Is your sales team meeting its quota?
Surveys show that nearly half of all salespeople fail to meet their quota every year. Why? Well, it could be related to some Harvard Business Review research indicating that 63% of the behaviors that salespeople exhibit actually drive down their performance. A big part of that is because the way most people sell is not aligned with how their customers make buying decisions.
In The Science of Selling: Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal David Hoffeld draws on over 400 scientific studies that show how the human brain makes buying decisions.
**Click here to listen to a Marketing Book Podcast interview with David Hoffeld.**
The science affirms that there is a gaping disconnect between how people sell and how humans make buying decisions. And to make matters worse, the way most salespeople are taught to sell is grounded in selling, not buying.
To sell the way our brains make buying decisions, Hoffeld decodes the way buyers formulate buying decisions in a framework called “The Six Whys.” These are six specific questions that represent the mental steps all potential customers go through when making a purchase decision.
When salespeople structure their sales processes to answer and gain commitment to each of the Six Whys, they can guide potential customers through the buying process and into a positive decision.
But, if a buyer rejects one or more of the Six Whys, it will cause his or her decision-making process to break down, which can grind the sale to a halt, usually in the form of an objection.
Hoffeld shows how the root of all objections are found in one of the Six Whys:
1. Why Change?
In physics, an object at rest stays that way, unless something happens. People act the same way unless there is some good reason to change.
This is what makes the status quo so alluring: people have a natural aversion to change. The brain is wired to associate a high level of risk with accepting a new idea or purchasing a product or service.
Ultimately, if you don’t give buyers a reason to change, they won’t. Hoffeld explains that the most compelling ways to incite change is to find problems by challenging the status quo with insights that compel your buyers to think about how they can improve themselves or their business.
But don’t stop there — dig for the cause and scope of the problems, and ask deeper questions that help buyers feel the painful outcomes of allowing those problems to continue. Make it hurt.
2. Why Now?
Once your buyer has committed to change, you need to help them understand why change must occur now. Why? Hoffeld explains that the more time it takes to get a buying decision, the lower the probability the sale will happen.
While you don’t want to become an overbearing hustler (that doesn’t work), you need to help your customer realize that embracing change now rather than later is in their best interest. Otherwise, our brains naturally procrastinate.
3. Why Your Industry Solution?
Hoffeld calls this “the silent sales assassin” because salespeople rarely see it coming. To be successful in answering this question you may need to rethink your definition of a competitor.
For instance, Hoffeld owns a sales training company. Sure, his competitors are other sales training companies, but he also competes with in-house sales trainers and companies that might hire a one-time motivational speaker or buy their sales team a book to read.
You need to make sure your potential customer understands the positive results your solution delivers that those outside of your industry cannot match. What are some of the problems that potential customers have experienced when they have chose a solution outside of your industry? Poison the well.
4. Why You and Your Company?
Numerous studies have revealed that the best way to reduce a buyer’s perception of risk is through trust. Think of trust and risk as opposite ends of a seesaw. When trust goes up, the perception of risk goes down.
The best way to increase trust is to position yourself as an expert and share meaningful insights. Cognitive science studies have shown that when the brain recognizes that someone is an expert, it is far more likely to comply with that person’s suggestions.
Showing experience is another way to communicate expertise. Also, displaying confidence plays a vital part in establishing trust, according to studies cited in the book.
5. Why Your Product or Service?
There are two types of primary advantage: 1) cost, and 2) differentiation. Unless you are Wal-Mart, don’t compete on cost — it is a short-lived advantage and a quick race to the bottom.
To differentiate, Hoffeld’s research showed that offering a concept he calls distinct value is most effective. Distinct value is a unique value that a buyer desires and will receive from your company, product or service.
But there’s a catch: your distinct value must matter to your buyer. It changes from buyer to buyer and most distinct value that salespeople offer is irrelevant to buyers. Your distinct value also needs to be unique. And by unique, Hoffeld means scarce. Think of the word “only.”
6. Why Spend The Money?
When you are asking buyers to purchase something from you, you are also asking them not to do something else. The most effective way to answer this question is to appeal to their dominant buying motives, which are the emotional reasons buyers will buy.
Dominant buying motives are highly influential on purchasing decisions and are comprised of two scientifically validated triggers of human behavior: 1) the desire for gain, and 2) the fear of loss.
Neuroscientists in several studies have proven that the fear of loss is a much, much bigger motivator on purchase decisions. But don’t evoke the fear of loss unless you reveal how the buyer can escape that fear through the benefits they will receive from your company, product, or service.(A version of this article originally appeared in Inside Business — The Hampton Roads Business Journal, on March 31, 2017.)