How did it happen? A few weeks ago, the largest anti-government demonstration in Egypt was a couple of guys whispering conspiratorially in a Cairo apartment. Today, it seems as though the entire country is marching defiantly through the streets.
So what was the turning point? What made a few hundred protesters – then a few thousand – suddenly turn into millions? And what could this event possibly teach us about sales?
First we need to ask why the people who are protesting today suffered in silence for the past half-century. The reasons are well-documented and they correspond to normal human emotions:
1. The people were scared – In the past, protesting publicly meant losing one’s job, being imprisoned…and perhaps even death.
2. They feared the alternatives – Might a post-Mubarak government be even worse than the one they had?
3. The price of bread could rise – This seems like a mild concern to the Western mind. But to the resident of a developing nation with an authoritarian government, the availability of food is no minor concern.
4. Change is hard – Whatever the outcome of the protest movement, daily life would change dramatically for all Egyptians – with very uncertain results.
The inflection point finally occurred on January 29th. The Egyptian military announced on TV that they would not fire upon the demonstrators. Their only role was to protect vital infrastructure and to support any recognized government. And then the flood gates opened…
This profound act of the military was the single triggering event for the events that followed. It addressed all of the major points of fear and desire. No longer did protestors risk death or imprisonment at the hands of the government. The military would remain intact, however, acting as a strong and familiar institution ready to insure some measure of stability.
All of us who work in sales are very familiar with our own “inflection points”. It is that moment when we suddenly realize that we have won the deal – or that the deal is irretrievably lost.
I would argue that many of the same processes are in play in sales as we have seen in the recent events in Egypt. Our prospects have their own fears and desires with which they must constantly wrestle in their professional and personal lives.
So how can we help our prospects to arrive at that moment when their hopes and desires overcome their fears? Here are a few techniques:
1. Let them know that you are as invested in the outcome as they are. I recently had my house painted. When the sales guy said, “My only goal in this process is to get a good recommendation from you,” he created an inflection point that won the deal. My fear over a botched job (and an ugly house) was assuaged. I felt as though the company was as committed to a good job as I was.
2. Offer a case study: Do you have a similar client for whom you have done excellent work or provided a terrific solution? Describe exactly how that process worked for the other client – and let your prospect envision a similar result for his own project. When he can see a clear path to success, his desire for a solution can overcome his fear of failure.
3. Provide an ROI: ROI does not always immediately relate to money. It may be that your customer can serve more people, build brand loyalty, increase his stature in the community, or do something else that can’t quickly be measured in dollars and cents. But you must be able to create a vivid and credible image of that ROI in his mind. Don’t just talk about the features and functions of your widget.
4. Address his central fear: Every deal is different. Some prospects are afraid of losing their jobs. Others are worried about satisfying shareholders. Some just want the damn lights to work. Whatever that primary concern is, figure out how your solution will: a. Make pretty sure that their desire is met and b. Minimize the chance that their fear will be realized.
If his central fear is, “The system going down,” describe your multiply redundant backup systems.
If his fear is that he’ll be left with tons of unsold inventory, tell him about your crediting and/or buy-back programs. What’s that? You haven’t developed strategies to address common fears in your industry? Now would be a good time to start!
There are lots more ways to create inflection points in sales. If you’re having trouble working through this challenge in your own industry, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll chat!