How Joe the Sales Pro Wins TOUGH SALES (and you can too)

Let’s take two people: Joe and Barb.

Joe sells dental products for a major dental supply house. Barb is the buyer for a dental group with offices in a three-state region.

Joe is an optimist. He is an idea guy. He sees the big, beautiful picture.

Barb is cautious. On her twice-annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for industry conventions, she will invest no more than $20 per day (all in nickels) with the ‘one-armed bandits.’

You’ll find Joe at the roulette table with chips piled in front of him.

What happens when Joe calls on Barb to introduce a new product – a tooth polish twice as expensive as most, but made from all organic components?

Will Barb take a chance on ‘excellent opportunity to be first in the region to get on board’? Or will she play it safe and avoid investing in an unproven product?

Care to vote on the outcome?

Yep. Joe lost – right?

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But what if Joe is a salesperson armed with a knowledge of cognitive bias?

Barb’s thinking is characterized by ‘loss aversion bias.’ She is hyper-focused on avoiding loss. She is a shrewd buyer for her company and exacts the most for the least from every sales transaction.

Joe knows this. He has seen her ‘gamble’ in Vegas, and he has sat across the desk from her often in his regular visits to her office.

And Joe gets more of Barb’s business than any other salesperson in the region.

Does he do it by momentarily convincing her to ‘take a chance’? Heavens no! That is exactly the track most of the other price-beaten sales reps take with Barb.

They hate calling on her. She is ruthless.

Joe brings Barb a big smile and an understanding manner when he calls. Joe has built trust with Barb and she feels Joe is ‘on her team.” His agenda is to sincerely help and serve her. He knows Barb is cautious, and when he congratulates her for taking such a wise stance, she trusts that he is sincere — NOT that he is simply trying to ‘win the sale.’

A quick look at loss aversion bias

Barb’s shrewdness is not abnormal. Rather, it is a the prevalent attitude in the marketplace. Some are less fixed on loss aversion, but the tendency is well-documented.

In one experiment, participants were given $50 and a choice: Do you wish to keep $30, or would you rather gamble on a coin toss whereby you could keep or lose the entire $50?

What would you do?

43% (the optimists) chose to gamble. 57% (exhibiting loss aversion) kept the $30 and refused the toss. It’s fairly easy to see which side of those numbers Joe and Barb would have been on … yes?

Then, the experiment changed.

The next round of participants were given the same options, but framed differently: Would you prefer to lose $20 immediately or toss a coin and get the chance to keep or lose the entire $50?

Framed this way, the percentage of ‘gamblers’ rose to 61% — a hefty climb.

You see, most of us are more afraid of losing what we have than we are eager to gain what we don’t have. In other words, I would rather stick with the little bird in my hand than possibly lose it in order to chase the big bird in the bush.

Entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, of course, tend to be ‘big bird’ people. Corporate employees are often perfectly happy to settle for the safer, more secure option.

How Joe sold Barb that new dental product

Joe loves to work with Barb. He knows that when he finds something worth holding on to – and can physically and psychologically place it in Barb’s hands, helping her to assume ownership – she will be reluctant to let go.

He also knows that he must cut the legs out from under any perceived potential for loss and show Barb how she stands to lose – not by accepting his offer – but by refusing it.

The approach  Joe uses varies, but often includes one or a combination of the following:

  • Showing Barb how her dental group is LOSING money every month by not having his most recent product (or more of his products) in stock
  • Passing ownership of his goods on to Barb by getting her to hold it, use it, learn about it, show it to others and by providing abundant free samples for her to keep
  • Providing guarantees to take away perceived risk – the more he can help Barb see how her reluctance is already costing the company money and that the true loss potential is miniscule, the more likely she is to give him the nod for the order

In conclusion – be a Joe

By taking time to learn about the various manifestations of cognitive bias and becoming aware of the part they play in sales, you will become a more successful salesperson.

You won’t be one of the 80% who barely get by and blame it all on the economy, a historically poorly performing region or an incompetent management team.

Rather, you will be one of the top performers who consistently break records and reap the benefits of the sales profession. Or you will be one of the successful entrepreneurs who grows a successful business and a healthy roster of happy clients … all the while feeling confident and comfortable in the sales process.

I know.

By learning from and listening to experienced sales professionals and ‘sales stars’ and applying what I learned to my own career, I have been one of the record-breakers.

And you know what I was most proud of in the 12 years I was a top performer for a Fortune 500 company?  That in breaking sales records and achieving high levels of performance, I never had ONE complaint in my file.

All credit goes to the fact that I have been blessed in my career to learn and implement approaches based on humility, trust, integrity and treating people with respect — not as ‘targets’ to manipulate to my agenda.

Contact me if you want you or your team to learn how to do the same.


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