“The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.” – Peter Drucker
To undo a first impression takes a lot of work. Every day we operate on mental shortcuts. We decide. Then we think. We make conclusions based on what we perceive, and then we rationalize to justify our decision.
If this is how people operate, then they will largely buy based on perception rather than convinced through a sales argument. If you are having to convince someone through selling, you are fighting an uphill battle. The reason you are having to sell so hard is either because of a lack of trust or perceived value.
You As The Customer:
Your customer puts up defenses when they feel like they are being sold. The same is true for you. When someone tries to convince you to buy a new TV, a new car or a new computer, the burden is on them to overcome your reluctance and tension.
However, when you want something, you buy. You are leading the discussion and the temperature of the conversation completely shifts. You ask buying questions. You are looking to rationalize your decision to buy. The salesperson is now reacting rather than driving you.
If you are in a buying conversation rather than a selling conversation, it is because there has been effective positioning. The brand, product, service or company is well-positioned in your mind as the following:
Credible: You believe what you want from the company will bring value and will deliver in your life and business.
Desirable: The pain of not having what is being offered is higher than the pain of the cost in purchasing.
Pleasurable: Buying from this company rather than their competitor will deliver an experience which you will enjoy.
You As The Seller:
If your offering is positioned in the mind of the customer in these ways, then the customer is coming to buy what you have to offer.
Think about a repeat customer. Why is it that you are not having to sell them again on more business? It is because they have experienced your offering, and you are already positioned in their mind as credible, desirable and pleasurable to do business with. They have already decided. The state of mind the customer is in comes from firsthand experience.
If the customer does not have firsthand experience, they must experience your company, offering and brand through their senses and through a carefully designed buying process. Your messaging and perception must speak to how they feel about you, how they feel about themselves doing business with you, and how others feel about you.
How They Feel About You
If you met a new person at a social gathering your eyes would judge far faster than your ears. As you walk up to the stranger, you notice how she is dressed, groomed, walking, smiling, and conducting herself. As you engage her, you listen to her manner of speaking, her tone and her gestures. Perhaps you identify her dialect and pinpoint her to a part of the country.
Where she is from, where she lives, what kind of job she has, the car she drives, the school she went to and a myriad of other data points build a profile for you. You categorize her in your mind. This is your starting point. It is what contributes to how you will respect her, engage her or feel about her.
If Oprah Winfrey came to your door asking you to donate to a cause she is sponsoring, you are exponentially more compliant than if a stranger came to your door. Oprah is already positioned as a celebrity and icon in your mind. The stranger is not. Oprah is not selling. You are buying.
The truth is, we do not know Oprah personally or intimately. However, we feel like we do know her and what she is about. It is what Machiavelli stated,
“Everyone sees what you appear to be. Few really know what you are.”
Much of our decision making and life is based on what appears to be rather than what is. Your buyer is making decisions the same way. If you are not stellar in the business “appearance” category, then you are having to work very hard in conversation and up close to position yourself in their mind to overcome their built-in reluctance to buy.
Why Referrals Work
Most business gained is by referral. With so many choices, we rely on our network of friends and business associates to tell us what is worthwhile to give our money, time and energy towards. We do not want to go with the unknown if we can help it.
Referrals work because it mitigates risk. If a person believes in a service or product enough to refer it, they are taking a risk with their own reputation to recommend it. We do not do this lightly. We love to be associated with success, helpfulness and quality. That is what is in it for someone who refers. It is why they do it in the first place. We avoid making ourselves look bad.
If all attorneys, dentists, realtors and other service people look the same, then the tie-breaker is a referral. A referral says that someone took risk and got a result.
It is tragic that most business people rely on referrals, yet they do not build their business to deliver a reason for someone to refer. Here is why people refer:
They experienced something unique
They felt you kept your word
They made more money because of you
They got healthier because of you
Their family life is better because of you
They connected with you, your business and your people
What are the reasons you give for someone to refer? Think about your birthday. If a person brings you a brightly packaged and elegantly wrapped new watch, how does that make you feel?
What if another person brought the same watch and handed it to you with a sales receipt? You received the same gift, yet the experience was completely different.
In your business, what is the wrapping? How is your business, with all its touchpoints to the customer, presented to be a special gift? That is the difference between giving someone a reason to refer and merely transacting.
With every customer interaction, you have the opportunity to make a fan of your brand or be boring. Choose the first and your business grow. Be indifferent and your business will stagnate. The customer experience you provide is what differentiates you. It is the product which drives the referral. It is the hard work for growing your business.