(This blog is a 11th in a 15 part series titled ‘Definitive Guide to Making Killer Sales Presentations’. Sign-up now to be the first to receive the full-fledged guide.)
The day was August 20th 2013, Antoinette Tuff, a woman in her mid-forties, was working in the front office of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga when she suddenly heard assault rifle gunshots from outside her office. The culprit was a mentally disturbed and armed student, Michael Brandon Hill. He had somehow gotten hold of an AK47 and multiple hundreds of bullets. Scared as she was, she called 911.
Here’s part of the transcript:
Dispatcher: OK. Stay on the line with me, ma’am. Where are you?
Tuff: I’m in the front office. (gunshots) Oh, he just went outside and started shooting. (gunshots) Can I run?
Dispatcher: (gunshots) Can you get somewhere safe?
Tuff: Yeah, I got to go. He going to see me running. He coming back.
Hill had just entered the front office where Tuff was working and she was up against the kid with an AK47. He was disturbed and mentioned he wanted to go to the mental hospital as he was not on his medications lately.
Tuff was in a tough situation. But in that moment she did something which serves as a great sales lesson. And she did it without a handbook, without a training. Tuff had to assure Michael that if he decides to give up the gun and go to the hospital, the police outside won’t shoot him. But how do you assure a person in Michael’s state that he is going to be okay and convince him to put the gun down?
Tuff: (to the suspect) She said hold on and she going to talk to the police officer and I’ll go out there with you. Well, don’t feel bad, baby. My husband just left me after 33 years … I mean, I’m sitting here with you and talking to you about it. I got a son that’s multiple disabled … It’s all going to be well. They just going to talk to the police.
Tuff showed her vulnerable side to Michael and tried to make him realise that even she was sailing in the same boat and that she could relate to the pain he was going through.
Tuff: It’s going to be all right, sweetie. I want you to know I love you, OK? I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing you’re giving up and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life. No, you don’t want that. You going to be OK. It’s going to be all right….I thought the same thing, you know, I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me; but look at me now. I’m still working and everything is OK.
She somehow turned that dangerous situation into an emotional one for both of them and cajoled him into giving up his weapons and convincing him that he would be taken to the hospital safely and that no one would shoot him.
It is no secret that humans are emotional beings. Infact it is our emotions which separate our species from the rest of the mammalian world. Emotions helped human species survive by producing quick reactions to threat or rewarding us for a good deed. Humans react well to any kind of emotional stimuli most importantly personal stories, stories which humans can relate to.
Most people think they buy based on logic by carefully analysing all choices available to them against the needs they have but reality is further from this perception. Most people buy based on emotion and then rationalize their decision through logic. Pine and Gilmore in their book ‘The Experience Economy’, make this case that future economies are gravitating towards what they call an experience economy, defined by a main characteristic, that businesses would need to engage with customers in a personal way to be winners of tomorrow and that an emotionally engaged customer is a loyal customer.
According to a 2008 Ipsos Mori study titled, Understanding Customer Relationships, emotionally engaged customers are 3 times more likely to recommend, 3 times more likely to re-purchase, less likely to shop around (about 44% saying they would rarely or never shop around) and less price sensitive (about 33% said they’d need a discount north of 20% to think about shifting vendors).
Below are a few ways in which we can create that personal connection:
Do your homework:
Remember some detail, no matter how small from the customer’s life and casually ask for an update or remark on it next time you meet them. If you know the client’s son graduated last fall, ask them what’re his future plans and if he needed help? If the client loves golf and there was a PGA tour few days back, ask them what they thought of that winning shot or that underdog in the game. People like to feel important and taking an active interest in their life without becoming too intrusive is the best way to show you care about them as a person rather than just their wallet.
Asking deep questions:
Ask deep poignant questions about their problems. Don’t just stick to the superficial questions. Really find what’s bothering them. What’s the core problem? A lot of people use the 5 Whys methodology initially developed by Sakichi Toyoda at the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing capabilities. During this exercise, people find introspecting themselves as to find the underlying issue causing the problem. This is perfectly illustrated from this 5 Whys example from the Wikipedia article:
The vehicle will not start. (the problem)
- Why? – The battery is dead. (first why)
- Why? – The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
- Why? – The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
- Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and not replaced. (fourth why)
- Why? – The vehicle was not maintained according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)
Help them in their personal lives:
Everyone loves an additional helping hand in their daily lives. Why not use that as an opportunity to make a connect? Help that prospect’s daughter get admission or that job she wanted to have or send them invite to that relevant business conference. This not only helps you be perceived in a positive light but also lets you be top of their mind when they do actually need your product or service.
It is okay being vulnerable:
As stated in the above example of Antoinette Tuff, it is quite evident how Tuff was okay being vulnerable in front of a total stranger and that made all the difference. Hill saw her as someone in pain just like her. Showing a little vulnerability gives out this signal to the prospect that you’re an honest person who’s trusting them with their weak points. Don’t we see that in our daily lives? People who trust us with all their heart are easier to trust in return. Trust and vulnerability have a well defined relationship per this study. Make sure the information you share with your prospect reveals some non-obvious fact about you and is relatable to the context of the conversation. If you’ve felt the pain of the customer in some way, great, let them know that you understand how hard it is to find the right product.
Use names while talking:
Addressing people by first names (or last names depending upon the culture you’re in) helps to capture people’s attention and they remember you for longer. No wonder, we’re biologically tuned to hear our and other people’s names.
Body language while talking:
Look in the eyes while you talk to them. People who directly gaze into the other people’s eyes while talking are perceived to be more trustworthy. In a study conducted in 2006, people rated pictures looking directly at them as of more trustworthy people than of pictures of people looking sideways. it also helps to mimic the body language of the prospect. We generally tend to find people who have a similar body language as ours more trustworthy. Read more about this phenomenon here. We would learn more about this in an upcoming blogpost.
Listen intently and intensely:
The worst thing a salesperson can do to their prospect is to show them any signs of ignorance. This stems from not taking genuine interest in what the prospect has to say. We’re so indulged into our own fantasies on closing the sale with our pre-scripted sales pitch that we fall short at the most important step of listening to the prospect first. Hasn’t it happened to all of us that we begin to form a response in our heads even before the person in front of us hasn’t finished speaking? Be very patient. Imagine you’re sitting on the kitchen table talking about the product to an old friend.
People want to put a face to voice or email IDs they’ve been hearing, seeing and even in this internet age, face-to-face remains one of the most effective ways to make a memorable impression on anyone. Email and phone are great for follow-ups but few people will hand over a sizeable check without meeting someone in person. If the client is busy, find a way to meet them. Walk in the park, that sports game, shared meals are a great excuse. They were going to eat anyways. So take that cab, that metro, that plane, that train and make more meetings personal.
People buy from people. Rather, people buy from people they like and can relate to. A prospect should feel the seller is there is create a lasting relationship and is helping prospect buy instead of just trying to constantly sell something.