Making the sale before the end of the month means driving momentum without succumbing to traps like aggressive price-cutting, reducing the scope of the solution or relaxing payment terms. Here, we look at four specific ways professionals can accelerate the sale as the end of the month draws near.
Articulate Status Quo Risk
Every business decision presents a risk. In fact, even the absence of a decision carries risk. When stakeholders choose to not move forward with a solution, they are choosing to support the status quo. This is a problem for customers because the status quo is what led them to seek a solution in the first place. Therefore, deciding to not make a purchase means they are willfully deferring the problem.
Sales professionals must articulate this point to reluctant customers. However, status quo bias is a powerful force because it stems from loss aversion and the endowment effect. Research tells us that loss aversion is our tendency to prefer avoiding a loss more than seeking an equivalent sized gain. The endowment effect shows that most people place a higher value on things they own relative to things they do not own of similar or higher value. These biases are part of our base instincts.
Sales professionals can address these biases by reminding stakeholders that even after making the purchase, there is an implementation period. That is, to capitalise on the solution’s value in the near-term means making a commitment now. Sales professionals must:
- Cite risks associated with inertia
- Underscore the time needed to implement the solution
- Indicate that forward movement is necessary to remain competitive
Use the Framing Effect
The framing effect is a psychological principle asserting that the same person will make two different choices depending on how information is presented. Research from the Journal of General Internal Medicine supports this idea. More than half of the patients studied “chose the medication whose benefits was in relative terms.” Meanwhile, less than 15% chose the medication when practitioners expressed the benefits in absolute terms. What does this mean? It means that patients experienced greater motivation when doctors described the benefits in comparison to another choice. Hearing the benefits without context was less compelling.
Sales professionals can put the framing effect to use by emphasising value in relative terms. Contextualise the solution by clearly articulating how it will benefit the customer in ways that outpace their current performance and the competition. With this approach, sales professionals make more of an effort to connect the solution’s capabilities to the details of the customer’s business. Doing so makes the benefits of the service or product more relatable.
The key is to move beyond products and features and instead help the customer understand how the solution advances them beyond their current position. Sales professionals must:
- Present the value of the solution by comparing it to the customer’s current results
- Help the customer see how the solution will look in the context of their business
- Focus on the presentation of the solution as much as the features and benefits
Use a Structure to Get Specific
As the month ends, sales professionals are short on time and need to get specific when discussing the solution. They must use clear, accessible language that is free of jargon. This clarity is important because technical language and excessive detail burden the customer by forcing them to sort through information to isolate what is salient. Additionally, technical language undermines trust. This finding is clear from research exploring the use of technical vs. ordinary language. Researchers examined how people perceived an author’s credibility. Their results showed that “technical language use negatively affected authors’ integrity and… credibility.”
Delivering clear, simplified messaging means using a three-part framework consisting of the issue, action and value. First, the sales professional must describe the issue at hand, which is the business goal or challenge. Next, they should describe the recommended action to take, which is the solution. Lastly, they must outline the specific business outcomes to be expected from that action. Using this issue, action, value approach works because it keeps the sales professional anchored to a simplified approach, and it meets the customer’s need for linear reasoning.
Researchers writing for Harvard Business Review observe that “the most important attribute of a customer value proposition is its precision: how perfectly it nails the customer job to be done — and nothing else.” Communicating this precision requires the issue, action, value approach. Sales professionals must:
- Discuss only what is salient to the customer
- Avoid excessive details, jargon or technical language
- Commit to the issue, action, value approach to messaging
Use Reflection Questions
A stalling deal may signify that the customer has lost their focus on the solution. Sales professionals can bring them back to the conversation with reflection questions. A reflection question is designed to get the customer to think about the solution relative to their business needs. There are five categories of reflection questions:
Reactions: What are your thoughts on this approach?
Relevance: How does this solution affect your business?
Viability: How does this solution fit into your business model?
Value vs. Risk: What would be the value of this to your business?
Reservations: What hesitations do you have with this solution?
Reflection questions do more than bring the customer back to the sale. They are also an opportunity for sales professionals to check that the solution capabilities resonate with the customer’s needs. Moreover, these questions might reveal why momentum has stalled. The customer’s answer may in fact surface previously unknown hurdles that the customer believes they cannot overcome. As a result, sales professionals may become aware of faulty assumptions that may have misdirected their approach to the sale. Sales professionals:
- Bring customers back into the conversation with a question
- Consider how the customer’s answer might reveal why momentum has stalled
- Understand if they have been working under faulty assumptions