Find Out Who is Changeable Before Trying to Change Them
The greatest argument for the change-agent strategy, is it is very hard to convince someone who does not want to buy, is not open to your inquiry or input, stuck in their ways, or does not have the means, authority or the will to take action. If the prospect does not meet these variables you might as well be whistling Dixie.
Every desire to change carries the weight of the customer's past. Customers are creatures of habit and they naturally resist change. "The only person that likes change is a baby with a wet diaper," says Dr. Alan Zimmerman. For customers to take in new ideas, they have to break old habits.
"Our brains are wired to ignore information that doesn't fit our existing mental models, and retain that which supports them. So instead of trying to change all customers, change who you are going to sell too. Customers have a mind of their own. No matter how we try to redirect them, too often they do their own thing based on what they want. So finding out who is changeable and who isn't should be your first order of business," says Paul Gall.
Sales people sell as if they had a clear mandate or proclamation to change the hearts and minds of their customers. Go to Amazon or your local bookstore. All the sales literature out there is focused on assertive selling. Victor Antonio says that his research bears out that less than 2% of books today are on how to understand the psychology of how customers buy and how they go about change. What a travesty for sales people.
"Sellers have been told that their job is to make the customer think he needs whatever they have to sell. They have been told that the whole point of selling is to get him to see you as the answer—in other words, to make the final convergent-thinking selection in your favor in spite of the fact that he hasn't been through it's two subprograms of the decision process—cognitive thinking; allowing customers to understand the situation he is thinking and divergent thinking; helping the customer explore options and solutions. Sales people are actually fighting the natural order of how customers think by asking the customer first to select, without first thinking of options, or fully understanding why he's buying. What this says to the customer is I've got the best possible product for a situation neither you nor I understand," says Stephen Miller.
The change-agent has to instill confidence in customers to be self-critical. The whole process is about self-determination and independence. Without it you cannot expect the customer to seek their own council, which by the way is the single most underrated influence tool available.
The goal is to always get the customer first to persuade themselves of the merits of change. Collaboration and cooperation will consistently trump the art of selling. "The two parties come together operating as a single entity creating value over and above what either could achieve individually," send Diana Woodburn.
The more you meet the objective surface level needs and wants of your customer, the further you suppress their authentic and subjective real needs. The change-agent strategy is in some cases a soul-searching, gut wrenching process which is best initiated by practitioners who have an incurable curiosity. They have a genuine sense of wonder, like a five-year-old, without the repetition of superficial questions.
Always be a dispassionate observer. Be a quiet witness and testifier, not a judge or jury. Change-agents are content staying in the background. Their goal, when applicable, is to be a catalyst for transformation. Their sense of mission and direction is well-defined and unequivocal in the resolve to help provide neutral context and perspective. They accomplish this not through grand gestures of pitching and selling, but by being a customer caretaker.
Change-agents provide outside counsel, outside their solution. It is as if they are being paid an upfront retainer for expert advice, regardless if anything is bought or sold. They have no vendor bias or allegiance, only an allegiance to helping customers figure it out for themselves. Remember, the best sales person at the selling event is generally the customer. If you give them the independence to find their own answers, that will be more credible than giving them your own answers.