Only 2 Things Get Buyers To Say Yes

The Buyer’s Journey

Last night, I was on the phone with the Sales Leader at an Asian tech startup. She was brought in a little over a month ago and was assigned a group of recent college grads (with no sales experience) to be her sales team.

Her company is about to launch its beta product and the founders are predictably already upset that she hasn’t already landed signed, paying customers for its beta.

As we continued to speak, I started to recognize the same pattern that I’ve seen so many times before. She was doing all the basic things right. She and her team were putting in the hours. They were getting meetings and seemed to be getting in front of the right people.

Up to this point, the only signed customers were a couple of companies that are run by friends of the founders. They were getting an exceptional deal (if paying at all — my suspicion is that they won’t pay a penny) and knew that the founders would take care of them if things didn’t go well.

The companies she and her team were getting in front of certainly were open to talking to a new vendor. Their get-in-the-door-pitch was good enough to get in the door.

However, something was missing — the prospective customers just didn’t care enough to make the trade-offs involved in making a purchase — namely, their time and money.

She and her sales people had failed at the one thing that matters — appealing to the buyer’s emotions. All (important) decisions are emotional.

As much as we all want to believe that we make rational decisions or that other people WILL make rational decisions when presented with strong evidence, the reality is that almost all people, in almost all situations, make decisions based on emotions. There are some Vulcans among us, but they’re a very small group.

I’m not a sales person or sales manager. I’m not even particularly good at selling. But, I am a pretty good observer and a very curious person. And, I’ve been through dozens of sales trainings, participated in at least a few thousand (mostly face to face) sales calls. I’ve coached/advised sales managers and start-up CEOs. I’ve even led sales training.

In my experiences, I’ve found a pattern:
Buyers, being human, are driven to make decisions by their own emotional response to you and what you’re offering.

Specifically, will you and what you’re selling help them:

  • Feel less anxiety
  • Get closer to realizing their personal aspirations
The sales process is about the emotional journey of your buyer. The best salespeople then are the ones who are best at taking buyers on this journey.
The emotional selling process

What are the practical implications of this?

  1. It means that empathy is very valuable. In order to understand your buyer’s anxieties and aspirations, you need to listen well and do your homework — not just on their technical challenges, but about what they care about, what they worry about, what a better future would look like for them (a promotion, more respect, more autonomy or influence)
  2. Much like a good movie, TV episode or play brings you on an emotional journey, the emotional selling process also depends on good storytelling elements — deep empathy, understanding and articulation of the “before” state and a convincing release of the tension or triumph of the “after” state
  3. Trust in you and your company and product is critically important as it becomes the means of credibility and persuasion
  4. The details that matter are the ones critical to the elements of the story — their current state, the tension(s) of their current state and the believability of the future state you’re offering them
  5. Evidence of your ability to reduce their anxiety and/or realize their ambitions is very important. Case studies and references that they relate to emotionally are invaluable. Evidence that doesn’t apply to them is usually very counterproductive
  6. Extraneous information and process is worse than distracting. To buyers, it means that you don’t understand them and therefore can’t help them
  7. Integrity and character matter. Buyers want trustworthy shepherds to bring them on their journey. It’s a small world. Dishonesty usually catches up to you
  8. Buyers are attracted to easy, reliable, simple solutions to their emotional needs. This means that they want their journey to be believable and easy. Projecting confidence in your ability to deliver is the means to deliver this. Sometimes, involving another person who the buyer believes to be credible/trustworthy can be very helpful (like a sales engineer)

I’ve found this pattern to be true in all types of selling:

  • when you are the product you’re selling — job hunting, school admissions
  • when you’re a founder trying to raise money or borrow money from investors
  • when you’re a marketer trying to attract prospective buyers
  • when you’re a salesperson selling a product
  • when you’re an employee selling a promotion or a project
  • when you’re raising money for a charity

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