You can’t persuade most people and you shouldn’t try. Most people don’t want what you have to sell. Most sales calls end in failure because the product isn’t right for the person across the table.
Your job isn’t to persuade any person on the merits of your product. Your job is to identify the problems encountered by a certain group of people and deliver a product that addresses this problem. Not only will these people share a problem in common, but they’ll also share a mindset about how they view the problem and potential methods to solve it.
In our Western culture, there are no problems experienced by the majority. Problems are niche. They’re broken down into fragmented markets. My problem may be grip strength: it’s the weak link in my chain when I work out at the gym. My problem may be that I want to find a hot drink to get hooked on that doesn’t contain caffeine and projects a message to the world which makes my cohort think I’m cool.
Persuade one person that you have the solution to their problem
You can create a product which focuses on improving grip strength. When you do, your job isn’t to convince all people that they should buy your product to improve their grip. Your job is to find the people who recognise they have a grip problem and want to solving it. Your job of persuasion is to convince this person that your product solves their problem.
Along the way, you’ll encounter much more rejection than acceptance whilst you attempt to uncover members of your audience. Here’s where many salesmen and women trip up. They’re trained to have a pre-prepared list of answers to frequent objections. The aim is supposedly to overcome each until the prospect is empty of objections and left with no option but to buy.
This type of approach often misses the most important question. Before attempting to identify their objections to buying your product, first you need to prepare a question or two to uncover whether they have the problem that you attempt to solve (and acknowledge it as a problem).
The sales person normally enters a pitch designed to persuade the prospect on the merits of the problem. That approach is demoralising and a waste of energy and time, because you’ll encounter far more negativity than positivity.
Filtering out most people to find the right people
The goal of your opening questions with a prospect should be to uncover whether they look like the type of person that has the problem you attempt to solve. You want to do this as quickly as possible so that when you encounter people that aren’t your audience, which is most of the time, you waste as little of yours and their time as possible.
If I’m selling to bodybuilders looking to improve their grip strength, I might not be able to see the person to tell if they’re a bodybuilder (online sales, telephone, etc.). I need a question to identify whether they go to the gym regularly, and if they do, whether they’re a serious body builder. Only when they answer affirmatively to both questions do I proceed to persuade them on the merits of my product.
Frequent attempts to persuade the wrong type of person to buy your product is demoralising. Whenever I’m on a ‘rejection’ streak, I find it helpful to come back to this point and consider whether I’m trying to persuade the wrong people. More often than not I am and I need to get back to filtering.