People don’t buy a radar detector until after they get a speeding ticket, and they don’t buy life insurance until after a bad doctor visit or the sudden death of a friend. Let’s face it: people fear change. They avoid action until an external event, like getting a speeding ticket or a bad report from the doctor, trumps their propensity to avoid change and makes them viable. That being said, research shows that 79% of people are not satisfied, but the pain they are experiencing is not at a point where they will affect a change since they fear the unknown more than the pain.
There are four stages we all go through.
- Honeymoon – After we make a change there is the “Honeymoon” stage, where we are happy. Most people do not remain here too long. They reconsider their decision, a phenomenon known as “buyer’s remorse”. They buy a new car, but after the novelty wears off in a few weeks and the steep new payments begin to take a bite out of their budget, they start to question if they paid too much or if they acted impulsively.
- Acknowledge – They have entered the second stage, known as the “Acknowledge” stage, where they acknowledge things are not perfect, but they fear change more, so they stay put.
- Research – Finally, an event occurs that pushes them over the threshold for change. Maybe that once new car broke down for the second time in a month. Then they enter the “Research” stage and are now viable.
- Selection – After the research stage, which may last only a few days, they finally reach the “Selection” stage, where the cycle begins again.
The Research and Selection stages are the most fertile ground for a salesman, but because they take up a very small period of time, often less than 1% combined, it often requires help from others to identify when a prospective client is in this viable window.
There are opportunities to sell to a person in the larger 79% Acknowledge stage if you know the right techniques to get the customer to acknowledge and talk about their own pain.
Therapists have it right. A therapist could give you advice about how to cope with your issues as soon as you identify the problem. However, that would not make you change. We all know that smoking is bad, yet people still smoke. We all know we should eat right and exercise more, but we don’t. A crisis often shapes the need, such as contracting cancer to stop smoking or diabetes to lose weight and exercise.
The standard sales process of pitching a product or service to the customer does not work if the customer is in the Honeymoon or Acknowledge stages because the customer is not in a frame of mind to hear it. The perceived pain has not yet reached the change threshold.
To unlock the pain and get action, you must first use open-ended questions to build trust. Dale Carnegie said you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk. When the customer is in the Acknowledge stage you need to be like a therapist and ask questions to get them talking. Once you have earned a level of trust you can use more open-ended questions to probe for their dissatisfaction inflection points. Then, use more questions to get them to explain and realize the extent of their pain. This process will allow them to temporarily elevate and amplify their perception of the pain, pushing them over the threshold.
Aim your questions to help them to understand the consequences of their inaction. Get them to acknowledge how good life could be if they made a change. In the end, it must be through questions that they come to realize their own pain level and see the solution themselves.
You can plant the seeds but it must be their realization that gets them to move. Get enough data from the discussion so that you can get to the point where you have enough “you said…” points that support your plan for change before you try to close. Trying to close too early will close the door, making it very difficult to reopen negotiations, so stick to questioning until you have enough “you said” ammunition to make a convincing close.
How many sales do you think you have lost pitching to a closed-minded customer in the Acknowledge stage or getting to your close too early?
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