We have all been in the position where we have had to predict some performance or business event. It is a key part of leadership and management whether you are in general business, sales, or any other business discipline. There are those that are good at it and those that “needs improvement” if I may use the ratings jargon that we are all familiar with.
I have found that those that are good at this type of predictive management have the gift of not only assuming others points of view – being able to look at things from where others do, but also have the ability to assume the perspective of others – being able to look at things how others do. It seems that the difference is subtle but the results can change dramatically.
The key here is that when we look at issues from others points of view we still have the tendency to ascribe our preferences and biases to the view. Someone who is risk averse may not see the same opportunity as someone with a higher risk tolerance regardless of the point of view.
It is these perspective mismatches that can then lead to the issues. What may be blatantly obvious to one regardless of where it was viewed, may make no sense at all to another regardless of how it is described.
Successful business and sales requires you to not only look at things from where others are standing, but also to try and look at it through their eyes. You can not ascribe your preferences to others because then you are always expecting others to “see it your way”.
Customers associate value with items that they pay for. If they don’t have to pay for it, then they assume it has no value. I think that this is another of the immutable laws of sales.
We have all heard of and potentially even tried to use the old “try and buy” closing technique. This is when you provide the customer the product for free, and at the end of some period of time they should be so enthusiastic about the product that they can’t help but pay you for it. While this may work for smaller ticket items, I have found that its success rapidly diminishes as the cost and sophistication of the product increases.
The view here is that if the customer believes that the product is free, for whatever period of time, then it has no value at least for that specific period. If the customer has no commitment to the trial process (in the form of committed money for the cost of the product) then there is no commitment from them to actually using the product to fairly ascertain its value. The key point here is that if the seller puts no value on their own product, why should the customer put any value on it.
The solution is to get the customer to put “some skin in the game”. They have to commit something of value – money – to the “trial”. Their time is nice but it is not good enough. The approach should be for them to buy the product for a period of time and if it does not perform to certain specifications, then it can be returned with a minimal restocking fee. Again a restocking fee, or a de-installation fee, etc, is important. As much as we would all like it (customers included) nothing is for free and the customer must understand that there is at least a small risk if the trial is a failure.
By implementing a “buy and try” sales process you can reduce the customers perceived risk and exposure associated with the product purchase while making sure they are committed to its use. It is in effect providing them with a fully paid grace period. If the product is sound, the service good and the relationship strong, it should also provide an effective way to close the deal.