How easily are we swayed by others? In sales, we try to influence or persuade our customers to use our products. Yet we often encounter misperceptions and misunderstandings, either about our products or our competition in the mind of our customers.
It’s been said that our customer’s perception is their reality. I recently read about a study done in the 1950s that showed how powerful those perceptions can be. Dr. Solomon Asch did a study to see how much influence a group of people can have on one person. He created an experiment that had an easily defined correct answer. Card #1 had a single straight line. Card #2 had 3 straight lines, labeled A, B and C. It was readily obvious which line on card #2 matched the line on card #1. To prove this point, elementary school students were tested and they gave the right answer every time.
In this research study, people were asked to provide the answer in a group setting of eight people. Seven people were planted to provide the wrong answer before it was the subject’s turn. In 33% of the cases, the test subject gave the wrong answer! Talk about the power of group think!
A more recent experiment (Blakeslee, 2005) employed the use of an MRI to see what was happening in the subjects’ brains in a similar condition. They learned that those participants who agreed with the wrong answers showed increased activity in the area of the brain that deals with spatial awareness. What was lacking was activity in the areas of the brain that makes conscious decisions. The conclusion is that for those people, their reality was influenced more by the group then what they could visually see for themselves.
How can this help you in sales? If your customer has been hearing misinformation, either from the media or from your competition, whatever the source, you need to concentrate on altering that ‘reality/perception’. What is the best way to do this? By asking great questions—questions that engender thinking. Let me state that in another way. You want to ask questions that will make your customer think.
There is a lot of skill in asking questions. Just think of the difference between these 2 similar questions: “Is safety important?” vs. “How Important is safety?” All you need is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to answer the first question. But in order to answer the second question, the listener needs to think—to evaluate how important this factor is. In sales, we need to stimulate the part of the brain that makes conscious decisions. For it is only by thinking that behavior is changed.
The key to getting your customers to think is planning and then conducting a conversation in which you ask questions that are constructed so that they can penetrate that part of the brain that involves conscious decision making. Something to think about, isn’t it?
If you want to learn more about how to create questions that engender thinking, click here to learn about this lesson and others that are part of the Delta Points of Sales Excellence lessons.