We all know about Contact Management, CRM, Sales Force Automation – the list of sales automation tools, applications and other tech advancements as defined by “the technology of selling” is endless. I am always amazed that sales managers and business leaders look for ways to improve the sales management process through technology, but not the other way around.  How about utilizing technology and science to improve the actual art of “selling”?

I found it entertaining that when hitting the howstuffworks.com web site, their definition of Customer Relationship Management was the following:

“CRM is a strategy, process and technology that lets your company make the most of every sale by optimizing revenue and getting a better understanding of the customer’s needs.”

Really? Is that useless or what? That’s about as useful as a pogo stick in quicksand.

Neuroscience is now proving what many sales professionals have long suspected: that decision-making, even among top executives, takes place mostly at a “gut” level (check out this article on Inc.com: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/will-science-make-selling-impossible.html)

The Art + Science of Persuasion

As published in Wired Magazine (wired.com), researchers at the University of Michigan found the following key points related to human nature and their response to attempted persuasion by interviewers:

Speed of Your Speech

They found that speaking just a bit faster than normal (about 3.5 words per second) is most effective when it comes to persuading someone to do something. Talking too fast will come across as “salesy” or shady and talking too slowly comes across as dull and boring to the majority of listeners.

Breathe…

Surprisingly, speaking perfectly or making a “perfect performance” doesn’t yield the optimal results.  It’s best to pause approximately every 20 seconds or so. Basically, don’t perform like a computer – be human.

Be Real…and Audio Matters

Don’t go overboard and be that annoying, overhyped newsperson on TV.  Don’t be too excited (even in general) – be real and come across as honest as possible to your potential customer. Interestingly enough, they found that men who varied their pitch were less persuasive than those who didn’t – but the opposite was true for women. For both men and women, a lower pitch or voice tone was slightly more effective when it came to persuasion. Remember that often a sales person is more of a concierge or “parent-figure” than anything else, and the confidence you convey through voice, tone and mannerisms are significant and proven vehicles to maximizing success and outcomes.

Human beings will almost always respond better if they believe what they are buying was their idea.  Work hard at making them feel like their decision to simply consider your product or service was their idea (and often it’s stating the obvious – but state it!). Subtle reminders and reinforcement of the fact that they chose you or your product go a long way.  Sounds a bit like dealing with a child?  Exactly.

Buyers always prefer to buy from trusted people and will often stick with a sales rep regardless of the company they represent. As a manager, it’s important to be aware of the dynamics within your organization and know (as well as manage) the environment as effectively as possible.

Know It Before They Do…

The Internet is major when it comes to selling something – make use of our instant-access, online world by always knowing more than your customers.

  • Research your customer, their online profiles, the companies they work/worked for, etc.
  • Know your competition better than they do.
  • Know your products. This may sound obvious, but you would be amazed at how many sales people know less about their products and services than the potential buyers they are dealing with during the sales process.
  • Make sure you know what the marketing department in your organization is doing, has done and is planning on rolling out. If there’s a divide, take the simple steps of making sure you know what’s out there in terms of your web site, content, social networks, product directories, etc.  Many times what’s on the web site has never been seen or vetted by the sales staff but rest assured your buyers will know what’s on there. This also applies when planning future marketing and lead-generation campaigns, press releases, etc.

The list goes on and on, but be sure to also put a process in place that enforces (as well as tests and measures) how your sales people will carry-out these tasks. Utilize your CRM and other automation tools to enable tactile sharing of what I like to call, “advantage resources and information”.

Go Old School…

It’s easy to forget the oldest tricks in the book such as utilizing mirrors, recording devices, role-playing, etc. in order to take advantage of real-world testing and gather feedback on what your sales people are doing, how they come across and are interpreted by potential customers. Newer technologies make for a natural barrier and often sales people find themselves spending more time on processing and managing than actually selling as well as improving how they sell.  Regardless of how advanced technology becomes, always make sure the tried and true methods of preparation, testing and fine-tuning your art (and science) of persuasion continues to improve.

Of course the obvious technologies such as CRM apps and sales automation solutions are huge when it comes to managing the flow of information (and don’t forget about measurement and tracking – both before, during and often forgotten – AFTER – the deal is closed). But, consider making use of core “technologies” such as scientific facts and trends related to human nature, proven responses and behaviors. Employ scientific testing and measurement, old school approaches such as role-playing to focus on leveraging not only how to best sell and manage your products and services, but also to manage each sales person’s natural behavior to sell and deliver results.

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