Because stereotypes and sloppy thinking can be the death of any salesman.
Have you ever been the victim, or worse the perpetrator, of a sales consultation that went something like this?
“How about the rainy weather?”
This is the salesperson trying to establish rapport by talking about a few superficial topics.
“Did you see the game last night? Got any kids?”
There’s the personal question, right on cue.
Yeah baby! Know, like and trust is happening! If you are responding at all you are now a hot prospect in their mind. Let’s get some more “know, like and trust” going before we move on, just to be sure.
“Would you like to be earning more money? Would you like to be more successful? Do you like red?”
They’ve just pounced on you with what we call a “determine the need question.”
“Yes, I like red.”
Boom, here comes the solution: “You need a red Ferrari!”
Followed by a big dump of the features and benefits of owning a red Ferrari.
What just happened?
Our brains want to stick things in buckets or patterns that they already understand. Your brain processes immense amounts of information every second, every minute, of every day. If your conscious mind had to deal with all of the raw information you would be overwhelmed in a nanosecond.
So we use known patterns to categorize things. If we don’t have our own experience we use stories and third-hand experience. This is one reason why story telling is so powerful.
If these stories serve us, they are useful. They allow us to interpret the information and make decisions much more quickly.
But sometimes, our short cuts lead to societal and situational stereotypes.
We start to make judgments based on partial information.
We make mistakes. We treat big groups of people all the same. We let our brains get lazy.
Let’s look at an expensive, high performance sports car like a red Ferrari. If you are a sports car fan, or even just admire them, what words and feelings come to mind? Red, hot, sexy, fast, powerful, prestige, expensive, wealth, success, risk taker, etc.
Go to a high-end car show and what do you see? Displays of wealth and power attract people to us. “Drive one of these and other men will respect you and woman will be attracted to you.” It plays off of our primal desires.
I mean who wouldn’t want a red Ferrari right?
The Stereotype Trap
Well according to Wikipedia, only about 7,000 people bought a Ferrari in 2013.
That is pretty far from everyone. That is pretty far from every male over the age of 16. It probably includes people that would surprise you; well outside the stereotypes.
The reality is, not everyone can afford a red Ferrari. Not everyone wants a red Ferrari.
Not everyone even wants a sports car. Not everyone even wants or needs a car.
And stereotypes go both ways.
A significant part of the population doesn’t just not want an expensive red sports car; they have a very negative view of people who drive them.
When stereotypes negatively impact our perceptions of others such that we prejudge and label whole groups of people, these become our prejudices.
We are wired to have them. Our brains are lazy out of necessity.
Fortunately, we also have the gift of reason to rethink them and rise above them.
I’ve been observing a lot of sales people over the years and I think there are two mistakes that are quite common that flow from our natural tendency to match patterns so we can make decisions with less thought:
- Mistake 1: Salespeople tend to jump over determining need as quickly as possible; straight to the solution. This leads to the conversation being all about you instead of them.
- Mistake 2: Salespeople assume almost everyone is a good prospect and don’t weed out the non-buyers quickly enough; they use the presentation of the solution to start that process. This mistake wastes a lot of time and time is money.
Everyone is not your potential customer. You need to find the people who are.
Take advantage of how our brains work. There are 5 reasons you need to have a red Ferrari in your product or service arsenal.
Reason 1 – Power of Screening
Many salespeople spend lots of time on clients who will never buy their stuff. They focus on the buddy-buddy relationship and then just go straight to solutions after a very superficial needs analysis. Because there is no strong motivation to buy, a lot of interactions are required, and things drag out.
Effective salespeople know that spending more time with prospects that can actually benefit from the solution is a lot more effective use of limited resources.
Your red Ferrari allows you to develop a set of screening criteria that will make the sales process more powerful because you know your ideal client wants a red Ferrari, even if they aren’t buying it now. Do they love high performance? Do they care about image or getting attention? They’re either your kind of driver or they aren’t.
When you are developing your screening knowing that your ideal client wants a Ferrari allows you to avoid the prejudices and stereotypes. For instance, we’ve all heard stories of women being marginalized by car salesmen and then taking their purchase down the road. You are going to make some mistakes, but just don’t make them for reasons you can fix in your process and thinking just by asking the right questions.
Reason 2 – Go Big or Go Home
You aren’t selling a trivial solution to a trivial problem. You’ve already screened out low likelihood buyers.
So you are looking for the big problems first. They require bigger solutions. The motivation to solve them is higher. You are forced to ask better questions.
Dig deep by asking questions that matter. The questions that uncover the real pain not the ones that you are comfortable asking because they make you feel good. And certainly not the questions that allow you to let your brain take the lazy pattern matching approach with tired clichés.
Identify the big pain and get the client to agree that it is worth solving.
Remember if the pain or benefit is not big enough, people won’t buy. They have to feel it and see it. They don’t buy to make you happy.
If the solution is not a red Ferrari you can always sell them a lower cost ride or a set of tires.
It is easier to start big and move down than to sell the tires and move up to a red Ferrari.
“Would you like a red Ferrari to go with those tires?” See!
Reason 3 – The Work is Equal
There is a surprising little secret to selling. Once the solution is over a certain threshold in cost, the amount of work to make a sale is relatively close to the same; big or small.
Let the client decide whether or not to move down, don’t get into the habit if making that decision for them if you can show the value is much higher than the cost. Chances are stereotypes or fears are impacting that misguided tendency to help.
You will be surprised who can suddenly afford your red Ferrari if the benefits are big enough to them.
And if they don’t like red?
Well, red is the most popular color, but it also comes in black and you get all the same benefits.
Reason 4 – The Future Is Up
By looking for big problems and solutions first, you position yourself much higher in the eyes of the prospect.
If the red Ferrari is not viable today, they will now know you have it. If you positioned it as desirable in their minds and you deliver well for the solution you do sell them; when they are ready they know to come to you.
Plus, the value of all your solutions goes up because of it. This means more pricing flexibility across the entire range. Hey, if you want to be associated with the red Ferrari solution, you pay for the privilege.
They won’t have to go look at your bigger competitor when they outgrow your lower value options.
Reason 5 – Attracting Ideal Clients
This is the biggest benefit. Word will get out that you sell red Ferraris.
People who want to associate with or benefit from that will start finding you. You will have a lot more self-qualifying leads and waste even less time with prospects who will never buy.
You will get to do more of the work that you like, make more revenue and keep more profit than working with non-ideal clients.
So do you have a red Ferrari to sell? What does yours look like?