Let’s start with a question: What business are you in? Your Company might be in ‘Products’ or ‘Services’. But, my question is: What business are you in?
My answer is: the Business of Persuasion! Come to think of it, this is not just a work-skill: Persuasion is a Basic Life Skill. Without that, you wouldn’t be able to get yourself a spouse; your kid to listen to you; your Bank to give you a Housing Loan; the School Principal to give your child a seat in your preferred school! Not just you, not just me, everybody: We are all in one business: The Persuasion Business!
You and I have chosen Selling for our livelihood: We better be very good at Persuasion! Definitely much better at it than the Software Programmer or the Accountant or the Bank Teller; or your competitor’s Salesperson!
My work connects me with some of the best CEOs, Sales & Marketing Heads, Sales Managers, Sales Specialists. And we have read, some of the best writings on Persuasion. Our distilled wisdom is: The best persuaders have the wonderful ability to make their customers trust them
How will you build trust?
So, how do you make your customers trust you? Trust is something you create. And live up to, through your right actions. Now, let me reveal to you a 3-step Trust-Building- Cycle to make Customers trust you fully: It’s called A-RAGA!
- Achieve Rapport
- Agree Goals that are mutually satisfying
- Act: Do all that you need to, to meet these Agreed Goals!
By repeatedly & always following the ‘A-RAGA! Trust-Building-Cycle’, outstanding persuaders produce such positive feelings in the customer and themselves, that it becomes an Enduring Relationship: i.e. a relationship which lasts through good and bad times. Persuasion is easy and powerful when we have built such an enduring relationship
Relationship is a much-misused/misunderstood word. There are some customers we fear will stop buying from us, if we increase prices or change credit terms! Even that is a relationship. But that’s like a relationship between a master and his slave. Most often: You slave, He master! Sometimes, e.g. in a crisis or shortage situation, you Master. But, not for long! This is Wear & Tear Relationship: you wear each other till one day it tears! That’s what we get if we think of the Customer just as a means to achieve our own ’goal’- Sales Target! We reap what we sow!
- If your actions are only to meet your Goals, it will deteriorate to a Wear & Tear Relationship
- If you act to meet Mutually Satisfying Goals, it will grow to an Enduring Relationship!
So, how does one implement A-RAGA!? It’s simple. Notice that, in this 3-step A-RAGA! :
- The first 2 steps (Achieve Rapport; Agree Goals) happen through interactive Conversations
- The last step (Act) is about taking Actions
By bringing spirit & discipline to just 2 things: our Conversations and our Actions, we can implement A- RAGA! to build enduring relationships and persuade powerfully!
Conversations: The Real Way we all use to get things done!
Let me begin with a question for this section. What do you do in a typical day? Your answer may be one or more of these: I meet customers/ make reports-mails/ talk over phone with my customers-prospects /do meetings-telecons with my Distributor-Sales Reps-Boss/speak to Supply Chain etc
Take a hard look at the above list. What is the underlying thing that you are doing in all this? It is this—You are having convs, your conversation has to be Energizing: Energize the other into actions that lead to the desired result!
To fully appreciate these wonderful insights, do this Quick Mental Exercise (QMA):
- QMA-1: Think about your most recent business lost where you were personally involved. Recreate mentally the full sequence of the last conversation between you and the customer when it became clear to you that the deal was as good as lost
Rate the Conversation: Energizing- Average- Poor?
- QMA-2: Think about your most recent business breakthrough where you were personally involved. Recreate mentally the full sequence of the conversation between you and the customer that clinched the deal
Rate the Conversation: Energizing- Average- Poor?
Isn’t it now obvious- that the quality of the results you get is fully dependent on the quality of the conversations you are having! So, Have Energizing Conversations!
The Structure of Breakthrough Conversations!
Breakthrough Conversations have a Simple Structure; Failed Conversations have poor structure! At a broad level, you will see that a Conversation is not just about what you do during the Conversation. What you do before often determines what we achieve during the Conversation. And, what you do after the Conversation could determine what you can achieve in the next conversation! So, broadly all Breakthrough Conversations have 3 important parts:
A. Before the Conversation B. During the Conversation C. After the Conversation
A. What you do Before the Conversation: Prepare for the Conversation like a Professional!
- Have a Clear Objective—what is the outcome you want from this Conversation?
- Communicate Objective & agenda to the customer when fixing the meeting
- Develop a Clear Plan (Plan A) on how you intend to achieve the objective of the Conversation
- Develop a n Alternate Plan (Plan B) to achieve the objective, in case Plan A does not work
- Take Actions you promised in the Previous Conversation
B. What you do During the Conversation: A Conversation is like a One-day Cricket match! Begin with a bang, build in the middle, end with a bang!
- Begin with a bang: In the very beginning, you must build rapport. Your Starting Statement should be such that it energizes your Customer to talk freely and helps you engage with her/him—Energizing Starting Statement
What do you do next? You must first set the context for the conversation, so that there is focus, you both are ‘on the same page’. Just like TV Shows give a recap to ‘prime’ us before an episode. Let’s call this Summarize Status
Having summarized status, you should not leave the customer in suspense as to what this conversation is for. He/she should know the destination: Make the objective clear, i.e. State the Objective—the outcome that you want from the conversation
- Build in the middle: In this part of a conversation, you are to working towards Achieving the Common Objective. Imagine each of your customer conversations like a jugalbandi, between equals. The first musician sets the pace, as if he is asking a question: ‘Can you match me?’ The other musician comes with a glorious response. Musician 1 then goes to the next higher level to ask: ‘Now, can you match this?’ The second does it! Thus it goes on, till both reach a crescendo, a big bang end with both playing in unison!
This middle part, ‘Achieve Common Objective’ has some sub-steps:
- Identify Customer’s Needs
- Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs
- Handle Customer doubts/fears/objections
- Close with an agreement
- End with a bang: While you end, it is best to Summarize Agreements reached in this Conversation. And, your Ending Statement should be such that it energizes the customer to act on the agreements—Energizing Ending Statement
C. What you do After the Conversation is: Meet Commitments made during the Conversation!
- Immediately confirm by mail/letter the agreed Next Steps
- Act to complete your agreed Next Steps on-time
So, here it is: the Structure of Breakthrough Conversations!
|A. Before:||1. Prepare like a Professional|
|Beginning:||2. Build Rapport with an Energizing Starting Statement (ESS)|
|3. Summarize Status|
|4. State the Objective|
|Middle:||5. Achieve Common Objective|
|a. Identify Customer’s Needs through Questioning
b. Present a Win + Win Solution that meets the Customer’s needs
c. Handle Customer Doubts/fears/objections
d. Close with an Agreement
|End:||6. Summarize Agreements|
|7. Energize with an Energizing Ending Statement (EES)|
|C. After:||8. Meet Commitments! Like a Professional!|
You have learnt something powerful: The Structure of Breakthrough Conversations! In subsequent Sections, we will address the skills required to follow this Breakthrough Structure!
|Skills to||Through learning on|
|1. Build Rapport||Mirroring & Matching|
|2. Identify Customer Needs||Active Listening & Effective Questioning|
|3. Present a Win + Win Solution||Persuasive Presentations|
|4. Handle Doubts/fears/objections||Objection Handling.|
|6. Do everything to meet commitments||Action Orientation|
The Spirit: It’s a Partnership of Equals!
Before we arm ourselves with the all-powerful method, let’s get the Spirit right. Nothing of what you have learnt so far / will learn will work if the spirit isn’t right!
So, what’s the Right Spirit?
The Spirit is of a Partnership of Equals! By equality, we do not mean similarity in social or economic Status. We mean Mutual Respect for each other, for what both bring to the table. And, the belief that will empower you to deal with the other as an equal is:
The customer needs us as much as we need the customer! This belief will give you the confidence to aim for mutually satisfying goals that build an enduring relationship
If you hold a belief: ’We need the customer more than he needs us’, you have lost the battle through submissiveness, even before you start any conversation. If you hold the other extreme belief: ‘The customer needs us more than we need him’, the customer has lost the battle already through your arrogance; you lose the war later! Such Limiting Beliefs cause win-lose, wear & tear relationships
Simply put, you need to see yourself as an equal partner with your customer. You need to believe: The customer needs us as much as we need the customer!