In the fast-moving, short-sprint sales cycle, your sellers have precious little time to “run a process.” You need to motivate buyers to act quickly while fully articulating a differentiated value proposition.
Unfortunately, most B2B enterprise organizations don’t provide the tools or skills their sellers need to win the one- or two-call close.
Why? Because those companies often try to modify and reuse their complex sales processes, strategic selling programs, multi-step opportunity management templates, and consultative trusted-advisor skills training.
But those programs – designed for long, complex sales cycles – aren’t optimized for fast-moving, high-volume B2B sales. Your high-velocity sellers don’t have time for a traditional discovery and qualification process. Transactional buyers don’t want to hear about every irrelevant capability you have. And a drawn-out opportunity management process will only add unnecessary drag to the deal – slowing it down or stalling it completely.
High-velocity sales conversations require a distinct set of persuasive selling techniques that facilitate faster, more favorable buying decisions.
But before digging into these techniques, you first need to understand a foundational psychological concept that defines how your buyers frame value and make decisions: status quo bias.
Your prospects’ brains are naturally inclined to resist change – all other things being equal, they’d prefer to stick with their status quo. That’s why so many qualified opportunities end up in “no decision.” Before you can get a prospect to accept your value proposition, you must first show them why they need to do something different in the first place.
Here are four scientifically tested techniques to disrupt your prospect’s status quo bias and predispose them to choose your solution:
Diagnostic questions and “voice of the customer” surveys are good ideas, in theory. But when you base your messages on your buyer’s stated needs, you end up delivering commoditized messages that won’t differentiate you.
Why? Because all your competitors are using the same inputs from their prospects and customers. And you’ll be responding with similar capabilities to meet those identified needs.
The result is a commoditized conversation. Because prospects hear very similar things from you and your competitors, they see no contrast between their choices. They also tend to stick with the status quo because they see no urgency to change.
To avoid commoditized conversations and amp up the urgency to change, you need to venture beyond known problems and stated needs and introduce your prospects to their unconsidered needs.
Unconsidered needs are challenges, shortcomings, or missed opportunities your prospect isn’t aware of or doesn’t think are urgent enough to solve, but are nonetheless holding them back from their critical business goals.
In fact, behavioral research from B2B DecisionLabs found that leading with an unconsidered need gives sellers a statistically significant advantage compared to traditional techniques.
In well-defined categories, many companies can solve the same problems with similar capabilities and pricing. And if buyers can’t distinguish you from your competition, you look like just one more choice among many viable options.
To gain an edge, you need to articulate your value quickly and effectively. If you don’t, your prospects won’t see the difference, won’t value your capabilities, and won’t be motivated to buy.
But what does “articulating value” really look like?
One way to articulate value is to tell stories with contrast. Contrast adds an emotional element to your message that’s far more powerful than relying on numbers alone.
Numbers are helpful, but they aren’t enough to sway your buyer on an emotional level. You also need to help them visualize the gap between before and after your solution and remind them how much pain they can avoid by choosing you.
Your value lies in the contrast. The greater the contrast between the “before” state and “after” state in your story, the more willing your buyer will be to buy, renew, and grow the relationship.
To keep people’s attention and focus when presenting your insights, you need to move away from a one-way monologue and skillfully create a two-way dialogue. But interrogating your prospect with a barrage of “discovery” questions can backfire and quickly shut down an otherwise promising opportunity.
There’s another approach. Behavioral and neuroscience research studies from B2B DecisionLabs have found that presenting an insight before asking a question can improve your persuasive power.
When provoking this kind of dialogue, however, you need to follow a precise choreography: Data, Insight, Question (DIQ).
Start your dialogue with a piece of data that’s related to an external factor that’s important to your buyer’s business.
Turn that data into an insight by placing that information in the context of your buyer’s business and current situation.
Then, and only then, do you ask a question that will provoke a dialogue. This transfers ownership of the insight and initiates the process of self-persuasion.
Data is just information unless it’s accompanied by a relevant and provocative insight. And the best insights demonstrate an inconsistency or uncertainty with the buyer’s current situation. They encourage your buyers to think differently about how they’re doing things and prime their brains to be more receptive to your solution.
When you prompt your buyer with a question after sharing a provocative insight (and not before), their brain starts connecting the insight to their situation. They take ownership of the challenge and initiate the process of self-persuasion.
Use this DIQ framework to create a more compelling dialogue about the information you’re sharing, rather than just a one-way monologue. Doing so will keep your audience engaged and help make your message more persuasive and memorable.
Your prospects will anchor on the first number they hear during pricing conversations.
Where does that anchor come from? If you’re messaging right – you.
When you make the first offer, you set a reference point for your buyer. You’ll have more influence on their perception of your value, and they’ll be more likely to pay more.
It works because of a cognitive bias known as the “anchoring effect,” which causes people to rely heavily on the first piece of information they receive. When you’re faced with a decision that involves some uncertainty, you’ll naturally anchor on a reference point and ascribe value based on that.
Anchoring works even when you know you’re being anchored. People’s brains can’t help but take that mental shortcut.
Of course, there are limits to what your customer will believe is reasonable and credible. The distance between an unreasonably high price and an unreasonably low price is called the “range of reason.”
In any pricing conversation, you want to start with the highest reasonable, credible offer within the range of reason. Doing so will set a high anchor that you can reasonably defend to your customer before they try and negotiate down.
In short-sprint sales cycles, you might feel pressured to shortcut emotional appeal and rush to close the deal.
These sales happen at a high velocity, but speed doesn’t trump patience and skill. You still need to know when and how to frame your solution’s value in a way that appeals to your buyers’ motivations in the moment.
Get our e-book, High-Velocity Selling, to learn more research-backed concepts and tactics to drive urgency and action in short-sprint sales cycles.
Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer at Corporate Visions, is dedicated to helping companies improve their conversations with prospects and customers to win more business. Riesterer is co-author of four books, including Customer Message Management, Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, The Three Value Conversations, and The Expansion Sale.