We all know that customers aren’t rational. They prove it every day. And yet we insist on selling to them as if they were perfectly logical creatures. We carefully present features. We relate those features to benefits. We convert those benefits into reasons to buy. Like lawyers presenting to a jury, we build our case step by step.
And when they ignore our logic, we become a little irrational ourselves. We wonder how someone with such sloppy thinking skills ever got as far as they did in the world.
Don’t be too quick to judge.
“Irrational” decisions, made deep in the unconscious, can be remarkably perceptive. In one experiment involving card games, for example, people instinctively avoided a deck that was stacked against them – even when they had no conscious knowledge that the game was fixed.
If you can’t beat ’em …
Researchers have found that about 95% of decision making occurs before logic and reason kick in. Conscious thinking is used to justify decisions that are already made. Rather than appealing solely to the 5% of the brain that uses rational thinking, consider how to reach buyers on this deeper, unconscious level. Here are some strategies to consider, based on scientific studies of brain function:
Use emotion first, then logic
Many salespeople sidestep emotional issues when they sell, as if there’s something unprofessional about acknowledging customers’ feelings.
In fact, emotion is central to a customer’s decision-making process. And not just when you’re selling chocolates or perfume. So don’t offer “reasons why” to a buyer until you’ve addressed the emotional side of the sale.
One chemical manufacturer, for example, couldn’t understand why purchasing agents paid more for a competitor’s commodity product. At first, purchasers offered a logical reason: They didn’t want to get stuck with a single source. Deeper probing found another reason: They felt important when they bought from the competitor. That feeling was worth the price.
You don’t have to be a therapist to get at customers’ feelings. A little prompting usually does it: “Was that frustrating?” Or, “You must have been relieved.”
Paint a picture
Research shows that we don’t just think in words. We think in terms of sounds, smells, tactile sensations and – most often – visuals.
The images you choose to share with customers will guide their thinking.
For example, information on a computer is organized into “folders” and “files,” all placed on a “desktop.” These are business images, so we think of computers primarily as business tools. If we organized the information into “rooms” and “furniture,” we’d think differently about computers.
You’re walking through the woods. Something darts across the path. By the time your rational mind figures out it’s just a chipmunk, you’ve already jumped back.
When faced with the unexpected, the unconscious mind reacts before the conscious mind can filter it. If you sense the buyer is being guarded, try this: Stop abruptly in the middle of a presentation and say: “I get the feeling there’s something else on your mind. Am I right?”
In other words, be the chipmunk. Catch your customers off guard to bring unconscious thinking out in the open.
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