Want to pay less? Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. Sales Force Magazine claims 75% of sales people offer a lower price before it’s ever asked for.
“Most of us,” says Florida consultant Jaynie Smith, “will buy value if we know what it is.” Value is defined in a company’s competitive advantage, its positioning; how the company values its difference with the competition. This is their “unfair advantage.”
Smith is one of Vistage International’s top speakers. Smith asks the CEOs who come to hear her to identify their competitive advantage(s). Most suggest items such as “outstanding customer service,” “our people,” or “our quality.”
Her response? “Blah, blah, blah.” Not quantifiable.
The question she urges be answered is “why us?” And she suggests that answer be crisp and quantifiable.A magazine ad for Zurich insurance contends their programs are as efficient as a well-run factory, citing “have achieved, on average, a 13% reduction in claims frequency and reduced costs by more than an average of 25%." Perhaps that explains why more than 60% of the manufacturers on the Fortune 1000 list are Zurich customers. Zurich has made clear what its competitive advantages are by quantifying them for the marketplace.
Smith suggests companies should look for “only statements” about their company –‘only,’ she contends, “provides a competitive advantage.” Examples she offers include, “we are the only company offering xxxx.” Or, “we increased xxxx by xx%” - whatever the Xs are.
“Ninety-five percent of employees lack agreement as to their company’s competitive edge,” she contends. Not sure? Then try this exercise: Identify what you perceive your competitive advantage to be, and then ask your employees what they see it to be. Are they aligned? Not likely. “There is a sharp disparity,” Smith says, “between what management and their subordinates believe is important to their customers.” Take the exercise a step further and get the viewpoint of your customers.
Complicating matters, Smith contends, “prospects don’t value the same things as customers” and urges using double blind research studies to find out from your customers and from those you would like to be your customers what they value. CEOs often resist spending. However, Smith suggests it’s all in the math and asks, “Would you spend 10 to 40 thousand dollars to get the information necessary to help you close 10% more business?” If so, it’s an investment, not a cost.
“Most businesses today,” Jaynie Smith claims, “are playing chicken in the price game,” leaving money on the table before the potential customer ever comes into the room. How about you? What’s your competitive, unfair advantage?
We're all in sales essentially all the time. We're selling ourselves, we're selling ideas, we're selling to the boss, and the boss is selling to us. We're selling to the bank to get more capital. The banks are selling to us to get our business. We're essentially all in sales. Which means we all need to have a deeper understanding of how to sell.
John Asher, author of the Neuroscience of Selling, developer of 15 different sales-related training manuals and CEO of Asher Strategies, delves into the science behind selling and how you can use what we’ve learned to become better at selling.
What can neuroscience teach us about sales?
[There is a] new understanding from this worldwide forum of neuroscientists studying decision-making and other aspects of neuroscience that relate to sales and totally disrupts what we thought was the right thing to do.
[These studies are showing that] it's all about the logic. We know that there are three main parts [of the brain]: The reptilian brain of 500 million years ago that started with early fish; the mammalian brain [that developed] when the dinosaurs were wiped out and some of those small animals went into the sea; and then about 2 million years ago the hominid brain [that developed] with the early primates that have morphed into humans.
To simplify it, the reptilian brain is all about focus on ourselves. The mammalian brain is all about emotion, excitement and engagement. And the hominid brain is all about logic. If you lump those two much older brains (the mammalian and the reptilian brain) together, you can call them the ancient brain. The hominoid brain is the rational brain – the new brain.
We know from all these neuroscience studies that about 97% of our decisions come from the ancient brain, and very few are driven by the rational brain.
When is logic involved in decision-making?
[Let’s look at two examples. First, think about] three companies after a big opportunity. All three companies have good experience, good quality, good service, and reasonable prices. In the buyer's mind, all three companies are essentially tied for first. So which one would the buyer choose? Well, they're going to choose the one where they've liked the salesperson the best – the salesperson who's made the best emotional connection and who's built the best rapport. That's where the emotional connection overrides the rational.
Here's where the rational comes into play. Let's say there are three different companies going after a different procurement. In the buyer's mind, two of the companies are tied for first in every respect: experience, quality, service, and prices. And then there's a third company that's just average. So even though the buyer may like the salesperson from the average company the best, they're not choosing them because they don't have the logic to justify that emotional buy.
Those emotional decisions apply to all of us essentially all the time. Which car do we buy? What mate do we choose? What do we eat for breakfast? These are almost all emotional decisions.That's the first disruption in understanding – that most decisions come from the ancient brain.
How can we tap into the ancient brain when selling?
They are a number of activators, ways to stimulate the other person's ancient brain. It doesn't matter what you're selling – trying to get them to join your company, trying to up and cross-sell to them as a current customer, trying to sell to them as a new prospect, etc. It's all essentially the same.
We are all focused on ourselves. You could call it “me, me, me” focus. That is by necessity for species to survive – we've got to be mainly worried about our own safety, our own success, and our own happiness. When you understand that, you can apply that easily to sales.
To learn more about how buyers think, check out John’s book The Neuroscience of Selling>>