Jan 22, 2024 • Podcast

How do I persuade the unpersuadable?

Paul provides great tips to convince those naysayers, those guardians of the status quo, that your solution is worth the change.

Show Notes

First things first. Analyze why this individual is hesitant to change. Were they part of the discovery, or were they brought in later?

Is this decision maker aware of the broader issue or problem your solution provides, perhaps for a different department or location? Read them into the situation.

Don’t camouflage your solution. Be sure to point out the contrast of what your solution will do compared to the status quo.

Maximize information flow. This helps build familiarity with your name, your company’s name, and your solution.

Share case studies from other customers of how easily your solution is implemented. 

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How do I persuade the unpersuadable?

(Transcribed from podcast)

So I was just in Tampa Bay, and boy was it nice and warm down there compared to St. Louis. But I was down there working with a sales team. We had our two-day Value-Added Selling program, and the mission was to help their team sell more profitably. And during one of the breaks, I had a great question that came up. One of the sales guys was coming over to me and he said, “Look, I’m dealing with a customer right now who is ready to move forward, but there is just one decision maker who is holding everything up. This one decision maker just isn’t sold on making this change.” So that’s what we’re going to focus on in today’s episode.

I know many of you out there have faced similar challenges where you have, let’s say, four or five people involved in the process, and four of them are ready to move forward, but there’s that one individual who is not. And that one individual is completely stalling out the deal. So we’re going to talk about how to persuade this individual today: How do you persuade the unpersuadable?

Now, before we get into that, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. In Value-Added Selling, we talk about the psychology of decision making. You’re able to gain some deeper insights into how people think and how that translates into action. So pick up your copy today. Also, in this book, you are going to learn how to sell value. You’re going to learn the process to proactively take control of that sales conversation and guide it down a path of value. So pick up your copy today. Value-Added Selling is available wherever you get your books. It’s also available on Audible. If you’d rather listen than read, we’ve got that option for you.

So let’s get back to it: How do you persuade the unpersuadable? We know who these naysayers are, these guardians of the status quo. They don’t want to change. And when I think about that, I’m reminded of the movie Wayne’s World, when Dana Carvey says, “Hey, we fear change.” We fear change. It could be talking about these naysayers. What was his name? Garth? Yeah, Garth. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. Yeah. You know what I’m talking about. So yeah, these naysayers, they like to stick with what they know, what is familiar, what is working. And to get them to change can be a challenge for sure. And so, what we need to do is, first of all, analyze why—why is this individual pushing back? Why do they not want to change?

So here’s a few questions to help trigger some thoughts around this idea of why. Ask yourself, “Okay, was this individual part of the initial discussion?” Okay? Think about this. If you have a decision maker who was not involved early on in the needs analysis or discovery phase, and all of a sudden, they’re being handed a solution that they had no discovery with—there was no discovery conversation—they’re feeling as though a solution is handed to them and they are being mandated to change versus having that change emanate from within.

So if the decision maker that is pushing back, if they’re not part of those initial discussions, we need to reinitiate those conversations. And I would set it up by reaching out to the guardian of the status quo and just own it and say, “Look, early on, I was talking to this department over here, and I never got a chance to really uncover your needs and talk about what’s important to you. I’d like to spend maybe 15 or 20 minutes just diving deeper into your needs and expectations.” What you’re doing is you’re re-engaging that decision maker and you’re gaining a deeper understanding of their needs. They’re going to feel like they’re part of the process and that may open them up to change as well.

Now, as part of this, we also need to ask ourselves, “Okay, does this individual understand the need to change?” And this may surface during your discovery call, but have we identified the problem for them? Do they believe that it is a problem? And if the answer’s no, then again, they’re not as likely to change. So, we need to make them aware of the problem, of the broader issue. And maybe the broader issue or problem is outside of their department. Maybe whatever problem that we’ve identified, maybe that problem isn’t really an issue for their department or for their roles. So we need to make them aware of how this problem impacts other departments or how it impacts the broader customer experience perhaps. So again, we need to make them aware of that need to change. Again, all we’re trying to figure out is why are they pushing back? Why are they not changing?

Another question to consider is, how does this decision personally impact the buyer? Now, for this example, that I mentioned, in the training seminar last week, I’d be curious to know how much additional work this change will create for the guardian of the status quo. Think about this. If you’re asking the customer to make a change, somebody’s going to have to implement this change. And if the one decision maker who’s hesitant, if they’re not sold on the change and it’s going to create additional work for them, then no wonder they’re going to push back. They’re being forced to change. They don’t understand why they need to change, and it’s going to create more work. I would be doing the same thing. And so we need to understand how it personally impacts the decision maker.

And maybe that also means that you are calling attention to a problem that they should have recognized initially. You’re calling attention to a gap in their process they were supposed to fill. Does it make them look bad to other members of the organization? Again, these are all considerations, things we need to be aware of when we’re uncovering why—why do they not want to change?

Now, once we ask these questions and once we have a clear understanding of why they don’t want to change and what’s really going on, then we can incorporate some of these techniques to persuade that decision maker.

The first thing, I would do is draw a parallel. We’ve talked about this in the past, and all we’re trying to do here is show them that our new solution or what we’re attempting to change is a familiar concept to them. We want to leverage the familiarity of what they’re currently doing. One way to say that, for example, if you’re selling new technology, I would ask yourself, “Okay, what is the basic concept? What is the idea behind this technology?” And let’s say it’s to automate processes. Well, then I would look at other ways they’re already automating processes within their business. And we call attention to that, and we show them how, fundamentally, what we’re offering them is the same. Remember, if they’re hesitant to change, then show them how what you’re offering is similar to what they’re already doing. We call that drawing a parallel.

At the same time, we also want to draw contrast, not camouflage. We want to highlight what makes our solution different or unique. And in doing so, what that will help us do is create distance between us and the competitive alternative. We want to create distance and by highlighting what makes us different and unique, people assign value to that. Remember to draw out the differences between your solution and what they’re currently doing as well.

Next, we want to maximize information flow. So sharing information with your customers on a regular basis does help build familiarity. The more they see your solution, the more they see the outcomes that can help them generate, the more they see your company name and your name, you’re building familiarity. You’re feeding them the information they need. Remember, during the customer’s decision-making process, they do enter an information gathering phase. And any time people are making a big decision or a decision that will impact multiple departments, they want to gather as much information as they can. This helps minimize uncertainty. So make sure you’re sharing that information with your customer on a regular basis, not just all at once, but almost as if you’re delivering a campaign. We want to provide that information steadily over several weeks leading up to the presentation, or in that follow-up phase after we’ve already delivered our presentation.

I would also demonstrate the do-ability of your idea. Show them how easy it is to implement and make it happen. People are more likely to move forward with a change if you can demonstrate the ease of change, or the ease of implementation. So, I would highlight examples, maybe share case studies of how you’ve helped companies like theirs in the past. Demonstrate how easy this implementation will be as well, and how it will require minimum effort, or what you will do to minimize the effort that it takes on their part.

And then finally, one thing I would do, help them own it before they buy it. If your customer can get their hands on it, if this decision maker who’s hesitant, if they can see it in action, if they can put their hands on it, use it, highlight the outcomes that it will help them generate and show them how easy it is to use, this will help ease the change.

So again, just a couple of ideas. Remember, draw contrast, not just camouflage. You don’t want to blend in, but at the same time, you also want to find parallels. You want to demonstrate that your solution, the concept or idea, is fundamentally the same as what they’re currently doing. That builds familiarity. We call that finding a parallel. Again, you identify the concept or idea and just look for other ways they’ve already bought into that concept or idea and show the linkage with your solution. Maximize that information flow. Demonstrate the do-ability of it. And, of course, help them own it before they buy it. Get them to use it. It could be a product demonstration, give them a trial period, whatever it may be, help them own it before they buy it. That should help you get past those guardians of the status quo.

Make it a big day.

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