(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
In a recent blog post, we described what’s really happening when buyers say “no” even though you’ve laid out a compelling case. It all comes down to a difference of opinion.
Knowing how to present information in a way that buyers can understand AND respond to favorably is critical for sellers. This requires that sellers be well-versed in the basics of argumentation.
That’s not as bad as it sounds. This isn’t about arguing in an adversarial way. It’s about being effective in the way you put forth your reasons and share your point of view. It’s about constructing a persuasive presentation to elicit buy-in for what you are proposing. This involves more than presentation skills. It also requires deductive reasoning, empathy to connect when logic alone does not, and the ability to elaborate on what matters most to the buyer.
A common mistake that sellers make is thinking that they are dealing in facts. While it may be true that you can offer your prospects lower rates than their current providers, there are many other variables that will influence their decisions. Those variables will, quite likely, be opinions and perceptions and emotions rather than facts. If you are presenting the logical case alone, you’re simply not reaching these prospects in a meaningful way.
Every time you make a proposal, you have to take this into account. There is more to the story than the price, more to evaluate than the cause and effect of the problem and solution.
To become more effective in the way you present your case, start by structuring your presentation using deductive reasoning. This simply means that you start with a general statement and then add elements to build a logical case. In sales, the general statement you start with should always be about the needs of your buyer. An example of a sales argument presented with deductive reasoning would go like this:
1) You need to reduce your average delivery time by 1 full day without significantly increasing your delivery costs.
2) Our centralized distribution centers are strategically located within 350 miles of every major U.S. metropolitan area that you serve.
3) Therefore, we can meet your need to reduce delivery time while also decreasing delivery costs.
Using deductive reasoning that starts with the buyer’s needs enables you to make a clear link between the buyer’s need and your solution. Starting with the need engages the buyer. Succinctly and clearly making a link between that need and your solution makes a case that is logically compelling.
But you shouldn’t stop there. Logic is only half the battle. Emotions are also involved in decision making. No matter how logical your argument is, there is still a chance that your buyer has an emotional pull toward some other choice.
You’ve probably experienced this in your own buying. Emotionally, you make choices that are not the most logical. Maybe you drive a car that has a few extra bells and whistles that appealed to you even though there is no logical rationale for spending the extra money for those add-on features. Or maybe you continue to shop or dine at a familiar place just because it’s comfortable. Logically, there is some alternative that is cheaper, closer, or (on paper) a better match for you. Nevertheless, you are drawn to the familiar over the logical.
Your buyers are no different. Their decisions are founded in what makes sense to them and fed by their own emotional context. You can’t change that. What you can do is learn about what drives their decisions and show an understanding or empathy for the emotional aspects of their decision-making. The only way to appeal to emotions is, in fact, through emotions.
That’s why it’s so important to have a solid grasp on what matters most to each individual buyer. When you know, for example, that a buyer is motivated by leaving a legacy business for his children, you can empathize and connect to those emotions. It would be a very different connection than the one you’d have with a buyer who is driven by a goal to sell the business and retire by age 55.
Your deductive reasoning, then, gets wrapped in your empathy for and understanding of what matters to the buyer. Contrast this value statement with the one above that relied on logic alone.
1) You need to reduce your average delivery time by 1 full day without significantly increasing your delivery costs. By doing so, you will become more competitive and feel certain you can bring in 10 new accounts this year. I understand how important this is to you because you want to boost market share so you can sell the business and retire in two years.
2) We can help you achieve that growth, bring in those new accounts and retire in two years. Our centralized distribution centers are strategically located within 350 miles of every major U.S. metropolitan area that you serve.
3) Therefore, we can meet your need to reduce delivery time while also decreasing delivery costs. Partnering with us takes you one step closer to the retirement you’ve worked so hard to earn.
The first example was good. The second example is far better. It makes an argument that would be very difficult to refute… And that’s how sales get made.