The Ever-present Struggle to Balance Logic & Emotion

You know what? I wasn’t going to write about this, but we’re nearing the end AND I mentioned that I play in a bar band, so … I’m going to share this because this is yet another piece of my personal experience that has helped to influence my way of thinking on all of this.

I am a semi-pro drummer. I played in school starting in 5th grade and played all through high school (concert band, marching band, jazz band) then in the Army, I played in bar bands in between deployments. Since then, I’ve played all through the Phoenix metro area with a few different bands, and although I don’t make a ton of money from it, I do not play for free, ha ha!

So anyways, to a non-musician, songs can seem pretty complicated. And you know what? A lot of music IS complicated, but when you think of the most catchy, radio-friendly pop-rock type songs? They’re usually very simple and follow a pretty distinct format:

  1. immediately recognizable intro
  2. verse 1
  3. chorus 1
  4. verse 2
  5. chorus 2
  6. bridge with a guitar solo
  7. possibly a 3rd verse, then last chorus (possibly repeated)
  8. ending

All in all, they clock in somewhere around 3- to 4-minutes or so, and typically, they fall relatively close in tempo ranges (BPM – Beats Per Minute). They’re simple, catchy, easy to understand, and once you know the formula as far as tuning, timing, and structure? They’re easy to replicate!

A four-piece band (like mine) is usually comprised of a:

  1. singer / guitar player
  2. lead guitar player
  3. bassist
  4. drummer

And they all need to be on the same sheet of music (both literally and figuratively speaking, in this case) on a few different levels. What I mean by this is that there are different:

  • tunings that songs were recorded in
  • lyrics
  • structures (not everything follows that sample format from above – there is variance)
  • tempos and time signatures

So, if one guitar is in one tuning and the other is in something different, something about the song will seem “off” to the audience members and it will detract from the experience.

If the song is originally recorded at 147 Beats Per Minute but the band rushes things and plays it at 172 BPMs, the singer will sound like the Chipmunks as he tries to keep up and cram all the lyrics into that reduced amount of space. He’ll be out of breath and singing in a higher-than-he-should-be-in key because when you rush words, the pitch of your voice raises, and then something sounds off to the audience members.

Some people like hearing a little bit of variance from the original recordings, but not by much.

When you think about it, if you’ve heard a popular song that you consider to be one of your favorites more than 100 times throughout your life, even as a non-musician, you still “know how it goes,” and when you hear something out of place or out of time, it just stands out (and usually in a bad way).

It detracts from the experience – especially if it’s a sloppy rendition that’s played in the wrong tuning – or if the lyrics are wrong, or it’s too fast or too slow.

And you know what’s crazy? Asides from musicians, no one really notices when a band just nails it and plays a song perfectly – but they sure notice when something goes wrong and is out of place! Remember from that neuroscience stuff from earlier – we’re much quicker to notice when something is wrong or out of place and it really comes down to our evolutionary hardwiring from living in fear for the majority of our human existence.

But anyways, here’s what happens when a band figures out all that structure and timing and framework for songs: they will consistently replicate the original recordings and provide the best experience at the bars they play at.

Here’s what they get in return:

  • repeat business
  • power to pick and choose where they play (or don’t play)
  • respect from the bar owners
  • loyal fans who make sure they never play to an empty place

Now, can you see how this concept applies to the experience your organization provides during the pre-sale relationship (and beyond)?

Organizations with different team members who do things in different ways, in this analogy, are like the sloppy bar bands where:

  • half the band is one tuning, the other half is in the other – something sounds off
  • the song starts out right, but the drummer has a little too much adrenaline and Red Bull pumping through his veins, so the song takes off like a rocketship and is going way too fast
  • they get to the guitar solo part and the guy’s hitting all the wrong notes and you’re thinking: “I don’t even play guitar but I know that that’s not how it goes …”
  • the singer is singing the last chorus and the other guys are backing him up for that big sound, but they’re all singing different words and everyone in the audience is confused
  • all of this cacophony takes place during the first set, which causes the people in the bar to clear out
  • second set starts at 10pm, but the bar is empty and the band is booked ‘til 1am – it’s gonna be a loooong night!
  • The bar owner says “thanks, but no thanks” when the band leader tries to book there again

 

Organizations with different team members who do things in similar ways who follow a time-tested strategy, in this analogy, are like the tight, well-rehearsed bar bands where:

  • everything sounds just right
  • there are subtle variances from the original recordings, but for the most part, they’re 95% dead-on
  • they have their transitions from song-to-song down and they’re keeping the audience moving!
  • 2nd set kicks off at 10pm and this place is packed!
  • the bar is making tons of money, the experience is optimal, and the bar owner can’t wait to get this band back in
  • maybe they’ll even offer them a regular gig throughout the year?

 

Now, I speak from personal experience with all of this – I’ve been on both sides of this fence with bands AND with marketing and sales teams at different organizations.

I think that this all really comes down to that ever-present battle that we all face of trying to find the right balance of logic and emotion. Music has certain logical elements, like structure and timing and tuning, and when all the elements come together just right, it creates that certain “feel” that takes you back to that special place (or gets you amped up and ready to go).

But with playing music, just like in marketing and sales, if you focus too hard on the logical elements, it becomes very possible to lose that feel, and vice versa. Like, if you go on stage and wing it every time, then you’ll have some great moments, for sure, but they’ll be buried under the mess of an overall sloppy performance, which ultimately detracts from the experience your band provides. So yes, I think it is very possible to go too far in either direction when it comes to logic and emotion.

Consider how no one ever goes home after a concert thinking:

  • You know what? On the third song, the guitar player really nailed that solo!”
  • Or how: “The transition from the end of the 11th song going right into the 12th song was out of this world!

Same thing with your sales process – no potential client ever goes through all the steps and reflects back, thinking:

  • That was a well-executed marketing-to-sales handoff!”
  • Or how: “That one thing he / she said during the 30th minute of the demo presentation really made a lot of sense!

When you analyze the experience your organization provides, you’ll be able to identify the logical elements, get them all lined up just right with the right structure and sequence, refine the formula, and once you have it all down, you can then replicate that ideal, optimal experience that makes your clients feel right about doing business with you.  

The P.L.A.T.E. Framework for Initial Interactions

“I don’t know … I just have this, certain way of speaking … that … gets people to … take me seriously …”

I remember explaining this to my VP when I was first starting out here, and really, I’ll admit:

I’ve never been a manager or a trainer or anything like that prior to my time with this organization (at least not in the corporate world), so a lot of what I’m showing you really comes from just the right combination of experience and luck and a little bit of misfortune, too.

And yes, I have a degree in communications, but there’s only been a fraction of what I’ve shared throughout all this that came from that. Most of what I’ve shared is really bits and pieces that I’ve picked up along the way from:

  • the Army
  • different trainings and experiences (both good and bad), at the different organizations I’ve worked at
  • spending time on both sides of the marketing and sales fence
  • different books that I’ve read throughout the years
  • and really just connecting the right dots and narrowing down a formula

So, anyways, I came up with this P.L.A.T.E. Framework for initial interactions, and it’s really simple (Part II covers all of this in detail). My team uses this on EVERY CALL we make (or take) and it goes like this:

“P” stands for: “Purposeful Intro and Agenda Statement.”

This is how you consistently open calls in a way that purposefully relieves those primal concerns of safety and emotions so you can quickly access the other person’s Neocortex, which is what make it possible to connect and communicate on a conscious level.

And this part is perhaps the most important piece out of ALL OF THIS, but, of course it doesn’t stop here.

And remember from earlier how words are 7% of our communication, so realistically – the words are the easy part! I’ll even give you the words (in Part II), but you have to deliver them with the right tonalities and pacing in the right places (it’s not that complicated).

Think about how if you played in a bar band (like me), what good would it be to open your set with an awesome song or two and then just suck for the rest of the night, right? What if you were directing a movie and the opening scenes are awesome but the rest of the movie sucks? No one would pay to watch it, right?

You have to start things out right if you wish to achieve maximum effectiveness because things that start well typically have more of a chance of ending well.

Think about how it doesn’t matter how awesome your flooring is or what color you paint the walls if your house’s foundation is unstable, right? What if you had a racecar with tons of horsepower but it has a bent frame and four different sized wheels? I’m sure you get the point.

There’s a transition sentence that smoothly paves the way the next phase, and it’s really simple:

  • “So … what can we help with?”

So the “L” stands for “Let them Speak.”

As they start speaking, start casually asking your more pointed, strategically-sequenced intelligence-gathering questions, which is what the “A” stands for: “Ask Intelligence-gathering Questions.”

And when you have these questions strategically mapped out (like what I wrote about earlier with the worksheet), you’ll guide the call like a pro and they’ll feel good and be more forthcoming with their answers because they feel like they’re working with experts.

This is absolutely mission-critical; and, remember, like I mentioned earlier, that when it comes to frameworks like this, things can be a little left and right, meaning: this isn’t hard-scripting or anything.

So, if anything goes out of order, it’s not the end of the world.

But check this out (and I’m dead serious here):

If you open the call using this purposeful intro and agenda statement with the right tonalities and pacing and inflections, you’ll get to: “So, what can we help with?” and they’ll oftentimes just start spilling their guts to you because you didn’t set off any alarms and they feel like they can trust you.

This means that they’ll disclose things that go out of order sometimes, but it’s no biggie, because they’ll be more forthcoming with the information they share versus the alternative.

Think of it like the example from earlier about having your GPS on when you take a road trip instead of just pointing your car in the direction of the destination and hoping you get there in a decent time. If you miss an exit, it’s not the end of the world – you can circle back around and quickly get back on track, right?

And remember from earlier, too, how the brain is like a pattern-recognition machine. When you ask strategically sequenced questions that make sense, like the kind that experts ask, the potential clients will oftentimes start filling in the blanks and answering questions before you even ask them. I’m not even kidding – I have tons and tons of call recordings from different team members that prove this.

This helps to really get into a real state of genuine rapport where you and your potential client are just clicking – there’s an emotional connection here and you guys are finishing each other’s sentences and you’ve only known each other for a matter of minutes at this point. This is POWERFUL.

So, get through the strategically sequenced questions, then “Transition to What Comes Next” and that’s the “T” in this framework.

For this part, I recommend having it SCRIPTED out (even though you probably already DO because you say the same things regularly). Being able to CLEARLY ARTICULATE what to expect next like it’s no big deal is something that I know for a fact, is appreciated by potential clients. Plus, the more confidently you can spell out the next steps and why and how it’s going to help them, the more likely they are to follow along with them.

Locking in next steps is really a solid way of speeding up your sales cycles and increasing your conversion rates, too. Check this out:

Chris Orlob is the Senior Director for Product Marketing at Gong.io. His company analyzes sales calls from all kinds of different industries with artificial intelligence to identify trends and patterns, and this is one of the many interesting things they identified ( this is from an article he wrote on LinkedIn in September, 2018):

  • Only 17% of sales people thoroughly touch on “Next Steps”
  • 57% lightly touch on them
  • 26% don’t even include next steps

I really like the idea of being able to scan through unique data points and have the ability to accurately analyze and translate them into actual human behaviors. This kind of stuff really helps with optimizing how leaders can establish benchmarks and tolerances for different metrics and conversion rates so they can help their people to initially get on track and stay that way.

If you ask about budgets on initial, qualifying calls (which I recommend), I find that this is the best place for it. I know it seems counterintuitive compared to the BANT Framework, but if you jump on the phone with a potential client and immediately ask about budget, you’re creating a massive uphill battle for yourself.

I know I mentioned that earlier, but felt it was worth mentioning again because timing-wise, this is where I think it’s best to ask about budgets. The reason for it is, is money is usually an uncomfortable, more invasive topic to talk about for most people, but when you follow the P.L.A.T.E. Framework, by this point in the conversation (which is only 5- to 6-minutes or so in), the potential client will be warmed up to you and they’ll be more forthcoming with budget information.

With some organizations’ services and processes, it doesn’t make sense to ask about budgets on a first call. I’ll get into how to handle this in more detail in Part II, the Communications Guide. I personally prefer to discuss money upfront and set clear and proper expectations, but if your organization sells complex, customized solutions, getting caught up in budget-traps six minutes in can be detrimental to your sales process.   

Anyways, after clearly spelling out what the potential client can expect next, “End the Call,” and that’s the “E.” But have a simple and elegant way to do it, and have this part planned out. Pretty simple, right? (There are examples of all of this in the Communications Guide).

Think about it: experts don’t need to ramble on about anything. They’re busy; they’ve got other clients to tend to; so rambling on at this point can give off “weak” or “desperate” signals, like: “I’ve got all the time in the world because I only have two other clients to worry about.”

So know when to end the call, and when you’re in control, YOU end the call, not the lead.

Think of this type of EXPERIENCE. I think that any LEGITIMATE potential client – from any industry – would be ECSTATIC to have this type of experience. I see this as being no different than (and I’ve used this in training sessions), first responders who show up to the emergency and somehow keep themselves calm and in control while everyone else around them is freaking out.

Could you just imagine a cop showing up to the scene of an accident who is terrified because of how mangled the cars are? Or an EMT freaking out over the sight of blood or broken bones? That would just dump fuel on the fire of an already chaotic situation! Instead, they’ve got that cool, authoritative, no-big-deal tonality down, and you willingly follow their guidance in those tense situations and thank them for it because you feel like you’re working with experts who are helping you out.

So these type of strategic, top-of-the-funnel organizational behaviors will really serve to help you and your team to not only outperform your competitors (which is awesome), but to also be able to simply go to work and feel good every day because everyone has clear guidance and the right tools to get the job done on a daily basis.

This creates alignment not just from top-down but from side-to-side, too, and this type of working environment is what leads to long-term sustainability for teams, too, which is something I’m a big fan of (is anyone really a fan of high-turnover environments?).

 

Pre-sale Relationship Plinko

There are a few other characteristics that I’d like to highlight from my experience there, and again, it really has nothing do with the specifics of that university in particular. It was a very large organization, with thousands of employees, and the division I belonged to, the military division, was really a fraction of the total workforce.

You know what? Check this out real quick: ever play a game called “Plinko” at the fair? That’s the game that has a big board that’s standing upright and it’s got a bunch of pegs all over it with slots down at the bottom for a disc (or ball) to land in. You drop the disc / ball and it bounces around, going peg-to-peg-to-peg, bouncing left, bouncing right – and who knows where it will wind up?

There’s one slot that’s usually dead center on the board, and if it lands there, you win 500 tickets! But if it lands in any one of the other [19?] slots, you’ll win 5 tickets, or maybe 10 tickets, or 2 tickets.

And of course I know there can be different amount of tickets to win on different boards, but I’m sure you get the point – it’s chaotic and there’s really no way to predict where the disc is going to go and there’s really no way to make it go to the 500 ticket slot in a predictable and replicable manner.

I haven’t actually built a “Pre-sale Relationship Plinko Board” yet, but I’ve drawn this out for training purposes and demonstrated how chaotic it is when you have a bunch of different team members doing things in different ways. The chances of landing in the “Ideal Experience” slot are very slim in comparison to all the other variations of “Not-so Ideal Experience” slots, like:

  • phone / email tag
  • varying degrees of professionalism
  • unresponsiveness / cancellations
  • desperate voicemails / nasty break-up emails
  • mixed messaging
  • failure to launch

So when I drew it out, the pegs represented all the different kinds of communication obstacles that ultimately detract from the pre-sale relationship experience.

And I’m realistic about things, too, meaning: I believe that there’s no way to remove ALL the obstacles.

But I know that SOME of them can be removed, and what this creates is streamlined channels of communication that increases your organization’s chances of landing in the “Ideal Experience” slot.

Think of it like this: the more variables you reduce from the equation, the more control you have over the experience. As you remove pegs, the “Ideal Experience” slot widens while the others narrow, so it increases your chances of landing in it.

Of course there will always be the chance of some chaos occurring, but this will reduce those chances and lend a sense of order and predictability to the experience your organization provides as your potential clients progress through the stages of your sales cycle while working with different team members.

And when you think about it: communication is really behavior-based, meaning it’s something that is directly in your control. Better communication equals better behavior, and organizations that out-behave their competition will out-perform them.

 

Anyway, back to the university: in an attempt to put things in perspective, there were times when we were 300+ team members strong in the military division alone.

There wasn’t really a “communication framework” during my time there, but they tried. After I was there for about four years (sometime around 2011), they hired some consulting group to come in and try to teach us some new tricks.

It wasn’t really described to us that way as it was more of: “here’s how we’re doing it from now on because management says so.” Every team rotated through a live, 90-minute session with some stranger consultant-guy, so really, not to sound too pessimistic, but it just didn’t go over that well.

Everyone (including me) was skeptical, and even though the concepts were really good (in hindsight), no one really bought in because the way they rolled it out to us was not ideal. The idea was to have a more structured initial conversation, but no one really gave a solid reason why (other than “management said so”), and the people who had been there for quite some time, like me, just fought it.

Realistically, I didn’t see the purpose of it all at the time, especially since I had been doing just fine for quite a while there (and of course, same with many others in my position).

So they wanted us to follow this conversation structure and no one understood why. And remember from earlier, how “we couldn’t script anything because we’re in higher-education,” but there were certain things they wanted us to say and a certain order in which they wanted them said in, so realistically, there was a lot of hinting and guesswork and frustration going on on both sides of the workforce and management fence.

I don’t recall anyone really embracing the framework, either, and for a lot of seemingly good reasons. Like, it seemed purposeless and no one really understood it. I mean, we all used bits and pieces of it here and there, sure, and then we’d get call coaching at times with how things should have gone, even though we can’t script it out.

I remember telling my manager at the time:

  • “Look, I understand the employer to employee relationship … just tell me what to say and I’ll say it.”

And of course, I’d be told how we can’t do that, but “you should have really said this” or “really said that,” or:

  • “Ask more questions.”
  • “What questions would you like me to ask?” I’d ask.
  • “We can’t tell you what to ask,” he’d say, and round and round we’d go.

Like I mentioned, it was frustrating for both the workforce and for management. And then of course humans have a pack mentality and we tend to stick with what seems safe, and realistically, anything new pretty much gets classified as threats anyway (more to come on that later).

And also, you have to consider how when you have 20-something 12-person teams that belong to a division of that size (and an organization of that size), that means there were plenty of places to hide because think about it: there’s safety in numbers, and who’s going to get management’s attention in any workplace? The people who struggle.

So as long as you weren’t the slowest water buffalo in the herd, production-wise, no one really seemed to care too much about sticking to the framework. Meanwhile, it was actually quite brilliant, and for quite a few different reasons – none of which I would come to realize until many years and several organizations after my time there.

 

Here are some reasons why it’s brilliant to have organizational alignment when it comes to communicative behaviors:

Asides from the obvious benefits of closing more deals and making more money, when you have a team that grows to a decent size, you will undoubtedly have team members who do really well at times, and you’ll have team members who will struggle at times, and that’s just part of the game.

So, if an organization has a specific, step-by-step, simplified communications framework and process that is time-tested and proven to produce consistently excellent results, this will help the leaders to help their people get on track for success and (primarily) stay on track.

Of course, people will still fall behind at times, but if you have a framework and strategy that provides the leaders with the right tools, they can then provide specific and timely coaching and feedback to help their people get back on track and stay that way. Also, it breaks down information silos and makes it possible for the place to not fall apart when a manager leaves (a lot of my thinking on this was influenced by the Army).

And realistically, every organization out there, regardless of industry, has competition. More to come on this later, but a modern communications trend I’ve noticed throughout the years is that it’s become increasingly normal for people to struggle with communicating in real-time. So think about the competitive advantage an organization would have if its client-facing team members had their story straight …

Okay, “story straight” may sound a bit harsh, but just imagine what it would be like if your organization had alignment around best communicative behaviors – especially when it comes to your client-facing team members.

Even though I believe it to be true, I never really cared for the “people tend to enroll people who are just like themselves,” mentality. In large numbers, this is undoubtedly true, but I think it leaves way too much up to chance and there is a way to be proactive and get more deals without having to rely on “luck of the draw” as far as personality types lining up.

Consider this: what if you’re dealing with a potential customer who just so happens to not be in-line with your personality-type?

Do you just cast him or her aside and wait for the next, and just hope this one’s a better fit? That tactic might work on an individual level, but as an organization that’s looking to maximize opportunities and grow, that “sink-or-swim” tactic doesn’t exactly fit into the big picture.

Although I think it’s true that people tend to buy from people who are just like themselves, there is a way to reduce the variables of personal preferences and compatibilities, and it’s really a game-changer when it comes to communicating effectively. Neuroscientifically-designed communications really gets down to the root of things: how the human brain is essentially hardwired, meaning the way we receive and process information from a physical standpoint.

Don’t worry, we’re getting there!

The P.L.A.T.E. Framework for Initial Interactions

“I don’t know … I just have this, certain way of speaking … that … gets people to … take me seriously …”

I remember explaining this to my VP when I was first starting out here, and really, I’ll admit:

I’ve never been a manager or a trainer or anything like that prior to my time with this organization (at least not in the corporate world), so a lot of what I’m showing you really comes from just the right combination of experience and luck and a little bit of misfortune, too.

And yes, I have a degree in communications, but there’s only been a fraction of what I’ve shared throughout all this that came from that. Most of what I’ve shared is really bits and pieces that I’ve picked up along the way from:

  • the Army
  • different trainings and experiences (both good and bad), at the different organizations I’ve worked at
  • spending time on both sides of the marketing and sales fence
  • different books that I’ve read throughout the years
  • and really just connecting the right dots and narrowing down a formula

So, anyways, I came up with this P.L.A.T.E. Framework for initial interactions, and it’s really simple (Part II of this covers all of this in detail). My team uses this on EVERY CALL we make (or take) and it goes like this:

“P” stands for: “Purposeful Intro and Agenda Statement.”

This is how you consistently open calls in a way that purposefully relieves those primal concerns of safety and emotions so you can quickly access the other person’s Neocortex, which is what make it possible to connect and communicate on a conscious level.

And this part is perhaps the most important piece out of ALL OF THIS, but, of course it doesn’t stop here.

And remember from earlier how words are 7% of our communication, so realistically – the words are the easy part! I’ll even give you the words (in Part II), but you have to deliver them with the right tonalities and pacing in the right places (it’s not that complicated).

Think about how if you played in a bar band (like me), what good would it be to open your set with an awesome song or two and then just suck for the rest of the night, right? What if you were directing a movie and the opening scenes are awesome but the rest of the movie sucks? No one would pay to watch it, right?

You have to start out right if you wish to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Think about how it doesn’t matter how awesome your flooring is or what color you paint the walls if your house’s foundation is unstable, right? What if you had a racecar with tons of horsepower but it has a bent frame and four different sized wheels? I’m sure you get the point.

There is a transition sentence that smoothly paves the way the next phase, and it’s really simple:

  • “So … what can we help with?”

And then the “L” stands for “Let them Speak.”

As they start speaking, start casually asking your more pointed, strategically-sequenced intelligence-gathering questions, which is what the “A” stands for: “Ask Intelligence-gathering Questions.”

And when you have these questions strategically mapped out, like what I wrote about earlier with the worksheet, you’ll guide the call like a pro and they’ll feel good and be more forthcoming with their answers because they feel like they’re working with experts.

This is mission-critical – and, remember, like I mentioned earlier, that when it comes to frameworks like this, things can be a little left and right, meaning: this isn’t hard-scripting or anything.

So, if anything goes out of order, it’s not the end of the world or anything.

But check this out (and I’m dead serious here):

If you open the call using this purposeful intro and agenda statement with the right tonalities and pacing and inflections, you’ll get to: “So, what can we help with?” and they’ll oftentimes just start spilling their guts to you because you didn’t set off any alarms and they feel like they can trust you.

This means that they’ll disclose things that go out of order sometimes, but it’s no biggie.

Think of it like the example from earlier about having your GPS on when you take a road trip instead of just pointing your car in the direction of the destination and hoping you get there in a decent time. If you miss an exit, it’s not the end of the world – you can circle back around and quickly get back on track, right?

And remember from earlier, too, how the brain is like a pattern-recognition machine. When you ask strategically sequenced questions that make sense, like the kind that experts ask, the potential clients will oftentimes start filling in the blanks and answering questions before you even ask them. I’m not even kidding – I have tons and tons of call recordings from different team members that prove this.

This helps to really get into a real state of genuine rapport where you and your potential client are just clicking – there’s an emotional connection here and you guys are finishing each other’s sentences and you’ve only known each other for a matter of minutes at this point. This is POWERFUL.

So, get through the strategically sequenced questions, then “Transition to What Comes Next” and that’s the “T” in this framework.

For this part, I recommend having it SCRIPTED out (even though you probably already DO because you say the same things regularly). Being able to CLEARLY ARTICULATE what to expect next like it’s no big deal is something that I know for a fact, is appreciated by potential clients. Plus, the more confidently you can spell out the next steps and why and how it’s going to help them, the more likely they are to follow along with them.

Locking in next steps is really a solid way of speeding up your sales cycles and increasing your conversion rates, too. Check this out:

Chris Orlob is the Senior Director for Product Marketing at Gong.io. His company analyzes sales calls from all kinds of different industries with artificial intelligence to identify trends and patterns, and this is one of the many interesting things they identified (from an article he wrote on LinkedIn in September, 2018):

  • Only 17% of sales people thoroughly touch on “Next Steps”
  • 57% lightly touch on them
  • 26% don’t even include next steps

I really like the idea of being able to scan through unique data points and being able to accurately analyze and translate them into actual human behaviors. This kind of stuff really helps with optimizing how leaders can establish benchmarks and established tolerances for different metrics and conversion rates so they can help their people to get and stay on track.

Anyways, after clearly spelling out what the potential client can expect next, “End the call,” and that’s the “E.”

Pretty simple, right?

 

Think about it: experts don’t need to ramble on about anything. They’re busy; they’ve got other clients to tend to; so rambling on at this point can give off “weak” or “desperate” signals, like: “I’ve got all the time in the world because I only have two other clients to worry about.”

So know when to end the call, like a pro. And when you’re in control, YOU end the call, not the lead.

Think of this type of EXPERIENCE … I think that any LEGITIMITE potential client – from any industry – would be ECSTATIC to have this type of experience.

These type of strategic, top-of-the-funnel organizational behaviors will really serve to help you and your team to not only outperform your competitors (which is awesome) but to also be able to simply go to work and feel good every day because everyone has clear guidance and the right tools and there’s alignment not just from top-down but from side-to-side, too.

This type of environment is what leads to long-term sustainability for teams, too, which is something I’m a big fan of (is anyone really a fan of high-turnover environments?).

 

The CONCLUSION Part II

It was very poor experience and they had absolutely no control on those calls. They’d get immediately put on the ropes during those calls and I’d hear them trying to diagnose issues and give specific recommendations two minutes in on the relationship, or they’d try to either answer or dodge questions by saying something like:

  • “Oh, your account executive will be the best to answer that.”
  • “Well, who’s the account executive? Can I speak with him? Or her?”
  • “I don’t know who that is yet,” they’d say, while looking at maps and rosters while trying to figure it out.

When I heard the potential clients on the recordings, I could almost always sense the frustration in their tonality, and for good reason.

I have this theory that when people need help, they actually like being told what to do – but only if they feel like they’re dealing with an expert. And those calls were not handled by experts. They were chaotic and this was the experience provided at the very top of the sales funnel. This poor experience was literally sabotaging the organization’s efforts to sell.

So anyways, 8 to 10 minutes, tops, for an initial interaction. That’s your sweet spot.

Gathering and sharing high-level qualification information is surface level, too. What’s going on under the surface is you’re psychologically driving the potential client’s decision-making process by getting them to chill out, relax, and open up, which they’ll do if they feel like they’re dealing with experts.

By following the P.L.A.T.E. Framework and all the communicative methods laid out throughout all of this, you’re strategically NOT giving them a reason to not want to go for a second date.

Towards the end of the call, if everything is a good fit, end it by clearly articulating what they can expect next. Strategically use this initial interaction to set up the next step in the process (the second date), and then make it happen.

For the second date, the discovery / needs analysis call, reserve 30 minutes for this (and of course schedule it), but have a plan to be finished in closer to 20 minutes. There’s nothing worse than expecting something to take 30 minutes and it winds up being 47. It’s unprofessional and it makes it seem like they’re dealing with novices.

Casually mention the reservation of 30 minutes, but get done in 22, and what happens is, is you’ll under-promise and over-deliver, and it will make the potential client feel good because it will reinforce the perception set on the initial call that they’re working with pros.

While on the call, if everything is a good fit so far, use this touchpoint to schedule the demo or proposal presentation. Whether it’s an on-site visit next or a webinar, clearly articulate what the potential client can expect next and make it happen!

Something I think that is very important to mention, too, is that if you really want the communicative methods of the First :28 Seconds to take root in your organization, you must have alignment from rep to rep and team to team.

Think about it: the “subconscious threat alarm buttons” in your potential clients’ minds get reset every time they speak with someone new because it’s the way that we’re wired.

So if you have a two-stage sales operation where rep 1 handles the initial interaction, follows the P.L.A.T.E Framework, sets amazing first impressions and then sets up the next step in the process and then rep 2 gets on the phone and just wings it, then you will have opportunities that get blown on a regular basis.

Same thing if you have rep 2 using these methods but rep 1 isn’t; but when there is alignment with how your reps communicate with your potential clients from team to team, you will maximize opportunities and close more deals with shorter, more streamlined sales cycles.

And of course, this also applies to dealing with clients in the post-sale relationship. Think of the handoff from sales to account management; it makes no sense to do all the work it takes to get married and then just stop caring once you’ve exchanged vows, right? That’s a recipe for failure that I know all too well, ha ha!

 

Anyway, when scheduling anything (even initial calls), I recommend using calendar invites.

Make sure they’re typo-free and clearly state what is coming up next, even if it’s just a few bullet points. Accepted meeting invites are a conversion metric – I have a folder in my inbox set up specifically for accepted calendar invites. When you get an accepted meeting invite, you can almost always count on the potential client being available for the next step with the appropriate amount of time set aside. This is very professional and it makes them take you seriously.

This contact and engagement strategy eliminates a lot of the runaround associated with sales as far as all the phone tag and email tag goes. It’s very professional and potential clients love this type of experience because it makes them feel like they’re being taken seriously and that they’re being looked out for (because they are).

This strategy makes it where you can go from first contact to second contact to demo presentation to closed deal in a very streamlined and cohesive manner with no pressure, no games, no gimmicks (like the case study with the potential client and account executive in New England).

When each touchpoint strategically sets up the next step in the process, it creates the ideal, optimal orchestrated experience for your potential clients because, get this: it’s impressive – especially when they’re dealing with more than one person (like the two-stage sales operations).

By the time your potential clients reach the end of this strategy, they will have interacted with your organization at least three separate times. This gives them plenty of time and space so they’re not feeling rushed or pressured, and by this point, they should have all the information they need to be able to make a very well-informed and comfortable YES or NO decision.

If it’s a YES, then awesome! If it’s a NO? Then so be it – but don’t lose deals over something that you can, in fact, directly control: the experience you provide!

The CONCLUSION Part I

Here’s the long and short of it: people make major purchasing decisions based on emotion and then they try to justify it afterwards with logic. We’ve all heard this before, and we all know it’s true – this is no secret.

I know I covered a ton of information throughout all of this, so if I had to sum it all up, here’s what I would say:

Understand that people who contact you or your organization for help are experiencing a problem that they don’t know how to solve on their own and it’s frustrating, so they’re in a heightened, negatively-charged emotional state.

Whenever we’re in a state of mind like this, we have our guards way up; we’re essentially in a state of “high alert,” which means we’re very easily triggered by the slightest things. Our “heads are on a swivel,” so to speak, and while in this frame of mind, we’re extra vigilant about everything, extra cautious – and this is normal.

Consider all of this, then add in the fact that when we speak with anyone new for any reason, there is a ton of uncertainty and remember how we’ve all been essentially hard-wired to perceive most new things we come across as “threats” and most new people we run into as “foes.”

No wonder initial interactions are so tough, right?

Initial interactions – in business and in personal life – are really high-stakes encounters. Think of how none of us would be married to our spouses right now if we gave them a reason to be scared when we first met.

I was just speaking about this with my wife and we reflected back on our first date. She mentioned how I seemed really guarded but agreed that I gave her no reason to be scared, so of course I got a second date. She also gave me no reason to be scared, so it was mutually beneficial for both of us.

Meanwhile, I don’t know about you, but I’ve have had plenty of first dates that never progressed beyond that point for one reason or another. And of course, I’m not trying to turn this into about advice about dating – but I am showing how experience – especially on the first and second meeting – plays a huge role in how relationships develop (or don’t develop).

I think a key to success in business is to replicate how successful relationships form in real life. If you understand the emotional and social dynamics that are present under the surface of every initial interaction, then you can proactively do something about it, and if you have the right communication strategy in place, you can consistently reduce the uncertainty in your potential clients’ minds and help them move to a state of certainty.

There’s a balance to all of this, too. Like, if you jump on a first call and blow through the words – Intro and Agenda Statement, Vital Signs Questions, What Comes Next – and you blast through and you’re done in a matter of say … three minutes? Then you may have gotten all the logical pieces covered, but there won’t be any element of emotional connection.

Think of how someone sounds when they’re in a rush and sound like they’re just going through the motions – they sound like they’re doing you a favor by doing their job, right?

When it comes to tonality, you can most certainly come across like: “If-I-don’t-say-these-words-in-this-order-I’m-gonna-get-in-trouble-so-let-me-just-go-ahead-and-get-them-outta-the-way …”

Think of how someone sounds when he’s talking about something that he doesn’t really believe.

Think of how a person sounds when she’s asking a question but she doesn’t really know why she’s asking it.

All these sorts of little nuances detract from the experience that we provide – it’s like showing up for a first date and giving the other person reasons to not want to see you again.

I think there’s a sweet spot when it comes to experience during initial interactions. First call: 8 to 10 minutes, tops. 7 to 8 minutes seems to work, but I wouldn’t go any shorter and I definitely wouldn’t recommend going over. Go longer and you run the incredibly high risk of disclosing too much information (think of the wedding in Tahoe from earlier). Too much too fast is a turn off for everyone.

Go any shorter than that, and you run the incredibly high risk of not really connecting on an emotional level. This scenario can be achieved by blowing through the call as if you’re just going through the motions.

I have to give an example of this:

My team wanted to tweak how they were opening calls, so I heard them out and we tested it. They went like how I listed everything earlier, but here’s the difference:

  1. Greeting
  2. Intro / Agenda Statement
  3. So what’s your role?
  4. How long have you been there?
  5. So what can we help with?

The calls were landing in the 4 to 5 minute range after they did this. We have right about 3 minutes’ worth of scripting on our calls, so if you could just imagine, a 5 minute call where my team member spoke for 3 of them equaled a severe reduction in engagement from the potential client in comparison to an 8 to 10 minute call with the same 3 minutes worth of scripting.

I remember jumping on a call (I still like to make calls) and I naturally went in the order that I had designed previously, so it went like this:

  1. Greeting
  2. Intro / Agenda Statement
  3. So what can we help with?
  4. So what’s your role?
  5. How long have you been there?

Boom! 10-minute call with lots of engagement!

Now, what’s the difference? I listened to a few calls from my team, had them listen to mine, and it stood out IMMEDIATELY.

When I asked: “So, what can we help with?” we were just about :30 seconds in on the call. When they asked, they were closer to :45 seconds or so.

So what’s the difference?

Let me ask: How does it feel when you’re in a heightened emotional state and you reach out for help and the person you’re speaking with won’t seem to let you get a word in at first and then seemingly immediately starts interrogating you?

You’ll shut down and not really engage, either, because the person set off threat alarms in the subconscious parts of your brain!

There’s a balance to this, too, of course. When I first took my team over, they had no communication strategy in place. They’d jump on calls and open them like:

  • Hi! This is NAME, calling from COMPANY. May I please speak with NAME?
  • This is NAME.
  • Hi NAME, how are you?
  • How are you?
  • Just fine, thanks for asking. So, what can we help with?

And calls would then immediately spiral off out of control. It was kind of like if they got a giant fish on the line that immediately started swimming away and their reel would be spinning, spinning, spinning, and they’re trying to figure out how to grab it without breaking their hand or the line or the rod or all of the above.

 

 

 

There’s Nonverbal Communication even in our Verbal Communication

So when you think of non-verbal communication, the first thing that probably jumps to mind is body language. And I think it’s probably a normal assumption to think that stuff like body language, and facial expressions, and certain physiological triggers (like talking with your hands) don’t really matter when doing business over the phones because the other person can’t physically see you.

Well, at the risk of sounding cliché, motion creates emotion, and the way we move affects the way we sound, and what I’m talking about here is tonality.

We sound different when we’re standing versus when we’re sitting (or when we’re slouching down), and we all know when someone sounds prepared or when they sound unsure of themselves, right? There’s just a certain level of confidence (or lack of confidence) that comes across in our tonality, and what this does, whether you realize it or not is …

I mean, yes, the other person can’t physically see you when speaking on the phone. I get that. But you have to realize, that on the intros of calls, we all quickly tear each other apart and form a mental image of whoever it is that we’re speaking with – and it’s either going to be a positive image or a negative image – and it’s all based on how the person sounds.

Think of how someone sounds when he or she is distracted (perhaps you’re guilty of this? I know I am).

Say you’re in the middle of something and a potential client calls you up for the first time. You take the call, but your mind is elsewhere, and stuff like this can adversely affect the way you sound, the way you come across – especially in comparison to times when you’re prepared, focused, and distraction-free.

I’ll bet that 93% nonverbal number is starting to become a bit more realistic now, right?

When it comes to tonality, we all know how to speak with certainty about things that we’re certain about, and we all know how to speak in a matter-of-fact tone about things that are a matter-of-fact. And of course we all know how to speak like something’s no big deal, and we know how we sound when we’re talking about something that everyone despises.

Typing about tonality is a little weird, considering how written text seems to lose the subtle nuances of tone and inflection, but this is why I’ve created digital courses on all of this where I actually talk through and show real examples of everything in action.

And of course there are lots of other variations of tonal patterns, but I’m sure you get the point: different tonalities can make words mean different things, which can either enhance the experience you provide or detract from it.

Think about how when we want people to listen – we RAISE OUR VOICES, RIGHT? But if we really want people to listen, we lower our voices.

Dropping down to a whisper tone at the right places – especially when on the phones – is powerful. It just draws the listener in because it implies you have something special, something exclusive, and they’ll really want to know what you’re about to say next.

When it comes to cadence, the rate at which we speak, you have to realize, that when we’re nervous we naturally tend-to-speak-faster-which-RAISES-the-pitch-of-our-voices, and that registers subconsciously to the listener as: “This person is nervous, therefore something must be wrong …”

On the other hand, when we speak a little slower, it lowers the pitch of our voices, and we come across as more authoritative, so it registers subconsciously to the listener as: “Whoa … better listen up and take this person seriously!”

And of course there’s a balance to all of this, too, meaning: you can’t speak so slowly that you put the other person to sleep. You also can’t speak so authoritatively that they’re afraid of you, and you can’t speak so boldly that you sound pompous and arrogant.

But at the same time, you can’t speak too humbly because then you’ll come across as timid, and you can’t speak so quietly that they can’t hear you or understand what you’re saying – and all these subtle nuances help to make up that 93% that’s lurking beneath the surface (which is getting much more in focus now, right?).

Different tonalities can literally make words mean different things (think of the “HEY MOM !!!” versus “Hey, Mom?” examples from earlier), and I know what you’re probably thinking right now … like: “Oh my goodness, I have to learn all these different tonal patterns?”

The answer is “NO!” because … you already know them.

You already know how to do all this, so when you take a concept like “Advanced Tonality” and purposefully use the right tones at the right places? Especially on the intros to calls and at the right places throughout the calls? It will literally enhance and optimize the experience in your favor.

I mean, this stuff literally registers favorably in the subconscious minds of whoever you’re speaking with and it lets you tiptoe past the Reptilian and Mammalian parts of their brains without setting off alarms and it quickly gains you access to the listener’s Neocortex. And of course this means they’re now consciously paying attention because they feel safe and feel like they’re working with someone who can actually help them out.

This is some more secret weapon stuff right here.

Seriously, what do you think will happen when you purposefully incorporate this kind of stuff in how you communicate with your potential clients, especially on the first time you speak with them?

I know I mentioned this earlier, but I find that it’s become increasingly normal for people to struggle with communicating in real-time (meaning speaking). So, if my theory is true, then you’ll find yourself with a competitive advantage if you can just sound “okay,” right?

Now, if this is true (and I think it is), what do you think will happen if you up the level of your communication game?

You’ll seriously annihilate your competition.

I know this will sound cocky, but back in the Army days, when I competed during boards, it was never really my goal to just win or get selected for promotion. I know this will sound bad, but my goal was to embarrass my competition and make them feel dumb for even stepping up against me.

And I know that sounds way cocky, too, but I mean it when I say that we were all the same on the surface, like we were all experts at our individual jobs; experts with weapons; experts with physical fitness and first aid and everything; so really, what was the difference between those who won and those who lost?

It was the way we communicated and presented ourselves – and it really was as simple as that.

Experts vs. Novices & the Science Behind First Impressions

I have a theory that reasonable, mature adults will gladly pay a little more (within reason, of course) for quality products and service. By default, people will go with the cheapest option when they:

  1. need help with something that they can’t figure out on their own, and
  2. everyone they spoke with pretty much sucked at communicating

If you represent a company that had one of the more expensive options, they may get back with you and let you know that they “went in another direction” – or considering we’re primarily talking about business that transcends geographical boundaries, they may just go dark and stop answering your calls and returning your emails.

But what they won’t do is be honest and say something like:

  • “Well, everything looked great and the price was definitely within our established budget range … but there was just something about you that rubbed me the wrong way right from the very beginning. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I just had this gut feeling that said I should look at other options …”

So, the point is, is that if you know how to relieve those primal, instinctive concerns and influence the other person’s gut feelings to be favorable about you and the company you represent, then it’s not about price at that point (as long as your solution is within range of their budgets, of course).

 

So just to briefly touch on the rest of the tumblers that represent the primal, instinctive concerns:

I was at Home Depot the other day and I was looking for a battery tender to charge my motorcycle’s battery. At first, I looked in the electronics section and couldn’t find one, so I asked an attendant, and he told me that he’s not sure where they are, but thinks they may be over in the tools section. In this instance, I did not sense reward, so I shut down and moved on.

  • “Okay, great … thank you!” I said, and started walking off in that direction (it was way across the store).

It was early in the morning, and the guy was trying to be friendly so he started to tag along and said something to be friendly, but at that point? I could care less what this guy had to say. I was tuned out to anything he had to say (which sounds mean, I know), but I had determined that there was no reward in engaging with this person any further, so I was tuned out and moving on.

I know status seems like a superficial thing to be concerned with, but instinctively speaking what this means is EXPERT versus NOVICE.

Think about it: no one wants to work with novices. You know who gets cut some slack for being novices? Girl Scouts. Not pros, though – no potential client from any industry is going to give anyone the time of day if they come across like novices and here’s why:

The lower the status, the lower the credibility. Think about it: higher status equals higher credibility, and really, what this comes down to (and I know this will sound harsh), but this is how people instinctively determine if someone is worth listening to.

I mean, think about it; you can come across as non-threatening, make people feel safe, be the biggest subject matter expert in the world about whatever it is that you specialize in, but if you come across in a way that undermines your credibility, people will tune you out.

(Potential client rambles about a problem that they’re experiencing).

  • “Oh, well I’m actually on the marketing response team here …”

In this example, using the word “actually” undermines your status. I’m not going to spin off into this rabbit hole here, but know that there are lots of ways that we can shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to using words and tonalities that undermine our status and credibility.

This next piece should probably be a no-brainer, but think about how if what you’re presenting is not useful, then people will tune you out. There’s really not much more to say on this, either.

Like, if the attendant from the electronics section started telling me about some solar-powered contraption for charging batteries that I could find if I looked at some website that sells them for way cheaper than anywhere else on the planet, I simply wouldn’t care. In that moment, I had a dead motorcycle at home and I want to ride it, so I needed a charger so I could ride it later, right? Enough said on that.

You can make people feel safe, know everything there is to know, be the world’s biggest subject matter expert on whatever it is you specialize in, have the greatest information prepared for the greatest solution ever, but if you come across as boring? You’re done.

People like their information fast; they like it visual; and they like it new – exciting, something different, even if it really is the same old thing. Our attention spans are short, and they’re getting reduced more and more by how much information we all get bombarded with every day.

I know some of this sounds harsh, too, but getting a NO for any one of these concerns can keep you from ever actually getting through and connecting on a conscious level. I mean think about it:

Your expertise may never have the opportunity to shine through if you don’t get through the first :28 seconds WITHOUT setting off alarms. And also, I want to mention just because you make it to the Neocortex, it doesn’t mean you’ll always stay there.

The reason for this is that the Reptilian and Mammalian parts of our brains are always running. Think of them like subconscious anti-virus software, constantly running in the background and scanning for threats in an effort to keep us as safe as possible.

But I think that it’s very important to know that you’ll never connect on a conscious level if you set off alarms right at the very beginning of your initial interactions, and really? This is the science behind why first impressions are just so powerful.

I mean, think about it:

I know I mentioned this earlier, but plenty of sources indicate that it takes eight subsequent positive encounters to overcome a bad first impression, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall ever being given eight additional attempts to get it right. This stuff is just mission critical – especially in sales environments where your potential customers are empowered with options (and geographical distance) – to get right as much as you possibly can.

Here’s a chapter pertaining to “the Mindset”

And then Novice Communicators will say something like:

“Don’t worry – it’s not really that expensive for my [product / service]. Here, let me just go ahead and answer all your questions and then I’ll tell you about all the features and benefits in an attempt to put your mind at ease.”

Meanwhile, what this does is it just dumps fuel on the fire and causes things to spiral even further out of control.

I mean, think about it – when you jump to features and benefits too soon, the other person’s brain just jumps right to: “What’s this gonna cost me?” which, in other words, is “opposition” so now it’s even more of a fight, and we’re only 90-seconds or so in on this relationship.

And remember from earlier how buyers today, because of how much access we have to information, have the relational power dynamic shifted in their favor by default. So often times, they’ll go into the initial interactions even more aggressively (people tend to talk tough when hiding behind screens and phones, right?!), so sales people will go to push back because no one likes being pushed around or talked down to.

This all can quickly devolve into a state of chaos, and opportunities, all across the board in every industry, are blown every day because of this, and then the people will sit back and say things like:

  • “Well, I didn’t want to sell to him anyway … that person was an a-hole!”
  • “Oh, this COMPANY? Yeah, they’re a bunch of jerks … I spoke with them … buncha idiots over there!”

So under the surface of initial interactions, what’s really happening is a death match between two primal, fear-based creatures who are sizing each other up and fighting to establish dominance of the encounter. This happens every time two people interact for the first time for any reason.

I mean, think of job interviews; first dates; sales calls; walking down the street and someone simply says “hello” (you know the first thing you think is: “What does this person want?” right?). So, business, personal, doesn’t matter, and it’s all rooted in our hard-wired, survival instincts from living in fear for the majority of our human existence.

The world, as we know it, is obviously not how it’s always been. It’s still a dangerous place, don’t get me wrong, but it’s gotten progressively safer in more recent history in comparison to times when a beast could swoop down from out of the sky and snatch you up to feed her family (or just herself).

Who knows how old the world really is – I mean, some say merely 6,000 years or so and some say 6.5 billion years, but I’m sure we could agree that we’ve come a long way from a safety standpoint.

So, there’s no denying that there was a time when the slightest rustling in the bushes could turn out to be the end of us, so when you think about it, from just a survival standpoint, our brains’ main purpose is really to keep us alive. So our brains have been essentially hard-wired to perceive most new information we come across as “threats” and most new people we run into as “foes.”

And what’s kind of crazy (but true) is that we can’t even help it as these snap-judgements are made subconsciously, and this is why first impressions are just so powerful. I’ve read studies that indicate that it takes eight subsequent positive encounters to overcome a bad first impression, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been given eight additional attempts to get it right (especially in a sales setting).

So, in the example from above where the potential client has established control of the encounter, he’s now wildly attacking (with questions) while the novice communicator is like an outmatched boxer, pinned up against the ropes, and just and hoping to make it to the end of the round. And, you know how you can tell who’s in control of a sales encounter? By who’s asking the questions. Seriously.

So beyond this point, the success of the novice communicator will depend solely upon how nice the potential client decides to be because when someone takes control of the initial encounter it sets the power dynamic for the relationship. And typically, once the power dynamic is set, there’s usually no switching roles.

After an initial (sales or anything, really) interaction, one person will emerge in the dominant, alpha-position – the leader, and the other person, from that point forward, will be in the submissive, beta-position – the follower. And there’s really a night and day difference with how things go when you’re in control of the sales process and when you’re not.

And I’m not talking about being a bully or being abrasive or anything high-pressure, either. I’m talking about setting the tone right from the very beginning that influences your potential clients to view you as more of a trusted advisor instead of a typical salesperson, and to view your organization as more of a trusted partner instead of a typical vendor.

These dynamics are all set on the initial interactions, and I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about here.

 

So, we spoke about the mindset of your potential clients before the initial interaction, so after the death match, you have to realize that their mindsets are really going to be either one of two things. It’ll either be in:

  1. I’m working with pros who actually listened, who care – who can help me get whatever it is that I’m after, or
  2. I’m going to have to look at some other options

So, power dynamics are present in every relationship, no matter if business or personal or how long or short (could be a matter of minutes or a matter of years). When you understand this, you can then do things to purposefully influence the power dynamics in your favor, regardless of established titles and ranks.

By purposefully doing this, you’ll establish control of the relationship, but in order to do this, you need to be able to speak with a certain fearlessness that gets the other person to take you seriously right from the start.

There’s a method to doing this, too, to taking control without being abrasive and without being desperate or pushy or anything like that, and I’m a big fan of it because it doesn’t require smooth-talk or high-pressure or anything. By the time you finish this book, you will know how to do it every. single. time.

Think about it: what if you knew how to craft and tailor your communication strategies and approach to go in-line with how the brain prefers to receive and process information instead of going against it? How much more effective would you be in whatever position you happen to hold at this time?

I know it sounds like voodoo at first, but what this means is that you’ll be purposefully and fearlessly communicating in a way that doesn’t set off threat alarms for people who are – by default – in a fearful mindset to begin with. And really, it’s not just your potential clients – it’s you, too.

Anytime we come across anything new, it’s scary to us. Think about how quick we are to jump to negative conclusions versus positive conclusions. Like, seriously – when’s the last time you got a gut feeling that “everything is going to be just fine?”

It happens, I’m sure, but not very often. We’re always much quicker to feel like something is wrong, and it’s because of the evolutionary hardwiring of our brains from living in fear for thousands, if not millions, of years. And think of how our response to threat is to move away from whatever it is as fast as possible whereas our response to reward is to approach it cautiously.

So really, what I’m mapping out for you here through all this is a way to diffuse trust bombs before they have a chance to detonate later on down the line, and think about what this will do when it comes time for your potential clients to make actual purchasing decisions.

When potential clients balk at things like “price,” what’s really causing their hesitation is their mixed feelings of whether or not they trust you and whether or not they trust the company you represent. It’s hardly ever about cost at that point, but no one is going to put their inner monologue on display and come right out and tell you that they love the product and the price is fair but that they just don’t trust you (that would be mean, right?).

So it’s way easier and less-confrontational to go with: “We’ve thought about it and it’s just out of our budget for now.”

*Disclaimer: Please know that none of these methods are geared towards turning NOs into Yesses. With the right qualification standards, you should be able to quickly weed out the NOs and keep them out of your sales pipeline. These methods are designed to capture and capitalize on the MAYBEs and keep them happily moving forward in your sales process because they feel safe and they feel like they’re working with someone who represents a company that has a product or service that can actually help them out. None of these methods are meant to be perceived as a magic bullet that makes everyone sign up immediately.

The Marketing to Sales Hand-off (Part 2)

When potential clients get on the phone with any organization about any product or service from any industry, it’s almost like they’re bracing themselves for a fight because they’re in a heightened emotional state. They need help with something and they don’t know where to turn, so they turn to google.

They search, find your website, submit a request to be contacted (or call in directly), and since they’re in a heightened emotional state, they’ll regularly come out swinging with questions about pricing while demanding quotes and sharpshooting with tons of in-depth questions, all within the first :90 seconds.

And all this has to do with how humans are essentially hardwired to perceive most new information as threats and new people as foes, so these questions about pricing and quotes, at this point in the relationship, are merely smokescreens, because what they’re really trying to do is find answers to these TWO BIG QUESTIONS:

  1. Can you actually help me get whatever it is that I’m after?
  2. Do you represent an organization that I can trust?

So, the process I developed is geared more towards not getting caught up in the the surface-level stuff of products and pricing and it gets at the under-the-surface, emotional currents. It’s neuroscientifically designed to go inline with how the brain prefers to receive and process information, instead of going against it.

I’ve said this many times in training sessions and meetings, and I truly believe this: “I’m not really concerned with what a potential client KNOWS about my company after that first phone call … that first interaction; I’m concerned with how they feel.”

So yes, we gather and share high-level information on the qualifying calls, but realistically, what we’re doing is, is we’re:

  • taking charge of the situation without being abrasive (Intro and Agenda Statement + Advanced Tonality)
  • getting potential clients to calm down (by using “tactical empathy” and hearing them out)
  • we’re calmly and clearly articulating what the potential client can expect next (we literally describe the hand-off process which sets up the next step in the process)

 

All of this slows everything down and buys our account executives some time so they can be as strategically prepared as possible for when they step up to the plate. My team (and this process), figuratively speaking, is what takes that pitch and alters its path to make it go right down the middle at a speed that makes it possible for the sales rep to consistently crush it. The next step, often times, is still taken the same day, but it’s a much more comfortable experience for everyone involved because no one is put on the spot – no one is caught off guard.

There’s no pressure on the potential clients with this method, and in turn, this reduces their naturally-occurring, fear-based sales resistance. They willingly move to the next step in the process, and we hear it all the time how they’re looking forward to it.

There is a script / framework for this, but you have to understand that the words are 7% of it – 93% is how it’s all organized and delivered. If you jumped on the phone and ran through the “What Comes Next” part of the script a minute-and-a-half after the call starts, the words carry no weight.

What gives this part of the script its weight is you taking charge without being abrasive on the “Intro and Agenda Statement,” then hearing them out during the “Vital Signs” section where you’re asking strategically-sequenced questions and gathering high-level information.

All of that can take merely five or six minutes, too, so it’s not a long, drawn-out conversation by any means. It’s just that when people feel like they’ve been heard out, they instinctively feel compelled to reciprocate and hear you out. This is how you make those words mean something. This is how you get potential clients to really pay attention and take you seriously, versus just blowing through some words on a script.

This type of experience is really music to the ears of a serious buyer, too.

Now, I don’t pitch this as a magic bullet for your sales process, or anything, either. Some products or services will need slight variations to this, but if your organization offers customized solutions, then I know this model will work for you.

If you’re more of a business-to-consumer, commodity, one-and-done type of business? Maybe not!

 

But seriously, what’s the alternative?

You get a live potential customer on the phone, blow through a few high-level questions to qualify him or her, then force a warm-transfer to a sales person who may or may not be ready to take a call? No thanks!

Sales people are busy and time is one of their most precious commodities. I probably could write a small business book about this marketing to sales hand-off topic, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave you with this:

 

How many opportunities do you think are blown out there in the business world every day by people warm-transferring leads for the sake of speed?

Here’s a few realistic outcomes:

  • the lead gets the sales rep’s voicemail – leaves a message, then never hears back because there’s a hundred other messages on the rep’s voicemail box
  • the sales rep takes the call and immediately reschedules it because he or she is in the middle of working on a proposal that he’s / she’s presenting in 45 minutes
  • something about the way the sales rep came across rubs the lead the wrong way and causes him or her to go dark
  • sales rep calls at the appointed time, leaves a voicemail, sends an email, never hears from the lead again
  • sales rep takes the call but was getting ready to leave for an appointment, sounds super-distracted during the call, doesn’t really listen or take notes and doesn’t set a follow-up appointment

 

The Marketing to Sales Hand-off that I’ve developed heads ALL OF THIS OFF, which will help your organization maximize every opportunity.