less than they should be because they don’t know how to prospect, have no guidance or structure for prospecting, and are confused by the endless stream of mixed messages.

There is a Direct Line Between the Failure to Prospect and the Failure to Sell

This unfortunate trend is killing sales cultures in organizations big and small. So much so that today, the number one issue facing salespeople, sales leaders, executives, and entire companies are anemic, and sometimes non-existent pipelines. It is the top complaint I get from C-level executives about their sales teams (from start-ups to SMBs to the Fortune 1000).

When my Sales Acceleration firm is called in to help companies fix broken sales teams, the root cause of their performance problem is almost always prospecting.

In fact, I’ve never worked with an organization that was missing its number in a big way where a straight line could not be drawn directly from the miss on the numbers to the miss on prospecting.Sadly, few organizations are able to see these issues on their own.

It’s The Paradox of Basics: An answer so blatantly obvious that it remains impossibly invisible.

So, instead of focusing time and attention on the root cause of their sales performance problems, many sales organizations spin their wheels on flavor-of-the-day patches that frustratingly never seem to make a difference. Because so many sales leaders don’t understand how to prospect or how to effectively coach prospecting activity, they willingly go along with these schemes and, all the while, the sales team spirals downward.

Hope and the YST Method are Not Prospecting Strategies

Meanwhile sales training programs rarely offer deep dive training on prospecting. It is as if salespeople are supposed to come to the job with the innate ability to open new doors, a comprehensive set of prospecting techniques, the know-how to interrupt prospects across multiple prospecting channels, and the mental toughness to sustain unrelenting rejection.

While sales leaders push hard on salespeople to build stronger pipes – in many cases with yelling, screaming, and threatening – salespeople across the globe respond with a collective “huh?” because they simply don’t know what to do and sadly most are unaware that prospecting is holding them back from building a stronger pipe and income.

The good news is, despite some of the hard to fix issues like hiring better talent, shifting organizational infrastructure, or changing the compensation model, it is relatively easy to accelerate prospecting and generate massive results.

For example, I was recently working with a cloud solutions start-up that was $10 Million behind its new account plan. They had multiple issues holding them back but the most obvious was the fact that their reps were busy doing anything other than prospecting. I worked with them for a week providing training, coaching, and motivation (a kick in the rear). We moved the activity needle in less than a week and when prospecting improved, sales followed.

Four months later they made their year-end number. The CEO told me it was a miracle. Actually I think he said the overnight improvement was “like magic.” I knew the truth though. There was no magic.

It was a back to the basics effort that gave his salespeople prospecting techniques that worked in the real world, a balanced approach, coaching to anchor their learning, an environment that fostered winning and mental toughness, and the managerial courage to create a structure of accountability.

There is No Easy Button and One Size Does Not Fit All

It’s time to tune out the pseudo experts who pander to the masses, just to peddle their “one-size-fits-all-easy-buttons,” and put prospecting back into sales.

We need to teach sales professionals and sales leaders tried and true balanced prospecting strategies (across all prospecting channels) with an eye towards actually delivering value rather than Buzzfeed worthy hyperbole.

Salespeople need to understand both the why and how behind the most important activity is sales with a drive to become both efficient and effective at opening sales conversations, filling the pipeline, and crushing their number.


 

 

Fanatical Prospecting by Jeb Blount

 

It’s time to get off of the feast or famine roller coaster for good. My new book Fanatical Prospecting is the most comprehensive book ever written on prospecting. In it I teach you the techniques and secrets top earning salespeople leverage to keep their pipelines and bank accounts full. Check it out here.

Adopt a Balanced Prospecting Mindset

The very best salespeople have mastered balanced prospecting in the same manner that wealthy people have mastered balance in their investment portfolios.

Balance simply means that to get the best return from your prospecting time investment there should be measure of telephone, in-person, email, social selling, text messaging, referrals, networking, in-bound leads, trade shows, and cold calling. The relative distribution of your time investment in each prospecting methodology should be based on your unique situation.

There isn’t a one size fits all formula for balanced prospecting. Every territory, industry, product, service, and prospect base is different. As are the demands of the sales plan, economic drivers, and the strategy and direction of the business – all of which are certain to change over time. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of where you are against your goals because that may also determine the appropriate mix of channels.

3 Reasons Your Prospecting Email Subject Line Screams Delete Me

Here’s a fact of life: according to the Harvard Business Review the average business executive gets 200+ emails a day. Add to that the mail they get in their social media inboxes, instant messages, and the chatter on crowdsourcing tools deployed by many companies, and there is simply no way they can possibly get to it all.

So your prospects cope with being crazy busy and overwhelmed by an inbox that is set to “infinite refill” the same way you do: Scan and Triage.

They, like you, must make instant, split-second decisions to: Open –or- Delete –or- Save for Later

In this paradigm, to get opened, your prospecting email must stand-out from all of the noise and be compelling enough to entice a click. Though subject lines are not the only thing that gets your sales prospecting email opened – timing, your name, brand, and email address also play a role – the subject line is, by far, the most important of these elements.

Sadly, though, most prospecting email subject lines neither stand-out nor are compelling. Most, in fact, scream – “Delete me.”

Here are the 3 Most Common Reasons Sales Prospecting Emails Scream “Delete Me!”

1. Too Long: Data from many sources across the sales ecosystem prove that shorter subject lines outperform longer subject lines by wide margins. Frankly, it’s intuitive. A long subject line requires your prospect’s brain to work harder. That extra effort in the context of split-second decisions about the value of an email gets you deleted.

Neither do long subject lines play well on mobile. It’s estimated that 50% or more of emails get opened on a mobile device. With the limited screen size, you get but a glimpse of the email subject line. If you think about your own behavior on your mobile phone, you are even quicker to delete a message there. More than 50 characters in your subject line and the open rate goes down exponentially.

Solution: Keep email prospecting subject lines super short. Three to six words or 40 to 50 characters including spaces. Remember – less is more

2. Questions: Email prospecting subject lines in the form of questions are delete bait. Virtually every major study conducted on the efficacy of different types of email subject lines conclude that subject lines in the form of a question quickly doom your email to the delete-button-death-roll. Though there may be a time and place for using a question in your email subject line, in most cases you should step away from the question mark.

Solution: Use action words and directive statements instead of questions. List based subject lines that include a testimonial like 3 Reasons Why ABC Chose Us are especially powerful; as are referral subject lines like Jeb Blount Said We Should Talk; and statement based subject lines like Biggest Fail in Industrial Pumps

3. Impersonal: Generic, impersonal subject lines are boring. When you are attempting to engage hard-to-reach executives a failure to connect will send you straight to the trash. Think about it. Every salesperson in your industry is trying to connect with the highest value prospects in your market. These executives are inundated with requests for appointments. You will never break through this noise and get their attention with cheesy, impersonal subject lines. Instead of standing out, you’ll look like all of the other schmucks junking up your prospect’s inbox and wasting their time.

Solution: Connect your subject line to an issue your prospect is facing – especially if it is emotional or stressful – or compliment them on a recent accomplishment or something that you know makes them feel proud. For example, the easiest, fastest way to get me to open your email is a subject line that reads: Loved Your Book!

The reality is we are all self-centered and almost always focused on our problems, issues, accomplishments, and ego. The fact is 95% of the time we are thinking about ourselves and the 5% of time that we are not thinking about ourselves something – maybe a mouthy salesperson – has gotten in the way of us thinking about ourselves.

So, play the odds, and make your subject line about your prospect. It’s really easy to do if you take a little extra time to research the recipient of your prospecting email through an internet search, company website, and on social media sites.

The brutal reality, though, is there is no secret formula for creating the perfect email subject line every time. What works in one situation may not work in another. Advice that works in one industry vertical may not be applicable within your industry or prospect base. This is why experimentation and testing is the real key to success with subject lines.

Testing helps you zero in on which subject lines get the most opens. With this data in hand you’ll often find patterns that lead to subject lines that work phenomenally well with certain prospect groups, job titles, geographic areas, and business problems.

Yet most salespeople don’t test. Instead they create subject lines on the fly and then send their emails into a black hole hoping that they’ll get a response. It’s an incredibly frustrating way to prospect because it’s like throwing darts at a target while blind folded and hoping you hit a bulls-eye, without any feedback to let you know if your aim is true.

You don’t need to fall into this trap. There are fantastic tools available today that make testing email response rates unbelievably easy and affordable. Sales email prospecting, automation, and intelligence services like Yesware give you instant insight into what happens with your prospecting email after you push send. With this information you’ll be able to narrow down and hone in on the words and phrases that get the best response. Soon, with this information in hand, your emails will stand-out and get opened while those your competitors are relegated to delete folder.

(Full disclosure: Yesware is a paid sponsor of my Sales Gravy Podcast. They are one of the many great companies that offer sales prospecting intelligence services. I love Yesware and believe that they are one of the very best in their class which is why I endorse them. The good news is Yesware has graciously provided my readers and listeners with a Free 30-day trial of their service. I highly recommend that you take them up on the offer. To get started testing your sales prospecting email subject lines go here.)

 

When It Is Time to Go Home, Make One More Call

I don’t remember where I found the eleven words that changed my sales career. I think I may have stumbled on them in a newsletter or magazine I subscribed to back when newsletters were mailed rather than emailed. What I do remember is the words instantly resonated with me:

When it’s time to go home, make one more call.

I cut the blurb out of the newsletter and taped it over my desk where I would see it each day. It was always the last thing I looked at before I hit the streets to go on my sales calls.

Those words became my mantra. On days when I was dragging my ass because I’d had it handed to me by prospects I couldn’t close; or, it was hot, cold, raining, or snowing; or, I was tired, worn-out, burned-out, or, jonesing to go home early on a Friday afternoon; or when I was coming up with really good justifications to knock off early for the day, this mantra, “when it is time to go home, make one more call,” kept me going for one more call (and sometimes two, three, or four). It kept me focused on paying for my success, in advance, with hard work.

The impact of those extra calls was mind blowing. So many of my “one more calls” turned into sales. It was as if the universe was rewarding me for sticking to it. That final push paid off and kept paying off in my performance and my paycheck. Five more calls a week, resulted in 20 additional calls a month, resulted in 240 additional calls a year. At a 34% closing rate that produced an additional 82 deals a year, almost $2 million in incremental revenue, and, an extra $100k in my pocket – income I would never have generated if I had not developed the discipline to make one more call. That, by the way, is called Sales Gravy.

Over the years I’ve shared this mantra with the sales professionals who’ve worked for me and I continue to share it with the new generation of sales professionals I teach and coach. Some adopt it as their own, others . . . go home. I get hundreds of calls, text messages, and emails each year on Friday afternoons or near dark from top tier sales pros that say things like this:

“Hey Jeb, you are not going to believe this. I was about to give up but decided to make one last call and the guy bought from me right on the spot – can you believe that???”

This kind of sales serendipity happens every day across the globe to the sales pros that are fanatical about making one more call.

Of course there are those who will tell you that this is bunk. They’ll argue that working harder is stupid. “Why work harder when you can work smarter?” they somehow say with a straight face.

Here is a brutal truth: “Working smarter” is the hobgoblin of mediocre salespeople. Like all losers, they use “working smarter” as an excuse for their lack of achievement. Trust me on this, losers love company so they are happy to lure you into their “working smarter” camp with the Siren song of less effort for more results. Do not buy into this bull.

Top sales professionals have the self-discipline to do the hard things in sales. Do these top performers get tired, cold, hungry, burned out, and feel their resolve wavering and want to give up and go home? Of course they do. Do these top performers love prospecting or the other difficult activities required for success in sales? Of course not! They don’t enjoy these activities anymore than the salespeople who are failing.

What top performers in sales (and frankly all walks of life) understand is that to succeed at the highest level they’ve got to pay for their success in advance with hard work, sacrifice, doing things they hate, and making one last, final push over the finish line.

The salespeople on the bottom know this too but, instead of making one more call at the end of the day when it is time to go home, they make excuses.

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