Two Ways Salespeople Put Prospects Into Fight-or-Flight Mode

Salespeople are taught to identify and set meetings with all the buying influences, which are called either the economic buyer, technical buyer or recommender, depending on which sales training course you took.

It’s important to engage a company’s buyers. But be sure to include one more entity in your preparation: your buyer’s reptilian brain.

This buying influence doesn’t have a title or office, but often is responsible for stalled deals and excuses. The reptilian brain is the portion of your brain charged with keeping you safe. It operates from a survival point of view, which is not rational or logical.

Salespeople often trigger this part of the brain by their approach or questions, causing a fight-or-flight response from their prospects. As a result, prospects either end the sales meeting early or get defensive. Neither response results in new business.

Let’s take a look at two areas of the sales process where you might be sending the prospect into fight-or-flight mode.

#1:  Questions. And I mean DUMB questions. Salespeople trying to unseat the incumbent vendor ask questions such as, “What do you like about your current vendor?” The prospect waits in anticipation and hesitation (fight or flight) for the predictable second question. “If there were one or two things your existing vendor could improve, what would they be?”

The reptilian brain senses a close coming and signals, “danger, danger.”

A better approach is to keep your prospect feeling safe. Expose a gap in the competitor’s offering, without ever mentioning their name. Do so by designing a well-crafted value proposition that points out a weakness in the existing vendor’s offering. “Mr. Prospect, we usually work with companies that are pretty satisfied with their current vendor but are open to meeting with us because of the increasing demands from their customers for national and international coverage, not just local.” This approach is safe because:

  • You didn’t disparage the existing vendor. In fact, you told the prospect they are happy with their choice.
  • You inferred that other clients were experiencing similar challenges and that their customers, not a pushy salesperson, demanded a change.

Keep your prospect safe and you will elevate the conversation from superficial conversation to a more substantive one.

#2:  Inattention and adaptation to the prospect’s communication style. Despite all the books written about personality styles and communication, salespeople still tend to apply a one-size-fits-all approach with prospects. They throw out small talk when a buyer wants to get down to business, triggering the reptilian brain. “Oh my God — this salesperson is never going to stop talking.”

Or the salesperson talks too fast. The reptilian brain shouts, “Danger; slick salesperson in front of you. Get out now!”

Pay attention and adapt your style to that of your prospect and customer. I work with great salespeople and the most successful know how to connect with a variety of buyers.

They call their prospect’s office number, late at night, so they can hear the pace and volume of the person. When prospecting, they immediately match and mirror the prospect’s communication style. Other smart salespeople record the customer’s personality style in their CRM tool. This gives them a quick reminder of how to adapt and more effectively connect with clients.

As you get ready for your next sales meeting, remember the most important buyer in the room, your buyer’s reptilian brain. That’s the power buyer that determines whether you move past go.

Good Selling!

Source: Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley is the founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc. She is a monthly columnist for Business Journals across the country, author of ‘Growing Great Sales Teams’ and co-author of ‘Motivational Selling.’ Her new book, 'Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success,' published by Amacom, a division of the American Management Association, is available in bookstores now. Colleen is the creator of Ei Selling®, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. Prior to starting SalesLeadership, Colleen was vice president of sales and marketing for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, sales increased from 8M to 90M. Varsity was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States. When Colleen is not traveling or training, she loves to hike, read and hang with her husband Jim, and friends.

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