If Customers Bought Logically You Would be Out of a Job
A change-agent looks at a sales call as an impartial business checkup. Mainstream sales people look at it as a prime opportunity to initiate change, do an overhaul, or do an all encompassing makeover.
The change coach knows there are so many variables, intangibles, and imponderables outside their control that will determine whether they are a good fit for a customer. They do not put the cart before the horse. They deal with as many of these variables as possible before they even begin to broach the subject of their offering.
Before one attempts to get buy-in for their offering, they need to get buy-in for the reasons for change, timing, authority and means, and even more importantly, get customer buy-in to share valuable information. One should look at selling as comparable to open book management. Sales people are an open book about their offering, and the harsh realities of change, hoping customers will reciprocate by being an open book about their problems and their hurdles they have to overcome to seriously consider taking action.
The change-agent is about being a stabilizer; a stable force for customers when they are reaching for the stars and being too optimistic, or when they are being too narrow minded and cannot see what is right in front of them. The change-agent seeks balance and synthesis, and is totally aware of the irrationality (pro or con) that the idea of change and action will impose on customers. They help with guidance of self-reflection, because customers can easily get their priorities and commitments out of wack. In a sense you try to provide a voice of clarity for their thinking; once again pro or con.
We all know it is easier to teach than to unteach. Likewise it is easier to influence someone who is predisposed to action than to try to confer change upon someone.
Limit your valuable resources to no-believers, and maximize it with believers. When done properly and efficiently, selling is a game of effective selection more than enticing seduction. The change-agent employs a shrewd emotional realism in helping all parties sort out the feasibility of change so little time and effort is wasted on lost causes. Customers become easily frustrated when sales people spend too much time on exploiting opportunities, instead of exploring and understanding different options and choices they have to pursue that might not include their offering.
Customers need someone who can walk into their mess, create order, or sometimes disorder if needed, and then help them makes sense of it all in relationship to their challenges and most pressing issues. This requires a different mindset. You help them look objectively at what they are stuck on, let them draw their own conclusions, and attempt to help them get unstuck without necessarily resolving their problem. Remember, few customers appreciate fixers.
When you stay with the fundamentals of change, and do not get carried away with your own goals, you usually can provide a very positive customer experience. When you are really accountable and responsible for the customer, you can also help them sort out deep conflicts of interest, and rule out spontaneous easy and quick choices. The change-agent is comparable to scientific inquiry; one raise and tests multiple hypothesis.
Discussing openly the downside and upside of change really raises the stakes of a sales call, because customers have to trust you a lot more to confide in you. When you put yourself into another's shoes your thinking and focus has to be unclouded and impartial to help them navigate the change process.
For many traditionalists, the change process mindset seem a bit too touchy feely. Worse yet, it might even sound like sales suicide. They see it as too much self-sacrifice to put another's interest in front of their own. Traditional, prima-donna sales people who are hard chargers will not cotton easily to the idea of a free speech zone for customers. It is too close for comfort to give customers so much leeway and free choice.
The change-agent is working without a net or a security blanket because it is all about the customer's circumtances and situation that will be the lever for whether a sale is made or not. The sales call is a free form of selling. It is a lot of free association, where both parties go with the flow and cover everything under the sun; the good, the bad, and the ugly. A lot of ugly and bad since that is what ultimately will propel customers to take action. Most mainline sales people on the other hand have a rigid premeditated sales strategy that leaves very little room for the customer, dissension, penetrating questions, and acute observations. In other words, boring and ineffective.
A lot of sales people will experience information and solution deprivation with the change-agent strategy. Typical sales people subsconsciously believe that their customers thrive on sensory overload. They do not! The change coach knows that their solution is not sacred. The only thing that is sacred is the customer's unique perspective.
Sales people need to give their customers a strong and dominant voice so they can better vocalize and understand their issues. You want to have the customer be as inner looking as possible. Whereas most classic sales people encourage their customers to be outer-directed towards their solution.
Stop wasting time trying to change minds that are already made up. Customer's beliefs are rooted in emotions, gut feelings, and intuition. All the facts in the world are often irrelevant. "A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts and figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point," says Leon Festinger of Stanford University.
Customers are no different than us; they push threatening information and data away, and pull friendly information in a fight-or-flight reflex. "For a lot of circumstances by the time someone is consciously reasoning they may instead be rationalizing their prior emotional circumstances," says Chris Mooney.
So you have to capture the hearts and minds of your customers. Customers often will change their behavior, but not the thinking behind it, or vice versa. You need to make sure the commitment to change is emotional, not just rational and logical. If customers made decisions rationally, logically, and intellectually there would be little need for sales people. Change is not something that can be easily conferred upon someone else. It is something that they need to feel inside and at a gut level. Few sales people make the effort to tap this essential source because they are so prone to wanting to control the sales process with their logical data and arguments.