Monday, June 4, 2007

Getting a Clue

People use to different types of information for making decisions. I’ll call them primary and secondary clues. I’ve heard them referred to by many different names (Peripheral and Central or Intellectual and Emotional, etc.), based on the branding the author is trying to support. Fundamentally, primary clues are attributes directly attributed to the product, service or idea you are trying get across. Secondary clues are corollary or ancillary attributes of the selling environment. Keep in mind that all of us are sales people. Parents have a monumental task of selling their children on all types of issues. Teachers have one of the hardest selling jobs out there. Anyone with an idea, accountants, engineers, administrative assistants, need to know how to position their idea so that others will accept it. Think of this is terms of getting through life. As a sales professional, it is paramount to maintaining and growing your income. To the rest, it’s a tool to stave of insanity.

The first question that needs to be answered is; does the person you are trying to persuade mentally process information in a secondary or primary fashion. Are they more likely to analyze the facts of your proposal in deciding (primary) or are they more likely to analyze your status, or appearance or some other external issue before deciding (secondary). Most people are some combination, but all people have a preference. Don’t confuse this with personality traits like driver, analytical, expressive or amiable. All of these personality types rely on primary and secondary clues when making decisions. The Vice President of Retail Operations may have driver as their primary personality type, but make decisions based on secondary clues. He or she may very quickly rule you in or out based on appearance, status, or how your proposal will help them personally.

Lets talk about secondary clues first. People who rely on secondary clues for most of their decision-making may need or want a lot of information. But they are less interested in hard-core features and facts than in benefits. This is tough for technical people to grasp. They just think everyone is interested in how things work. Non-technical sales people relate more easily on this level. Physical appearance can be very important to these people. Your appearance provides or detracts from your creditability much the same as your status. It is also important that the person you are persuading must see himself or herself in the solution. If they don’t see themselves as part of the solution, they are less likely to agree. Make statements that include them when presenting. Another great tool to use when presenting to this group is emotional stimulus. Anything that makes them feel positive like excitement, enthusiasm or happiness will make them more inclined toward your presentation. References play well with these folks.

People who prefer primary clues would be as expected almost the opposite. They are more price, process, feature, and fact oriented, wanting to leave the creation of benefits to themselves. The more of an expert the prospect feels they are, the less inclined they are to care about any benefits you mention. Pushing too hard on benefits can turn them off. They want to talk with a highly creditable person. The more creditable you are in presenting numbers, statistics and details the less your appearance or status will play a role. Those of you who are solution sales people might ask, “How do I not present the benefits?” You give them the A=B=C approach. Lead them directly up to the benefit and let them deduce it for themselves. Verify that they have as a safe measure.

Reading your prospect is extremely important for getting to “yes”. Relying too heavily on your own preferences and bias may lose the sale. You might be able to look back on great opportunities that didn’t pan out and immediately see that you took the wrong approach. You were slick and polished and right on, they wanted dry facts. You saw them as an analytical and gave them all the product facts and figures; they wanted to understand the support in detail, the company track record and the benefits of the solution, not the technical aspects of the product.

Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking. - Malcolm Gladwell

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