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The Secret Language of Influence
Master the One Skill Every Sales Pro Needs
By DAN SEIDMAN
Copyright © 2012 Dan Seidman
All right reserved.
Chapter One Breaking Buyers' Patterns
THE "MOST ELUSIVE PROSPECT" ... I'm selling for a company in Chicago. When I'm not on the road, I'm pounding the phones at my desk, generating leads. Today, in fact, I'm breezing through my contact manager when I stop and stare at the notes section of one record.
There's the date and time of the last call, and next to these notes are the letters "lvm," short for "left voice mail." Below this note is a string of identical calls going back three years. We have "left voice mail" messages for this woman forty-six times!
Now, what would you do with a prospect like that?
"What is there to lose?" I think, so I dial and—surprise—get her voice mail. I wait for the beep and leave a message.
"Congratulations! This is Dan Seidman of corporate recruiting. You have earned our company's prestigious Most Elusive Prospect Award. We have called you forty-six times—today makes forty-seven—and you have never returned a single call. I just wanted you to know that nobody in our entire database, with thousands of companies, has ever ignored us as frequently as you. Thanks for not calling. And congratulations on your award."
I hang up.
And what do you think happens? Ninety minutes later the woman calls me! And I get an earful. "You stupid jerk! I don't have to return anybody's calls, ever. How rude to leave me that message. Don't ever call our company again. You're a jerk."
I manage to get a word in—"Wow, I had no idea you'd be upset. I'm so sorry"—and bang! She hangs up the phone.
Oh, man, what did I do? Well, at least she called me and not my VP of sales.
Moments later, the phone rings again. It's her! She proceeds to tell me how awful she feels popping off at me like that. And, actually, my message was pretty funny. And, yes, she does use services like ours. Then she asks if I would please come in to see her next week, to talk about our offerings
Yes, she became a client and no, my VP never did hear about my cold-calling strategy.
You're wondering, What happened here? The story I just told illustrates what's called, in psychology, a pattern interrupt. Its roots are fascinating, and the strategy is useful as you learn to better influence others.
The late Dr. Milton Erickson is considered one of the world's great psychologists. He perfected pattern interruption and other creative influence techniques to help patients work through problems that result from being stuck in a pattern of thinking or behavior. His ability to help patients change behavior—and to stop doing those things that are damaging to themselves and others and instead do things that are useful—is legendary.
And isn't influencing your buyers to change really the ultimate goal of selling?
As I mentioned in the book's preface, as sales professionals, we need to help prospects to change products and services—to change their minds. And as you probably know from experience, people often follow a well-worn path when encountering situations where discomfort occurs (a sales rep calling, for example). Dr. Erickson revealed how we can move them off this path and, by doing so, open up the possibility of different outcomes. In other words, we're going to break their tried-and-true patterns.
Learning to Respond in an Unexpected Way
So let's return to the example of selling: Sales pros encounter similar problems every day when prospects throw the same old objections at them: "We don't have money for this.... Let me think about it.... Call me in six months." But what if salespeople can learn to respond in an unexpected manner? They can break that bad dialogue and create a useful conversation that is more likely to end in a decision. But first, how did that jump from the world of psychology to the world of business occur?
The bridge between pure psychological counseling and related business applications was built by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, creators of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a technique used in psychotherapy and in organizational change management. Bandler and Grinder studied and then modeled Erickson's techniques. Bandler had some fantastic success experimenting with and testing the pattern interrupt technique on patients in mental hospitals. He decided to find extreme cases of antisocial behavior—people who had spent years institutionalized—and treat these individuals differently than traditionally trained doctors were taught. His results proved both astounding and at times humorous.
In one case, Bandler was called in to help treat a man who thought he was Jesus Christ. Here's a fellow who insisted he was someone he was not, in spite of counselors saying, "C'mon, man, you are not Jesus. What makes you think that?"
Bandler approached the man and asked him if he was Jesus Christ. The patient eyed him suspiciously but eventually replied that he was. Bandler left the room and returned some time later, again asking the man if he really was Jesus Christ.
"Yes, my son, what can I do for you?" was the man's reply. The psychologist left the room again. Soon he returned with two huge beams of wood, twelve-inch nails, and a big hammer.
The man asked, "What is this about?"
Bandler replied, "If you're Jesus Christ, you know what we're here for; we have come to crucify you."
The man looked at the size of the nails and quickly said, "You don't understand. I'm not really the Christ. I'm crazy. I just imagine I'm the Christ."
Pattern interrupt had penetrated a solid wall of defense. In that moment the man with the muddled mind was about to take the first important step in his healing process.
In another case, a patient had been in a catatonic trance for more than six years. Catatonia is a state where the person completely withdraws from the world. This individual had not spoken in six years. He'd wake up each day, dress, eat, and walk into the common area of the clinic where other patients played cards and table tennis, read books, and watched TV. But he would just stand against a wall and stare. All day, every day, the man had no connection with anyone or anything except his food. The man's family would visit and say, "Honey, please, we love you, come back to us." No response. Drugs did not work, nor did electric shock therapy (which, by the way, is still used today).
Then Bandler went to work: He brought in a red gas can filled with water and some nail polish remover (to add a distinct smell). He walked up to the catatonic patient and splashed this "gasoline" all over him.
Bandler stepped back, removed a small cardboard box from his pocket, and began to throw lighted matches at the man. Within moments, the patient exploded into a rage, screaming foul language at this man who was intending to set him on fire!
Wouldn't you do the same?
Again, pattern interrupt had broken down bad behavior and started the individual off on a path of new possibilities.
Applying Psychology in the Sales Environment
Okay, you're thinking, "This is interesting. But how can I use this strategy in my business life?" There are outstanding ways to apply this technique and other new influence strategies, described throughout this book, in every facet of your world—when leading, managing, or even having customer service conversations. For now, let's continue to focus on how to use pattern interrupt in a sales environment.
One of the biggest problems we face as sales professionals is that today's buyers are savvy and they know how to put us off, to get rid of us, by hauling out some standard responses that they've learned work. You know what they are: We're happy with what we have now, or There's no money in the budget; call back in six months—the kind of responses that get the acid sizzling in your stomach and the blood boiling in your brain.
We're done with that, as of right now, today. Let's get started.
Take your six most common objections. Every business has six objections that do the most damage to the salesperson's ability to close. (By the way, you'll get even more powerful and unique objection-handling techniques in Chapter 12.) For each objection, create an unexpected response. In essence, you are saying to the prospect, "I'm not going to play this game with you. It's not fun, and it's costing me income."
Here's an example I used with a money objection when I ran a search firm with a team of fifteen sales professionals:
Prospect: This is a tough time. We don't have money for this right now.
Dan: What floor are you on? (pattern interrupt)
Prospect: Huh? What floor? What do you mean?
Dan: Things are bad, that's rough. I just want to know what floor because when you throw yourself out the window, I'm wondering whether you'll die or just break some bones.
Prospect: Okay, okay. It's not that bad.
Dan: So you are spending money when you feel it's worth the investment?
You see, we're back in selling mode, having broken the pattern that this prospect has used to dump countless salespeople back onto the street.
A few years ago I even built pattern interrupt responses into a sales training program that I designed (actually redesigned to include the latest influence strategies) for a major financial services company. We logged over three dozen objections and I crafted one response that I call "my favorite response to any objection, ever!" The buyers in this case were senior citizens who sometimes said, "I'm too old to buy an annuity." The response: "We have sea turtles older than you as clients."
Say that with a big smile and the message to the prospect is clear: Please stop playing games, let's move on.
Now, you might be thinking, "I can't say something like that!" Well, the fact is, great sales professionals will say and do things that mediocre reps won't. And typical salespeople won't for several reasons:
* They don't have these strategies in their arsenal; they have never heard or experienced them.
* They haven't ever gotten so angry at getting jerked around by buyers that they'll try something different, something gutsy, to overcome that frustration.
* They are simply not serious enough about their sales career to take risks that might generate significant reward.
Funny thing is, all of us have probably used pattern interrupt on people in our personal lives but didn't recognize it as a potent psychological strategy. Have you ever dealt with a child throwing a tantrum (or observed someone else doing so)? When you pulled out a toy and tried to put it in the little one's hands, or pointed to a pretty bird, or cranked up some favorite music, you were using pattern interruption.
You can use pattern interrupt in sales situations, too, and have fun doing it. Decide today to create some unique responses to objections and tell your prospects that you won't play games.
Chapter Two Toward Buyers and Away Buyers
LET'S TALK ABOUT MY BIG BUT ... You're sitting with a good friend and the topic of vacations comes up. She says, "Hey, what's the greatest trip you could ever take, anywhere? Would you fly, drive, cruise on a ship? Picture the location in your mind—what would you do there? What are all the great things you'll do and experience?"
You respond, "I'd go to Tahiti, it's gorgeous!" She shakes her head and says, "Yeah, but it takes ten hours to get there. You'll be exhausted."
"That's okay," you say, "I'll just crash at the beach to catch up on sleep."
"But you'll probably fry in the sun and ruin the rest of the trip."
"I'm not stupid. I'll wear a good sunscreen."
"But you know that stuff is toxic, right? You're burning chemicals into your skin."
"I can buy some natural lotion."
"But do you know how expensive those 'organic' products are?"
And on it goes, as she plays the devil's advocate, protesting and disagreeing with every thought you think, until you want to scream.
How many times have you had just this type of conversation with your prospects? How many of them disagree and just want to talk about their big buts ...?
I first recognized this type of person from an incident in my younger days:
I'm twelve years old and fly into the house after school. "Mom, Dad, guess what I decided today? When I grow up, I'm gonna be a doctor!"
Mom is wonderful, always encouraging me. Her immediate response is, "Honey, that's great! Doctors are so well respected. You'll make good money, have a nice house and a wonderful spouse. I'm delighted you want to be a doctor."
How does Dad respond? "A doctor? A doctor?" he says. "Do you know how much money it costs to become a doctor? A fortune! Do you want to go to school for sixteen more years? And you'll be working with sick people all day. And there's malpractice insurance, and lawsuits, and long, long hours. Are you out of your mind? You want to be a doctor?"
Wow! What a contrast between Mom's and Dad's responses.
Psychologists would say that Dad is exhibiting a "polarity response." He moves away from other people's ideas. While the clinical terminology itself might be new to you, you have probably experienced it from others your whole life.
The real problem in selling is that prospects use the polarity response as well. Here, then, is a critical teaching moment for your sales life:
People either move toward ideas or away from them.
You'll learn how to deal with these prospects shortly. But first, examine your own behavior. Do you exhibit a polarity response to others? Are you always prefacing your responses with comments like "Yeah, but ..." or "What if ...?"? Do you play the devil's advocate? Here's a quick quiz to reveal whether you move toward or away from the ideas of other people. It's also fun to try this set of questions on friends, coworkers, and family members, to further help you to identify these two types of people.
1. A friend describes a new business idea; you immediately:
a. Point out some concerns he should address.
b. Say, "Great! Go for it!"
2. You ask your significant other about buying a new car; your partner responds:
a. I'm not sure; we're talking about $25,000, and big payments.
b. Well, there are a lot of zero percent finance options. Let's check them out.
3. You tell the decision maker, "We can increase the productivity of your staff by 22 percent in sixty days." He replies:
a. I'm not sure that's possible. We've tried a lot of things like this before that didn't work.
b. That sounds impressive. How can you do that?
Where do you see yourself? Do you move toward or away from ideas?
Here's a specific application of the polarity response for salespeople today: Benefits-oriented selling does not work well with prospects who "move away" from your ideas.
One of the problems with pulling out a laundry list of benefits is that it tempts salespeople to talk too much. We hope that by reeling off a long list of goodies, one item might strike a chord and help sell the whole package. Therefore, all too often, benefits-based sellers don't know when to stop. It's like a mechanic saying, "I couldn't fix your brakes, so I made the horn louder."
However, let's look at the value of resistance from the buyer's perspective. It is not a bad thing to move away from ideas. People need to protect themselves from poor decisions. Buyers may feel a strong need to shelter their company's money, reputation, and future. They also want to guard their personal reputation, perhaps even their job, from being jeopardized by a bad decision.
Excerpted from The Secret Language of Influence by DAN SEIDMAN Copyright © 2012 by Dan Seidman. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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