In our last blog, we talked about how sellers can address emotional decision makers and those who are stuck in a fight, flight or freeze mode without resorting to what we call the three deadly sins. Today, we’ll address four steps to lead buyers away from decisions fueled by rationality rather than emotion.
We’ll start by discussing the four modes where you’re likely to find your buying influences.
The Four Modes of Buying Influences
When facing a buying decision, buying influences tend to be in one of four modes.
- Trouble: The buyer recognizes that they need help, so their probability to move forward is high.
- Growth: The buyer is looking to improve, so their probability to take action is high.
- Even keel: The buyer is satisfied with the status quo and sees little need to rock the boat, so their probability to act is low.
- Overconfident: The buyer feels invincible and thinks they know everything, so there is little probability they’ll do anything.
During COVID-19, it’s likely that many buying influences are in one of two modes. They may be in the trouble mode and feel anxious to act. Or they may be in the even-keeled mode and be reluctant to act, because they don’t want to add any more variables to their already uncertain environment.
If you’re dealing with an emotional decision maker and can assess which mode and mindset (fight, flight or freeze) your buying influence is in, and they seem favorable to moving the deal forward, try to engage them in an empathic conversation. Here’s how.
Engage Emotional Decision Makers With These Four Steps
This four-step framework is designed to open the emotional decision-maker to productive conversations that will strengthen your relationship.
1. Create headspace.
Ensure you’ve established a safe space for the discussion that you want to have. Before talking business, focus on building a personal rapport with the person: ask them how they are and how the crisis has affected them.
Then, you’ll need to transition into the business topic—but without creating tension and while keeping the conversation customer-centric. One question that opens the discussion in a less threatening way is this: “I’d like to float an idea that could help you and the business in a way that might surprise you. Do you have the headspace to talk about this?” This question invites engagement, because the buying influence can’t form an opinion about your idea until they hear what you have to say. It includes a question asking permission to engage: if customers respond favorably to this question, it’s likely that they’ll want to be congruent with their statement and will actively consider what you’re about to say.
2. Invite fear, uncertainties and doubt.
After you have shared your thought leadership and moved the deal forward, it’s time to talk about what we term “undiscussables.” Here, we’re talking about the concerns that your customers may have if they make a wrong decision in this time; they may worry that others will think they’re making a mistake.
It may seem counterintuitive to welcome these potentially negative topics into your conversation, but it’s critical to understand your buying influence’s risks and concerns. Although you might ordinarily avoid asking about what might go wrong, it’s important to understand what the emotional cost might be for your buying influence if they take action.
Try questions like these to invite the undiscussables:
- What risks do you perceive?
- Even though we’re just floating this idea, what could worry you about this?
- What could be the cost of doing something here?
- How do you feel about that?
- Can you see yourself doing this?
3. Build Bridges From Emotional to Rational Thinking
Next, invite your buying influence to discuss how they’re thinking about the decision-making process. To do this, it’s essential to build a bridge for the buying influence to transition from talking about their emotions, fears, uncertainties and doubts to possibilities.
Avoid asking for an opinion or a decision: your objective is to get your buyers thinking about their decision-making process. As you ask the questions that follow, make sure you’re asking with the intent of offering support for them through their process.
Ask questions such as these:
- How do you compare the cost of the problem with the cost of doing something?
- What’s the tipping point that would mean it was time to do something?
- How will you decide whether to do something?
4. Align Actions to Values
In this final step, make statements that align the next steps with the values that your buyer has articulated. Build on the conversations you’ve had thus far, and use what’s most meaningful to them as you reflect their thoughts back to them.
To guide the conversation, use phrases like these:
- That would also mean you (avoided a problem or maximized a solution)…
- That also aligns with what you’re doing…
- That makes sense, because as you said before…
Final Tips for Sales Conversations With Emotional Decision Makers
In every interaction with your buyers, your goal should be to speak with empathy and congruence and to help your emotional decision maker relax. Before the conversation, release any tension and stress that you’re holding on to about the situation. Dial up your intention to serve your buyer, and make sure that you are focused on them, not yourself. And be prepared to actively listen: you can’t solve their problems for them, but you can be authentic and honest and act as their coach, which will position you to move forward, together, in the future.
To get more tips for handling challenging conversations with buyers who may be reluctant to act during the COVID-19 pandemic, watch our webinar on Motivating Customers to Take Action.