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Greg Nanigian and Associates, Inc. | Braintree, MA,

In our past few blogs we have been digging into the sales technique we call Reversing. Reversing is an effective approach where we answer prospect questions with questions, a technique that typically disarms the prospect and puts them at ease with us. It’s a great way to gain trust and guide the prospect down the path to uncovering his or her pain. Since it is such an effective sales tool, we continue our discussion on using the Reversing process to close more deals.

One important step you need to take in making the reverse process more effective, is to create a safe environment for the prospect. This means acting appropriately as the prospects shares issues and personal pain with you. Smiling would obviously not be a recommended reaction to the prospect revealing pain to you. If you smile at this point, the prospect is likely to shutdown or get angry with you, and your chances for success quickly dwindle away. The prospect needs to feel safe with you, so show concern, show them you care about their pain. It’s okay that you are smiling on the inside as your Reversing technique works its charm, but be careful not to show your hand to the prospect.

Have you ever heard the saying? “Selling is a Broadway play performed by a psychiatrist.” A professional therapist is not going to smile or laugh when a patient shares pain, and it’s the same for us as sales professionals.  Show you care and it will go a long way towards making the sale.  You can start this process of establishing a safe place when you first establish the Up-front Contract with the prospect. By establishing an Up-front Contract, there is “no mutual mystification.” Each party knows the purpose, has shared what’s on the agenda, has agreed upon how long the meeting will be, and has agreed that a decision will be made by the end of the meeting. The Up-front Contract is cultivating a safe environment in which you and the prospect can agree on what is going to happen. 

For example, “I’m not convinced yet that we have anything for you so I would like to dedicate some time today for us to ask each other some questions so we can identify whether or not we might be a match here.” This is a great way to start to establish an up-front contract.

You can also create a safe environment by telling people your process. Walk them through every step so they understand how you work. One suggestion, however, is to not call the Pain Step, “the Pain Step.”   Call it “Success Criteria,” and back into the pain as you learn what they would think of as success. Here’s an example:

Salesperson: “Suppose we were to work together for a year. Suppose also that at the end of that year, I asked you to score how happy you are with working together and the success of our service on a zero to ten scale, ten being the highest. Let’s suppose you said, ‘Ten. I’m really happy with the results and working with you.’ Let’s pretend that I then asked you to share two or three criteria that you based that score of ten on. What would you tell me?”

Prospect:  “I would probably say downtime, speed of our technology, and your response time for technical support.”

Salesperson:  “OK, that makes sense. Can you tell me a little more about why you picked those three?”

Prospect:  “I picked downtime because it’s too much right now and it’s costing us money; I picked speed because I think our machines aren’t as fast as they could be; and I picked response time because I’m not just talking about how quickly you can pick up the phone, but how quickly you actually solve our problems. All of these things are unacceptable right now.”

From here you could use reversing to move from their success criteria and back into their pain. However, don’t be obvious in your attempts to uncover pain, instead, take them in to the future by putting them at ease and making them feel safe. Once you’ve established this trust, reversing becomes easier and more effective.

Let’s review another example. In the following scenario, you’ve built rapport with Hugh Smith, the product manager of a large manufacturer, and are beginning to uncover his pain.

Hugh:  “What’s the typical response time of your sensors?”

You:  “That’s a really good question,” I get it a lot. Can I ask you something? Why did you ask me that at this particular point in our conversation?”

Hugh:  “We don’t need a fast response time, and we don’t want to pay a premium for something that we don’t need.”

You:  “OK, that makes sense to me. Can you help me with what you do need?”  as you direct the conversation back to Hugh.

Hugh:  “Yeah. We need something that’s accurate,” he reveals.

You:  “OK, why is accuracy important to you?” 

Hugh:  “When we have higher accuracy, our productivity goes up. Right now, we put out a lot of products that don’t pass inspection. That’s expensive and time consuming. Our reject rate is 2%. We need to cut that in half. In fact, the CEO has given everybody in the company a mandate.”

You could then ask a question such as:

You:  “Let me ask you this. How does the 2% reject rate impact you?”

Hugh:  “It makes my job harder, it’s frustrating, and it puts us behind sometimes on delivery dates.”

As you can see, Hugh revealed some pain and frustration about the CEO’s order to cut the reject rate in half. Thus, the salesperson cultivated a safe environment for the prospect to trust him and reveal some pain. This now opens the door to using the Reversing technique to full advantage and effectiveness, eventually to closing more deals.


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