Negative Motivations Drive Positive Change, Not Positive Motivations
In the world of selling the agony of defeat for a customer is a far greater of a motivator to change than the thrill of victory. Sales people are so personally conditioned to think in terms of victory, and the thrill of being connected to it that it is an act of blasphemy to cross the line into the world of customer's problems, challenges and frustrations. The agony of defeat (client's problems) is too depressing and dark for their smiling dispositions to dig deep into. If only they knew that problems (defeat) are the unheralded holy grail in the selling profession.
The reality is customers hate to lose more than they love to win. They will run twice as fast to avoid a problem than they will to gain an advantage. It is basic human nature. It is totally irrational, illogical, complicated and messy. In other words it is emotional. And it is real.
Customer's goals, drive for success, and desires are simply compensation, coping and defense mechanisms for any of the lack they experience in their business. The drive for success is a form of personal restitution, payback, and redress for past failings and shortcomings. Make no mistake, there is a lot of negative motivation with customers that is driving positive change. Behind every goal is fear. Behind every challenge is fear. Negative and positive polarities are faces of the same coin.
The two most dominant emotions that compel customers to act are hope and fear. 98.6% of all sales strategies are geared towards hope. Yet customers are driven to act because of fear. You must address fear before you tackle hope. Customers buy because of fear and justify it by hope.
"Customer's problems dominate the shape of their needs," says Rob Jolles. Most sales people position their offering the exact opposite way. They position their deliverables as success, opportunity, progress and gain. They are selling from the wrong side of the equation.
Feature/advantage/benefit used to be the predominant method of selling in the past. In the information economy you now need to rethink your offering as problem/disadvantage/negative consequence. Explain your offering by the problems it addresses, instead of the solution it delivers. You simply repurpose and reengineer your value proposition to meet the reality of negative motivations that drive positive change.
Progressive sales people need to be more problem literate than solution literate in the information economy. "You need to have buyer fluency; the knowledge of how your customer operates without your products or services and the subsequent challenges it causes," says Michael Bosworth.
Uninformed, mainstream sales people too often believe in emphasizing their sway and swagger, their confidence, their enthusiasm and their positive attitude, because it will help customers get excited about the positive outcomes their offering will deliver them in the future. However, this is not ultimately what customers need. What they value and will not initially communicate, is their need for a wake up call, an intervention, a brainstorming sales call that delves deeply into the gaps in their business.
You need to expose problems, weaknesses and help them appraise their exposure, not enlighten them about how happy they will be with your solution. However, if the customer does not give you access to their challenges, or they do not have any pressing issues, then you have a very big problem.
The majority of conventional sales people when they hear about a customer's problem are off to the races to fix it, instead of understanding the full scope of the problem; evidence that it is a problem not a symptom, cost, consequences, reality of the problem accelerating, timing, priority, competing initiatives and hurdles to change. Remember, if they do not trust and believe your analysis and understanding of the problem, they will probably not entrust you to fix it.
You need to be a high integrity problem identifier, and a creative resourceful problem maker and creator. Sales people are too prone to be "Johnny on the spot fixers." Troubleshooting and problem shooting trumps problem solving. Traditional sales people love to eliminate problems instantaneously so that they can get to the fun part of problem resolution, before they fully do their careful investigation and due diligence.
It is estimated that roughly 5% of buyers in a sales person's territory are actively in the market at any given time. So 95% of the market is where there is a lot of hidden opportunity. That is the good news. The bad news is the skill sets and interpersonal sales strategies to engage in this market are much higher. In this market you need to provoke and evoke problems, and shake customers out of their complacency. "Nothing is as invisible as the obvious," says Michael Farson. So this requires one to have a lot of situational fluency, customer literacy and be very problem-centric.
To embark on the challenging task of proactively provoking and evoking discussions with customers about challenges, one needs to seek points of conflict, contention, gaps in goals and vulnerabilities. Point out through questions the inconsistencies between their goals and their results. Demonstrate through probing, not through making statements and declarations. This is very different than the mainstream approach of sales people who desperately seek agreement, sell a vision based on making customers feeling very comfortable and invulnerable, and then avoid healthy conflict at all costs. The whole idea is to open up your customer to the whole array of possible and hypothetical hidden threats, and lurking problems that they never thought of before.