In the last issue, we discussed how to determine your customer’s budget as the second step of our “NaB & CaPTuRe” roadmap: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.
The Commitment Step
In this critical step, you actually close the sale before making a presentation, by aligning your product or service with those criteria to which your customer is already committed. In the automobile industry it’s said that only 50% of the cars are sold. The other half are bought.
As often as not, your prospects have already decided to buy, before you get to talk to them. Car buyers are much more likely to be influenced by experience, friends, or media than by a salesperson.
A couple looking at a potential venue for their wedding reception has already committed to marrying each other. If they’ve also set the date and decided how many guests they will have, then you know they are ready to buy. Ask about other elements of their plans.
“Who have you arranged to do the catering?”
“Where will you hold the formal ceremony?”
“What transportation will you use from the church to the reception?”
“Will you want help with the decorating?”
The more complete their picture, the deeper their commitment. So, for example, if the ceremony is being conducted at the church just up the street, you can emphasize the advantage of your location. “This will give your family a short, easy trip from the church.” If you know they’ve ordered an elaborate, expensive cake, you can emphasize the posh surrounding of your hotel. “Everyone will be impressed when you invite them into our lovely gardens.”
The prospect will also have a set of physical specifications that the product or service must meet, in order to be satisfied. As in “it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” or “I’m looking for a dress in a size seven.” The guerrilla listens for these criteria words and notes them throughout the interview. Ask:
“What are you using now?”
“What do you like most about it?”
“What do you like least about it?”
These answers tell you what they want to keep, and what they want to change. Concentrate on those issues, and safely ignore everything else, because people do things for their reasons, not yours. You may have a hundred good reasons why they should buy this particular mountain home; price, location, good roads, rapid appreciation, close to schools, shops, recreation, and you know what? They couldn’t care less. No matter how good your reasons may be, ultimately, their reasons will prevail.
Other criteria may be introduced as the conversation continues, but the guerrilla concentrates only on those priority words and criteria words isolated by the prospect.
It’s also useful to isolate the mental and physical steps your prospect follows when making a decision. People have a mental roadmap that they follow when making decisions. This strategy is unique to each prospect, but they tend to use the same strategy whenever they make a buying decision. The question that you can use to elicit their roadmap is to ask, “How did you decide . . .?” For example, a real estate agent might ask, “How did you decide to buy the house where you live now?” then listen carefully to their explanation.
“First we narrowed the search to a particular neighborhood where we wanted to live, then we checked all the listings, marking each address on a map. Then we looked at each house until we found the one that felt right.”
This answer reveals not only the criteria, but the roadmap of their house-buying strategy. If you lead them through the same progression, it makes it easy for them to buy from you. Start by “narrowing down” to the particular neighborhoods they liked best, then pull out a map, and start “marking.” Like a familiar chair, following their roadmap puts you in the selling “groove”. Besides, they’re going to buy the house their way, anyway. If not from you, then from someone who makes them feel more comfortable. So you might as well match their strategy. Listen for the sequence of the process they follow when making a similar decision, and then systematically structure your case using the same progression.
Is That Clear?
Sometimes the customer doesn’t really know what they want. Let’s take the case of a copier salesperson. If you ask the question, “What do you want in a copier?” and the response you get is something like, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure,” there are additional things you can do to get to their criteria. You can ask, “What are you using now? What do you like most about that?” or “What’s the exact problem you’re trying to solve?”
“We are using an HP LaserJet.”
“What do you like most about your LaserJet?” he asked, repeating the prospect’s criteria words.
“It’s inexpensive to operate, and the copies are crisp and clear.”
“What do you like least about your LaserJet?”
“It’s too slow, and it wasn’t able to print collated and stapled documents.”
Now we’re getting criteria language: inexpensive, crisp, clear, (visual cues, you’ll notice) as well as the functional need for automatic collating and stapling. If you can show her that your copier will do it more quickly, collate and staple documents, and still reduce their operating cost, she’s going to lease the copier. And she really doesn’t care how many pixels of resolution it has, or how many reams of paper the bins will store, or what its internal drum speed is, so long as they get “collated, stapled copies that are crisp and clear.” This decision will hinge primarily on these five factors. You can ignore the rest, (at least for now) because. These five words are the keys to unlocking their sub-conscious mind.
Remember, priorities, criteria words and roadmaps are often unique to the context in which they’re used. The way your prospect makes decisions about buying office supplies may be very different from what they look for when shopping for a car.
Some additional questions for isolating criteria include:
“What is your main objective?”
“What are you doing to deal with that situation?”
“What are your plans for the future?”
“How do you plan to get it done?”
“Can you tell me more about that?”
“Is there a deadline?”
The answers to these questions will provide the performance specifications for your proposal. Whatever else this product may have going for it, must satisfy these physical criteria. Now present your product using the same criteria words, and follow their roadmap directly to the sale.
In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of the steps of “NaB & CaPTuRe” in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales. This article was originally published in Marketing Africa magazine.