Sellers aren’t alone in suffering through the impacts of COVID-19: your customers are likely feeling the same pressures and stresses that are plaguing you and keeping you awake at night.

Before you can sell to your customers, you need to understand their mindset and, more importantly, recognize how their mindset affects their decision-making. And you need to avoid the three deadly sins that trigger inaction.

The Rational Decision Maker vs. the Emotional Decision Maker

In normal times, your buying influences—anyone who has a positive or negative impact on your ability to close the deal—are likely to be governed more by rationality than by their emotion.

What do we mean? Think about your buying influence as consisting of two separate decision makers. The first, the rational decision maker, is governed by reason and data, and considers this data in the logical, more deliberate processing areas of the brain. The second, the emotional decision maker, filters information differently and focuses on emotions, which causes them to make decisions in a different way—and often more quickly and impulsively.

Given today’s turbulent times, buyers may frequently toggle between the rational and emotional sides of their brain. As a seller, it’s your job to figure out which decision maker is in charge when you’re speaking with your buyer, so you can deliver the right logic and data that appeals to them.

How will you know whether a buyer is being led by their emotions? Look for scenarios where the customer’s intentions and actions aren’t aligned. You may notice a difference between their tone and their words, or you may sense that they aren’t articulating everything they’re saying based on their body language.

If you discover that you’re talking to the emotional decision maker, the next step is to determine which emotional mindset they’re in.

The Three Emotional Mindsets

The uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic tend to push emotional buyers into one of three mindsets: fight, flight or freeze.

  • Fight: Buyers feel a lot of adrenaline and run toward the threat.
  • Flight: Buyers feel fear and try to outrun the threat.
  • Freeze: Buyers feel numb to the pain of the problem and lose their motivation to act: they become hypervigilant about the personal consequences of making a decision, so it starts to feel as if doing nothing is the right thing to do.

Unless your solution fixes an imminent and probable loss scenario, it’s unlikely that the emotional decision maker will act. So, even if your buyer is suffering from problems that are getting worse and there’s an action they could take that would solve those problems, they’re less likely to act because they can’t think about the future, even if the future results aren’t that far off. And they’re also likely to keep you at arm’s length.

Three Things Never to Try With Reluctant Buyers

When a buyer is stuck, how do you try to get them to engage? Do you offer incentives or discounts? Do you discuss the reasons they should proceed and reiterate the rational benefits of your deal? Or do you wait it out, presuming that the buyer will get in touch when they want to move forward?

The proper way to proceed is to wait until your buyer indicates that they’re ready to proceed. But many sellers try pressuring, prescribing and minimizing tactics—even if they don’t realize they’re using them—which pushes buyers further away.

  1. Pressuring: Sellers shouldn’t put undue pressure on buyers to make decisions or close a deal with deadlines and other threats. Here’s an example: “If you go ahead with the proposal, we’ll apply a 10% discount, but you must commit to the deal by the tenth of the month.”
  2. Prescribing: Sellers should avoid prescribing, or pushing their own ideas and solutions on buyers. Statements that prescribe may sound like this: “If I were you, I would…” or “The way to handle that concern is…”
  3. Minimizing: Sellers who lack empathy may downplay their buyer’s concerns, either by suggesting that they don’t matter or by offering baseless assurances. Don’t say things like this: “I can see us being out of this situation in a couple of months, and, if you move ahead with our deal, you’ll be in a great position to hit the ground running when everyone returns to work.”

How Top Performers Get Through to Emotional Decision Makers

Top sellers know to steer clear of these three deadly sins—but that doesn’t mean that they should ignore their customers. On the contrary, they should keep building their relationships by listening and being authentic. They realize that they can’t solve problems for their buyers, but they can serve as a guide and coach, offering support and asking tough questions that help their buyers share how they feel.

For more tips on how to deal with emotional decision makers during the coronavirus pandemic, check out our webinar, Motivating Customers to Take Action.

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