People are all wired differently based upon parenting, education, and life experiences. Our perception is unique. How we think and react to ideas, input, and stimulus is unique. We all however, are very much the same, and share a great deal in common. This article explores 6 universal truths about people, and how they affect the sales process.
1. People generally like people like themselves.
Most producers I work with have books of business containing clients that mirror the producers personality style. Of course, as always, there are exceptions. Producers find it much easier to build rapport with someone like themselves. In sales, building rapport quickly is critical to success. We have all experienced appointments where there was instant rapport with our prospect. Typically, this is because the prospect was our mirror image. In contrast, we’ve all been in appointments where we felt uncomfortable, couldn’t build rapport, and even felt our prospect didn’t like us. That prospect was your polar opposite. It is critical to recognize this universal truth so we do not react negatively or take it personally when we encounter different personalities. Understand, prospects are just being themselves; it’s our job to know this, and to smooth out the rough edges by becoming a bit more like our prospects.
2. People do business with people they like.
Most of us enjoy the buying process if we like the sales representative. We will even pay more, or go out of our way to give someone we like our business. (So much for selling on price) We will also make it a point to avoid giving our business to someone we don’t like. So, if people do business with people they like, and people like people like themselves, isn’t it obvious that we need to become more like our prospects to win their business? This universal truth is often overlooked by producers. Refer back to an article I wrote on mirroring and matching to learn more about this skill.
3. The best idea anyone ever heard of is his or her own.
Ever heard anyone say, “I’ve got a great idea!” Of course you have because the person who said it thought of it. If we kept coming up with ideas we hate, we would have a difficult time surviving. We are wired to like ourselves, and like the way we think. Often, we cannot understand how others think, and privately believe the world would be better place if people would just listen to us. A key selling skill employed by successful sales people is getting your prospect to buy in to your approach or idea and even to let them take credit for suggestions you make.
4. Most people dislike change.
People will avoid pain and move towards pleasure. Change is painful. Especially the type of change we are advocating. Understand that you are not asking your prospect to buy insurance from you. You are asking them to fire their agent and break a relationship. Firing someone is one of the most painful decisions that a business owner must make. Our objective as producers is to give overwhelming evidence that it will be more painful for our prospect to stay put than to move. The keys are to quantify and stress the advantages of change and amplify the cost or consequences of doing nothing. It is also critical that we discuss with our prospects the difficulties and challenges associated with firing their agent, and to prepare them for the inevitable backlash.
5. The more people invest, the more invested they become.
The typical sales strategy is to meet a prospect, build rapport, gather information, fill out applications, give proposals, and try to close. One problem with this approach (and there are many) is that as salespeople, we do not want to burden our prospects. Most producers make the quoting process easy, and do as much work as possible to avoid inconveniencing their prospects. The problem is that if our prospects do not invest any time or effort in the process, they will not have any skin in the game. I believe producers must divide tasks and responsibilities in the quoting process with the prospect, and work together towards a shared outcome. Investment in the process creates interest and investment in the outcome.
6. People like to buy, but dislike being sold. This is a consumer driven economy and society. Most of us enjoy buying and even shopping, if we are driving the sales process. All of us dislike being “sold” something. Walk into any major electronics store and when the people in the red shirts or blue shirts ask us if they can help us our standard response is “I’m just looking” But when we have made our decision, or want help “Buying” something we call the colored shirts back over.
The key is control. Give your prospects choices, and control. People like control, and they like to feel like they are making their own choices. The difference between selling, and helping someone buy is a subtle, but critical shift.