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How to sell by breaking customer patterns

Book Review: “Pattern interrupt” begins shift to new sales techniques

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  • Written by  Lisa Bruessler Rabinsky
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
The Secret Language of Influence: Master the One Skill Every Sales Pro Needs. By Dan Seidman. Amacom. 198 pp. The Secret Language of Influence: Master the One Skill Every Sales Pro Needs. By Dan Seidman. Amacom. 198 pp.

Dan Seidman’s subtitle, “Master the one skill every sales pro needs” is a fitting summation for this book. However, the book’s original title, Buyers are Babies--How to Change Them Before They Stink Up Your Sales gives you some insight into the author’s sense of humor.

While that original idea makes for a lousy title--Seidman admits that his editor made him change it--the unused title proves to be a great attention-getter to start the opening chapter.
Getting past rejection by breaking old patterns

The main part of the book is dedicated to influencing others which, as banking professionals, is how we spend most of our time.

At one time or another, we have all faced rejection from a prospect or client. The author discusses ways of breaking buyers’ patterns and using, what psychologists call pattern interrupt. The idea is to help someone change their well-worn pattern of thinking or behavior.

The technique was tested in mental hospitals and the author tells interesting stories of this in action. One case concerns a patient who said he was Jesus Christ. That is,  until the day the medical team tested this technique by bringing in wood and nails. The patient asked them what they were doing. They explained that if he was Jesus, he should know that they were there to crucify him. After years of insistence, the man quickly changed his pattern and said he wasn’t Christ and his solid wall of defense was broken down. Now healing could start.

While your prospects may not be quite so extreme, nor require such an extreme motivation, they may often seem impossible to persuade. Seidman discusses ways to apply pattern interrupt strategy in your business life.

A pattern interrupt that was developed for the sales training program of a major financial institution included the following example: a senior citizen being solicited to purchase an annuity states “I’m too old to buy an annuity.” The pattern interrupt response, “We have sea turtles older than you as clients.”
Understanding the selling of ideas

Some other important tools that are discussed include understanding your prospect and determining if they move towards or away from ideas. Many of us have been to sales training and we all know to “sell the benefits,” not the product.

However, benefits-oriented selling does not work well with prospects who move away from your ideas. The author discusses using problem-oriented questions when you recognize this type of person and gives you steps to identify buyer type.

The author gives a simple strategy to identify the type of buyer you are dealing with to help you determine the best approach. With the prospect who moves away from your ideas, an example would be the following:
  • You recognize a client could benefit from a credit line to better manage their cash flow.
  • Instead of selling them on the benefits, the key is to solve their problems.  “Since your cash-flow is tight, how often do you give discounts on your invoices to encourage faster turn around of your receivables?” and “How much money is that costing you?”

In that scenario, the problem is that the customer’s current practice of discounting is costing him money. When he is aware of the problem, then you can offer the solution of a line of credit where the interest expense is less than the discounts he was offering to manage his cash flow.

Concepts for understanding buyer types

Other specifics are discussed, such as internal versus external buyer, proactive versus reactive buyers, artist versus accountant buyers, and big picture versus detail-oriented buyer. Understanding the psychology of your buyer will help you best tailor your sales approach.

Internal buyers are motivated by their own inner feelings, experiences, and beliefs whereas an external buyer will make decisions based on testimonials, customer reviews, and peer pressure.

A proactive buyer will research and make a buying decision in advance, whereas a reactive buyer is more likely to respond to the excitement of a one-day sale or special promotion.

An artistic buyer is someone who is free-thinking and rule breaking whereas an accountant buyer will follow an exact system of analysis.

You can determine big picture versus detail-oriented buyers by asking such simple questions as “Do you prefer I give you a big picture overview or do you want to discuss the details?” It becomes pretty easy to figure out from there.
“Typing” your prospects to sharpen your pitch

Secret Language of Influence can also help you to understand people’s dialects: visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (touching), or inclined to read.

Once you pick up on the clues, you are on your way to a more convincing sales pitch. Strategic listening is needed but success can be as simple as asking a client why something is important and paying attention to key words: “I feel…” kinesthetic, “Let me show you…” visual, “I can tell you…” auditory.

Once you have picked up on your client’s type, you can tailor your conversations to better suit them.  If you need to annually review a client’s financials, you might ask one of the following questions:
  •  “When should we see each other to review your company financials?” Visual
  •  “I would like to hear about your company financial performance, when should we meet?” Auditory
  •  “How do you feel your company’s financial performance has been and when should me meet?” Kinesthetic
  • “We should schedule a time to review your company financials.” Inclined to read
The author gives a variety of critical language tips and the teaching he wants you to walk away with is: “You must evoke emotion when you converse with prospects.”

Use of humor is one of Seidman’s key recommendations. He provides a variety of websites and books to search for your own inspiration from. His three favorites are Napalm and Silly Putty by George Carlin, Comedy Writing Secrets by Mel Helitzer and Mark Shatz ,and I Am America by Stephen Colbert.

He mentions that he could write a book on the practical jokes he has pulled on people during his sales career and it would have been inspiring to see some of those included but the author does invite readers to contact him for those stories.
Turning the tables on the reader

The second part of the book is about “Influencing Yourself.”

This includes self-motivation, strategizing, balance, and attitude. While this is a short section, it contains valuable advice that should be heeded by all. The author gives very practical living advice and refers to solutions offered from the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

These include including tracking your time for one week to figure out if you can cut or delegate activities you don’t enjoy. Taking advantage of employee benefits that may be offered, such as flex time or tele-commuting. 

Then there are forms of self-discipline. Learning to say no. Leaving work at work and not bringing it home. Learning time management skills. Creating a support system and nurturing yourself with healthy foods, daily activity and plenty of sleep.

The author also discusses changing people’s attitude by having them focus on gratitude. You will be amazed at the changes in the people around you when they can start appreciating all the things they have in their life--even you, their boss, or co-worker!

The author suggests looking beyond the obvious to see who is helping in the background--and not just your sales assistant but people you have limited contact with; perhaps your HR person or finance people. 

When you identify who is contributing to your success, thank them! Attitudes around you will improve and you will realize how valuable an upbeat attitude can be.
Now, do it

The final section of the book, “Implementing with Influence,” summarizes the information discussed throughout the book and includes information on a 20-minute test that is available on the author’s website:

The final section is basically the Readers Digest version of the book. It provides an almost bullet point version ending with the answer to the essential question:

Q. What is the secret language of influence?

A. There is no secret!
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