The number one challenge for a sales person is overcoming inertia. Every sales person knows this well. Far more often than losing a sale to the competition, you lose to a non-decision, essentially a default to maintain the status quo. In all likelihood, it’s not that you weren’t able to convey your value proposition or demonstrate the potential ROI of substituting your solution for their existing practices. It’s simply a matter of prospects having to confront the often irrational fear of abandoning what they have been doing up until now, that has been failing them, to adopt a new process that has the prospect of being far better. Change is that scary and inertia is that powerful.
Inertia, and the irrational fear of change, can and has caused companies to fail. Ironically, inertia is often more powerful in the most critical situations in which the problems have existed for a long time. What else could explain the delay by an otherwise smart and rational business person to identify and implement a solution with far greater potential to resolve the problems before things reach a critical stage?
Compare it, if you will, to an individual with a phobia. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is defined as an irrational and excessive fear of an object or situation. In most cases, the phobia involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. Phobias strike very smart people as often as people who are less intellectually gifted. It is intelligence neutral so to speak.
One of the most successful approaches to treating phobias is by the use of guided imagery, in which patients are systematically desensitized to the object of their fears by visualizing situations in which they can calmly and safely coexist with the object of their fears.
So how does that inform the sales process, especially as it relates to the fear of change?
When you are presenting your value proposition, after having assessed and diagnosed their needs and crafted a solution, it will help if you are able to give them a meaningful opportunity to visualize life after the change is implemented. Help them imagine how they will feel about the success of adopting a new and improved solution. Let them dwell on that. Indeed, encourage that actively.
Encourage them to be active participants in that endeavor. It’s just like the beer commercial where you see two (or more) attractive people sitting on a lounge chair on the beach with a slice of lime hanging off the rim of their beer bottles listening to the waves crashing on the shore.
Ask them... literally ask them ... to picture themselves in the absence of the problems caused by their current practices (or their lack of an adequate solution). How would that free them up to deal with more important issues? How would other people regard them in the light of that success? How would they feel if they had a solution that will enable them to sleep at night unfettered by the challenges they are facing now?
By helping the prospect imagine and embrace a positive outcome - instead of being haunted by the nightmare of what catastrophe change might cause - you will give them a path to embracing change instead of fearing it. It’s as if you could give a claustrophobic locked in a closet the power to imagine that the door is transparent or invisible.