“Marketers don’t make average stuff for average people. Marketers make change. And they do this by normalizing new behavior.”
Seth Godin, This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn To See
Whatever side of the sales or marketing coin you work on, when you boil it all down, you are an agent of change. If prospects to change, you win. If they stick with the status quo, you loose.
As sales and marketing professionals our biggest enemy is the status quo. You are an agent of change. It doesn’t matter if you sell financial services, technology solutions, or the latest widget. If you can’t affect change, you will not win.
Here’s the problem: people hate change. The status quo is comfortable. Change is risky. Even if there is some potential savings or benefit involved, the risk of change creates inertia that is nearly impossible to break.
So, how do you affect change? Here are a few ideas.
Understand the Problem Beneath the Problem
People have all kinds of motivations. In the best-seller, StoryBrand, Donald Miller makes the case that every buyer’s problem exists on three levels. There is the actual problem. But beneath that, there is an internal problem that is much more compelling. In some cases, there is even a philosophical issue beneath the internal problem. If we only consider the actual problem, we miss out on the real motivation to change (or not change).
For example, let’s consider an office manager tasked with buying new technology. Option one is to stick with the status quo and get the newer model from her current vendor. Option two is to make a change to your company. Staying with the current vendor reduces risk. While they may be mediocre, they are a known factor. Changing to your company might involve getting better technology, such as a solution to improve productivity along with her equipment. But this creates risk. While your brochures and website say you’re great, everyone says that. To the office manager, you’re an unknown and that’s a risk.
The key to generating enough momentum to affect change is to understand her real issue–the internal problem beneath the external problem.
Her external problem: “My equipment lease is expiring.” Beneath that, her internal problem might be: “I’m new and want to look good in the office and I think several people don’t trust me. I don’t want to mess up my reputation and career.” Go one more layer deep and you might discover she also has a philosophical issue: “I think that people should work more efficiently, but it seems like new technology creates such a hassle.”
If you want to market and sell to this person, you better understand her internal problem and philosophical issue.
In sales-speak, this is like getting to the final objection. Otherwise, your chance of affecting change is limited. The more you can see and understand internal problems and philosophical issues, the greater your chance to affect change.
Normalize the Future State
People like to do what other people are doing. The his landmark research presented in Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore proves that about 70% of buyers are mainstream buyers. They don’t like being first. They want to do things that other people are doing. This reduces their risk.
You can normalize the future state by presenting real-world stories of other mainstream buyers enjoying the benefits of the change they bought from you. If you are a marketer, you create case studies and put them everywhere. If you are a sales rep, you tell stories throughout the sales process.
Real-world stories help normalize the change you propose, making it seem like a safe and smart decision.
Make a list of every client that has already adopted the change you want to sell. If this is a new offering for you, the list may be short. Take them to lunch and interview them. Ask them why they bought and how it is benefiting them. Now you have a story to tell that helps normalize the future state.
Great leaders cast vision. This paves the way for organizational change. Great sales professionals also cast vision. In the book, Stop Selling, Start Leading, Deb Calvert, James Kouzes, and Barry Posner make the case that great sales reps exhibit the same characteristics as great leaders.
Twenty years ago, I went to a church leadership training led by Ray Williams. He said that leaders need to have “A clear vision, of a preferable future, imparted by God, to a willing servant.” Great advice. The vision you cast in business may not need spiritual direction. But as a sales professional, you need to share a clear vision of the preferable future.
What will life look like for your prospect when they get the courage to make the change? Share this with the heart of servant and you have a great chance of winning the deal. (Read Larry Levine’s blog: A Heart That Serves: 3 Ways A Servant Mindset Drives Sales Revenue.)
Reverse The Risk
The last thing you can do to affect change is to reverse risk. In my favorite marketing book, Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, Jay Abraham advocates for every business to consider how they can take as much risk out of the transaction as possible.
Consider the office manager thinking about adopting your new technology instead of sticking with the status quo. The risk is that the solution you implement won’t work or won’t get adopted. In that case, not only has she made a bad decision for the company, she’s also hurt her career–remember her internal problem. Even worse, she’s violated her philosophical issue about technology shouldn’t be so complicated. She’s now in a real pickle!
A risk reversal that could make her comfortable might be to say, “We’re confident that this change is going to be a great move for you and for the company. Based on our previous installations we believe your people are going to find it easy to use and that it makes their work easier. However, we realize that there may be concern that this might not work in your organization. To reduce that risk, we’re happy to offer a no risk guarantee. If your staff doesn’t like it, we’ll take it out and return your money.”
Consider the risks that you are asking your client to take. Can you reverse some or all of their risk? If so, you’ll help them change.
As a sales or marketing professional, you are an agent of change. What can you do to understand your buyer’s internal problems, normalize the future state, and reduce the risk? Steps you take in this direction will help you win more deals and change the world!