One of my all time favorite movie scenes is when Obi Wan Kenobi pulls out the old Jedi mind trick to stop some poor Stormtroopers from finding R2D2 and C3P0. (If you haven’t seen this, stop what you’re doing right now and watch it)
With a wave of his hand, Obi Wan tells them exactly what he wants them to say and they mindlessly repeat it back to him and let him through the checkpoint.
Obi Wan’s Jedi mind trick has always inspired me in my sales process. Over the years, I’ve worked hard at cultivating this skill and here is what I’ve learned. The key trick to being a Sales Jedi and persuading people to your side (hopefully not the dark side) — is getting them to articulate why they want to do what you’re suggesting.
The Role of Repetition in Sales
Repetition, by itself, is of course a useful technique. Think about how you learned your multiplication tables when you were in elementary school. How was repetition useful there? You didn’t necessarily understand what you were doing, but you memorized those suckers until you knew them like the back of your hand.
Apply that same principal to sales. When a customer says back to you the value of your product, it’s self reinforcing and over time becomes their opinion. There lies the problem — how do you get them to state the value of your product?
I often try to start this process by asking throughout a sales call “What do you see of value here?” and see what they say. However, NEVER ask what they didn’t like for the same reason. Through this technique, you can get them to state the value of various aspects of your product or service. When you later repeat those back to a client of prospect, they are more influential because they came from their mouth.
Another Sales Technique to Try
Daniel Pink, a Harvard professor and well published author, taught me another similar technique that I find both very interesting and effective. In this video, Daniel explains how prompting others to speak about their own reasons for doing something is far more effective then pushing the reasons you think they should be doing something onto them. He further shows that when it is someone’s own ideas, they are far more likely to behave based on those reasons.
So how can you be a Sales Jedi and get your customers and prospects to say what you want? Daniel suggests a 2 step question approach to prompt another person to speak about their reasons.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to convince a hospital to upgrade their existing MRI equipment, but they seem resistant. Don’t ask them directly if they’re going to update — that might get a negative response that would reinforce their position. Instead ask them to rate their readiness to upgrade on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being not ready and 10 being fully ready).
Unless they rated their readiness to upgrade a 1 out of 10, then ask them “why didn’t you pick a lower number?”
Suddenly a funny thing happens. The question leads a person into explaining their own reasons for being ready to take an action, even if they are not fully ready. That creates a great starting point for seeing your side of the picture. Daniel explains how persuasion is often thought of as convincing someone else to do or say what another wants, but argues that persuasion is prompting someone to see why they might want what you want. This is a powerful tool in sales, and can be used to help close more deals.
No question that perfecting this way of speaking to customers will take time. Years, maybe. With practice though, it is possible to be just like Obi Wan.