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How to Uncomplicate the Conversation when Prospecting

using storytelling in sales conversations

ben-taylor10 May 2018Blog

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Simple is smarter — ask NASA.

In 2012, the International Space Station malfunctioned when a power supply component failed. One astronaut attempted to replace the damaged unit using specialised tools. But, metal shavings on the bolts made the job impossible.

Then, they made a second attempt with a much simpler tool: a toothbrush. The bristles cleaned the bolts and saved a $100 billion piece of equipment. Simple is smarter.

Sales professionals today use an array of sophisticated prospecting tools. These resources can distract from the value of a simplified approach. Here, we look at three ways sales professionals can uncomplicate the conversation when prospecting. The result is a faster connection with the customer.

Simplify Your Message

The initial call to a customer is time-sensitive, and they are not likely to stay on the line for long. Avoid exhaustive explanations that undercut the effectiveness of your message. Sales professionals should consider the power of the “affect heuristic.” The affect heuristic tells us that people make quick assessments based on mood rather than analysis.

A researcher in The Journal of Behavioural Decision Making explains that “people rely on affect when judging.” Therefore, choose words that encourage the customer to develop a positive “gut feeling.” Sales professionals should focus their message on positivity. The customer will identify them and their capabilities as beneficial rather than risky. Lead with industry-specific benefits. “Affect is a strong conditioner of preference,” conclude the researchers.

These findings make intuitive sense. The customer has no time to be analytical during a brief call. Even the most rational customers rely on “heuristics.” These are mental shortcuts. Heuristics help us arrive at a conclusion based on immediately available information.

Unfortunately, sales professional cannot describe much product information in a single call. Detailed explanations complicate the issue, forcing the customer to understand the meaning of the data in a few seconds. Therefore, the focus of the initial call should be on setting the tone. This approach considers the affect heuristic.

Offer an Example

Customers need to see that the solution has credibility. Prove credibility by illustrating that others have seen success with the solution. Offering a real-world example of a solution’s effectiveness is an example of “normative messaging.”

Research shows that normative messaging has been effective in shaping behaviour. “Communications that activate social norms can be effective in producing societally beneficial conduct,” explains the literature. Earn the customer’s interest. Show how others have adopted the solution with successful results.

Examples like this help the customer visualise the solution at work in their world. Sharing examples also shows how you’re tuned in to outcomes. Customers today want more than a one-time fix. Customers need a long-term solution. Sharing success stories illustrates that you can provide meaningful outcomes consistently.

Find a Common Point

The biggest challenge today is helping their customers overcome the status quo. Some call this complacency “active inertia,” applying old, irrelevant strategies to new problems. This tendency creates a challenge for sales professionals. Relying on old solutions can overshadow the effectiveness of a new solution. Lifting a customer out of active inertia means forming a “hinge.”

A hinge is a point of connection. Examples include the name of a referral; a recent, relevant news story; or a shared experience. If none of these examples apply, a sales professional can form a hinge. They can articulate a current and relevant industry issue. It can even be a pain point so long as the takeaway is positive.

A hinge is a powerful tool for “warming” up cold calls. After all, an unexpected voice from an unknown source is off-putting. Commonality means the customer will feel less distance from the sales professional. This approach builds credibility, a key step in overcoming active inertia. If the customer is going to explore a new solution, they need to know that they’ve got an ally in the battle.

A connection in the sales dialogue offers a faster, deeper connection. This connection matters because the purchasing process is exhausting for the customer. Consider that “a B2B customer will regularly use six different interaction channels throughout the purchase process,” as reported by McKinsey.


There’s nothing simple about creating simplicity. Clear messaging, relevant examples, and commonality all take time to develop. It’s time well spent because simplicity cuts through the noise.

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