New Business – Question Everything.

questionBeing persuasive is a pretty handy skill to have.

Useful in business for obvious reasons but in life in general.

How do you persuade someone?  

How do you get people to make a decision in your favour? Is it even possible?

Today we are often told by the latest in modern neuroscience that all decisions are made emotionally.

Some of them even contend we have no free will at all, so decisions are already made, really we are simply witnessing them. The universe is deterministic and free will is an illusion. How helpful is that?

The same goes for much of the latest in cognitive science and psychology, or as it is now called Behavioural Economics.  People don’t make rational decisions they say and simply post rationalise their emotional / intuitive thinking. Their point is that people make decisions subconsciously and that is devoid of any rationale.  What like zombies?

We see ‘their’ lists of biases that humans have, that alter the way people make  decisions.  People make more favourable decisions when they smell something lovely, fresh bread, summer roses or fish and chips for example.  

They make less favourable decision when they smell something disgusting, I’ll leave that list to you.  Who knew eh? Don’t hold meetings in the company loos. Do you offer fresh bread to your prospects or a bag of chips maybe? Can you imagine – “Before you talk me through your case study could you pass
the ketchup?”

Other biases include making bad or rash decisions when we need the loo or are hungry.  We make more favourable decisions when we are  physically hydrated, or emotionally happy –  like if we have  just won some money or recently spoken to a loved one? Who knew eh?  

Can we get the prospect to speak to a loved one  just before we meet or can we meet them just after they have been offered a visit to the loo or  have finished a fresh glass of water? Give them some scratch cards maybe? Please win, please win.

What happened to rational man and his ability to reason?  The Behavioural Economist would say that died with Classical Economics but I feel we are throwing the baby out with the bath-water. Just because utility maximising as advocated by Classical Economics has died and good riddance, doesn’t mean man doesn’t act without reason does it?

I am sure there is some evidence regarding some of the psychologist’s biases, although it bothers me that much evidence is drawn from experiments carried out in sterile conditions of the psychology department in a university. Rather than from real life. Eight five percent of all psychological experiments can’t be replicated. So lets tread with caution shall we.

Or maybe ‘they’ are suffering their own confirmation biases – maybe they could not help but discover what they set out to? We look for patterns and we find them don’t we?

The only time I really want to be persuaded by the smell of fresh bread is when I’m in a bakery.  I really don’t want it in an estate agents or when I’m with my financial adviser.

I can just see a Derren Brown like character jumping out in front of me and claiming “You just sold your house for £10 and signed up to life assurance that never pays out because we piped in the smell of fresh bread.” Arghhhhhh, it’s a nightmare!

Consultative Selling

What happened to having a reasonable dialogue with people based on their needs? Understanding another’s view, situation and vision of the world, or their business at least? Where the seller asks the prospect a series of question to uncover their business issues, their current situation and where they’d like to be.  

The thought being that if we understand our prospect and their issues well, they are more likely to be persuaded to buy from us.  And our attention to detail and understanding gives the buyer a view of what we will be like to work with.  Meeting one with a prospect is a test drive.

That is the idea behind consultative selling.  A simple concept that a business prospect (a sentient living being) tends to either move away from painful situations  or toward pleasurable ones.  

Some (experts) say people are way more likely to move away from pain than toward pleasure.  But we do both in different social contexts. Ice cream is sought for pleasure on a hot day or is it to take away the pain? Or ice cream can be consumed on the sofa straight from the tub to get over a bad day at the office, to give pleasure or take away the pain?

In fact our psychiatrist friends would rightly tell us that there is an interesting relationship between pain and pleasure but we are not going there.

Business people I contend  will do much more to avoid loss (pain) than gain (pleasure). Loss aversion ‘they’ call it, it is one of the many biases our psychologist friends talk about that seems to have some evidence but it is not a panacea.  Just because someone has a problem doesn’t mean they are in a situation to solve it.

Businesses are very typical of moving away from problems, they tend to come to creative agencies when they have multiple problems, more so when they want to move towards excellence. How often have you heard a prospect say our current agency is 9 out of 10 we just want to find a 10 out of 10 agency ? Never I expect.  

Prospects come to us with because they have issues, right?  Things aren’t how they want them to be. Their current agency lacks results, collaboration, miss budgets, lack creativity and strategy and so on.

So if they have worked that out already, why do we need to question them to find out about their issues?

Well, some might say that if we talk with the prospect about the issues it shows we understand them. True, walk in another man’s shoes and all that.

Also it demonstrates the attention to details we offer. Meeting number 1 is where they get to sample your agency’s service. It’s like a test drive or a free sample of what you’d be like to work with. E.g. Are you diligent, thorough, challenging, interested and understanding or are you simply friendly, prescriptive, cheap and non descript and yes, yes, yes.

The issue I see today with consultative selling especially for creative services is this –   buyers today have so much information to take to their internal meetings that we are not privy to, what is a new business person’s role now?

The buying of creative services are complex. They have more than one decision maker, often three to four, sometimes the investment is a large sum and yet potential big returns too. And when the people client side start their hunt for a new agency they have access to your website, maybe your case studies, blogs, articles from trade press, your philosophy or manifesto, Facebook pages, twitter account and so on maybe even your price list.

Could they decide without even meeting you?

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