It's all in the mind... but whose mind?


A colourful brain{{}}Ever wondered why you can sell to some people and not to others? According to Bryan McCrae, of Cognitive Sales Consulting, the answer could be in the way your customer sees the world. Get inside their mind and you could suddenly find yourself making sales to people you had previously thought impossible to sell to

Is the way that you see and think about the world the same as the way that I do? If it isn't, then we are going to find it difficult to understand each other very well. Most people go about their lives unaware that their perception of the world is unique to them and that it may well be very different from the next person.

Take a simple example such as witness statements from a crime scene. There will be a wide range of 'facts' reported by the witnesses, many of which conflict. Even apparently simple facts like the colour of a car, or the number of people involved will be hotly disputed.

Psychological research has discovered that each person builds their own unique 'map' of the world. It is based on a combination of genetics and each person's life experience, developing into a mental model of the world that is used to make sense of and predict what is going on.

How does your customer think?

Research also has shown that people tend to have a main favoured style of thinking, based around which senses they pay most attention to - sight, sound or feel. The 'sight' person thinks in terms of images and his language uses words that reflect this, talking about how things will look, focusing, picturing, and using colours. They will sketch ideas out rather than use words for them.

The 'sound' person seems to have an internal jukebox that they can use to play back conversations to themselves and will use words that show this, such as hearing, or ringing a bell. They also tend to speak more deliberately and slowly.

The 'feel' person tends to like to touch people and things, often playing with whatever objects come to hand and when talking will pause while a feeling is developing.

It is thought that about 40% of people are 'feel', 35% 'see' and 25% 'hear', and there is a whole field of psychology called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) dedicated to this subject. Next time you talk to a stranger, why not see if you can detect which style of thinking they prefer and mirror it back to them?

The importance of trust in the sales process

Applying this idea to the world of business, buying and selling in particular, can provide some useful insights into why people buy and how to sell more effectively.

The essential ingredient for any sale to take place is trust. Trust that the product or service will do what it is meant to, that the price is fair, or that if any problems occur that they will be rectified quickly, are just a few example of this. The challenge for both the buyer and seller is to find this point of mutual trust as quickly as possible, or move on to find someone else.

To develop this trust there must effective communication leading to understanding of what is important to each person in the transaction. However if both parties see the world in very different ways and have different preferred ways of thinking then the chances of trust being built quickly are very slim indeed.

What is needed is the ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes, to see the world as they do and to think as they do.

Learning how to think like your customer

Many salespeople spend their whole careers puzzled about why some people buy from them and others don't, but using these ideas allows them to become much more effective and successful.

The reason that developing these skills works so well in improving sales effectiveness and results is that we only trust people who see the world the way that we do and we only buy from people we trust.

The skills required to do this are:

  • recognising the other persons preferred mode of thinking
  • tuning your own thinking and language style to match theirs
  • active listening and digging deep to understand the drivers and challenges that are most important to the other person
  • positioning your product/service in a way which solves their challenges in a way they understand
  • building rapport

The good news is that the skills can be learned and they can make the difference between a mediocre salesperson and an outstanding one. A small investment in coaching or training in these skills can pay for itself many times over in increased revenue and profits.

Written by Bryan McCrae of Cognitive Sales Colsulting.

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