Last weekend, my colleague Ori Yankelev and I attended B2B Camp in Cambridge, MA — the keynote presenter at the event was Mike Bosworth, the author of two highly-influentials sales books/methodologies Solution Selling and Customer-Centric Selling. Since starting at OpenView three and a half years ago, “Bosworth” is a name that I’ve heard quite a bit, as Managing Director Brian Zimmerman has always held this sales legend with the highest of regards.
In his presentation, Bosworth walked through the evolution of his career and the evolution of his sales methodologies. In the last decade, it appears as though Bosworth has really focused on the psychology of sales and creating the emotional connection with your prospects in order to gain trust, and ultimately new business. In his opinion, the best way to make an emotional connection throughout the sales process — but particularly during the early stages — is storytelling.
“Storytelling” seems a bit odd at first thought, right? It’s not like your prospects are children… but to a certain extent, there are actually similarities between the two, particularly when it comes to how the brain operates. To get your prospects to open up to listening to you, you need to coax them in order to get their guard down and make them comfortable.
As Boswoth explains, “Stories appeal immediately to the right side of the brain. As soon as somebody hears “Once upon a time…” or “I’d like to tell you a story about the time…” the listener relaxes and knows that no decisions need to be made immediately, but instead all that’s needed is to go along for the ride and listen for what might be important in the future.
When it IS time to make a decision, the right side of the brain (which actually makes the decision) draws upon the stories it’s heard in order to judge whether or not a decision makes sense. The story can actually engulf the listener and the teller. The connection during the story can remain between the two people after the story is over, leaving the top sales reps with a connection that others can’t achieve.”
Another important aspect of the story tending approach, is “Story TENDING”. Bosworth explained the following tactics for relaxing the prospect and getting him/her comfortable. Saying the following things should help your efforts and play into the emotional/left-side of the brain:
- Communnicate: “What I’m hearing you say…”
- Reflect: “Let me see if I’ve got you…”
- Relate: “I think I understand how you feel because…”
- Resonate: “I can image how you felt when…”
- Evoke: “What does that remind you of?”
One thing that Bosworth said that really got me thinking (and laughing) is that appearing vulnerable will often help your cause with prospecting. Admit that you are a “dumbass” (as Bosworth put it). In other words, make yourself appear vulnerable. By exposing some relevant flaw with a prospect, you will help bring his/her guard down. It makes you appear human, and will evoke empathy. Now there is obviously a fine line between appearing TOO dumb (keep it light), but his point is don’t be afraid to admit a fault. It’s a real relationship builder. No one is perfect, and people who pretend to be are, well, phony. And that’s easy to pick up on.