When I conduct training about opening the sale or assessing a prospect’s needs, I emphasize how important it is to make the conversation about the buyer. Oftentimes, sellers are skeptical. They fear this could be a waste of time, and it’s far more comfortable for sellers to talk about their products. In response, I assure them that we all love to talk about ourselves and each of us is our own favorite topic of conversation.
When We Talk About Ourselves
Once (surprisingly, only once), a sales rep asked me what I was basing my statement on. I polled the class and nearly everyone there admitted that they do, indeed, love to talk about themselves. But now, thanks to an article in the Wall Street Journal, I have a better method of proving this. Research reported in this article revealed the following:
- Talking about ourselves triggers the same pleasure in the brain as food, money or sex.
- People actually gave up money for the opportunity to talk about themselves.
- Self-disclosure is especially pleasurable, according to brain imaging.
- People place the highest value on opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings.
- Casual topics like hobbies also increased blood flow in the brain, indicating pleasure.
My own unscientific observations also suggest that we like people who let us talk about ourselves. We especially like the ones who show interest in what we’ve said. We seek out those people who listen and we look for places to broadcast our thoughts and feelings (think Facebook, blogs, support groups…).
With or without the research, we all know this already. So why is it so difficult for sellers to yield the floor and let the buyer talk? Why are most sellers more focused on presenting than they are listening?
I suspect that there are two primary forces working against the seller
The first is our own adrenaline. The same adrenaline that fuels us and heightens our senses in a selling situation also carries us away if we don’t keep it in check. We talk more and faster when we’re nervous, racing through our sales pitch and product features. We also get self-absorbed when the adrenaline is coursing through our bloodstreams – it’s a physiological response of self-preservation, automatic, and hard to control. That self-focus causes us to miss buying signals and other cues from the customer.
The second force to reckon with is the incessant ticking of the clock. Time has become an increasingly precious commodity. Sellers are expected to be in meetings and in front of customers and multi-tasking every minute of the work day (and beyond). They have more reports and tracking to do than ever before. They have KPIs and dashboards and forecasts to complete. They sell, service, entertain, research, and woo their clients at a time when empowered buyers have more options and less loyalty than ever before. All this time pressure amps up the adrenaline because every meeting is more critical and more hurried than it’s been in the past. The seller is juggling his or her own time pressures while also having to deal with the buyer’s time pressures, too.
Between these two forces, it’s no wonder that sellers take what seems to be the most efficient route to selling – just make the pitch and move on.
But there’s a better way. The better way defuses the buyer’s concerns about time. The better way eases the adrenaline rush and puts the seller in control. The better way enables buyers and sellers to connect and engage in satisfying transactions that turn into mutually beneficial long-term relationships. The better way dignifies the buyer, showing respect many sellers fail to give.
The better way is to get people talking about themselves. It may take a little more time, but it will be time that is wisely invested. You may not get to call on as many people, but your closing ratio will improve. That’s called working smarter, not harder. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but working through that discomfort will transform the way you sell and make you much more effective.
How do you get people talking about themselves? There are five steps, and each of them is essential. Trying to shortcut or skip ahead will mean that your time investment has a lower yield than it otherwise would. In order, these steps will get people talking about topics they love and information you need.
- Do your homework. Learn about the prospect, the person you’re calling on, and the potential needs of both the business and the individual. This makes your questions (step 3) more relevant and expedites the process. It will also keep you from making limiting assumptions based on past history or your own perspective.
- Start the conversation by explaining your intention. Say something like “I want to learn more about you and your goals so I can be sure any solutions I offer are the best fit for you. I have several questions to help me get better acquainted with your needs.”
- Ask great questions that show your genuine interest and help you get connected. Don’t use canned questions and overused standbys. Ask follow-up questions that demonstrate curiosity and show that you’re paying attention to what’s being said and how it’s being said. Keep in conversational. If you need to work on your question-asking skills, be sure to read DISCOVER Questions™ Get You Connected.
- Listen. Don’t put on the “listening look” and head bob while you think of clever responses. Instead, just listen. Take notes if it helps you stay focused or if key information is being shared. Work on developing exceptional active listening skills.
- Be strategic in steering the conversation. Your questions and follow-ups keep you in control so you can solicit actionable information to later present a spot-on solution. Don’t waste time with a fishing expedition. Plan ahead and engage to both hear the customer and steer the customer.
This is truly a win/win. You get information that turns into a compelling solution and you manage your adrenaline rush so you can be clear-headed during the call. Your buyers feel dignified and experience physical and emotional pleasure by talking about themselves. You’ve got to give this a try!
This blog post was originally published on March 17, 2012 and has now been selected for the CONNECT! Community’s series on dignifying others. As a seller, it’s absolutely essential for you to dignify your buyers. We’ll help you do that when you tune in to CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals, read DISCOVER Questions Get You Connected or participate in CONNECT2Sell Training programs. Be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Sell Blog for weekly tips and techniques that will help you become the one seller buyers actually want to talk to.