Chapter 8 - How to Change Your Mind

I'm adding this note of caution to each page of my notes because the title is misleading: the author advocates a softer approach to persuasion, but his tactics are often still manipulative. In many instances he proposes a subtler form of manipulation, but one which is still manipulative. I don't expect he has bad intentions, but lacks sufficient knowledge in the areas of rhetoric and psychology to correctly identify and avoid manipulative tactics entirely.

The author expresses some frustration as a sales trainer, in that the people he trains often do not follow their training. The irony is that selling is about changing the minds of other people and getting them to overcome the fear of change and do something new - but to learn to sell effectively, the salesman who takes training must be willing to change his own mind, overcome his own fear of change, and do something new.

On the other side of the coin, following training to the letter is not always productive - good process can become a straitjacket if it is not flexible, and doing everything by the letter of the book - this book - is not always going to lead to success.

The author feels that the process he has provided has a lot of built-ion flexibility: you can follow the basic steps and improvise as needed. He uses the word "strategic" to describe this approach. (EN: he could not be more wrong in doing so. Strategy is the name for the planned process, and there is a different word for improvisation adjustments that depart from the granular details as needed - that would be "tactics.")

Strategic Checklist

The author presents a strategic checklist that is neither strategic nor a checklist, but a number of tactical questions to explore when implementing the strategy he has described.

Where is the prospect in their decision cycle?

There journey to the sale begins where the prospect is at the moment. If you insist on starting at the beginning, the best you can hope for is to bore the prospect by making him thin about things he does not need to think about. And the worst that can happen is that you can make him change his mind about a decision he has already made that's in your favor.

Is the prospect ready to make a change?

Along the same lines, you must assess whether the prospect is mentally prepared to take action, which determines how much work you have to do in order to convince them to give you their business.

A word of caution: be very conservative about this. Salesmen want to think that everyone is ready to purchase right away because that serves their agenda, and tend to move prematurely. This damages their ability to close the deal.

What steps are the most critical?

The author is not at all clear on this, and tosses out a couple of paragraphs that come down to a tautology: you must decide what steps are most critical by determining the critical steps ... then determine your tactics.

What steps are the least critical?

If some things are the most critical, other things must be the least critical. For example, when you are making a second sale to someone who is happy with the item they bought from you last time, chances are you already have their trust and don't need to work too hard to gain it.

Generally, the more familiar you are with the prospect - whether you know them from a business or personal encounter - the less you have to do. And the more the prospect knows about your product, the less you have to say - provided the impression that he has is accurate.

(EN: The author skips the reason this is important, but it's more than just getting the sale quicker. When a person works hard o convince you of something you already believe, you question your beliefs - because the amount of effort they are putting into it suggests there's something askew.)

What are the known strengths and weaknesses of your position?

(EN: the author again puts out a cloud of words that conveys no information: what does he mean by "position"? what would constitute a weakness or a strength?)

Strengths are easy enough: you want to present your strongest points to win over the customer. Nothing more needs be said on that account.

However, weakness are sensitive - salesmen often wish to avoid anything that might cause a buyer to be reluctant, but they are under the misconception that the prospect knows only what the salesman says to him and has no preconceptions nor any other source of information that would inform him of your weaknesses.

If you refuse to discuss weaknesses or pointedly ignore them, that's tantamount to admitting that the weaknesses are unavoidable and you have no real argument - and are instead being evasive, dismissive, or dishonest. You have to convince the prospect to take the deal in spite of its weaknesses.

(EN: The author skips the reason for this, but it has to do with loyalty. If a customer discovers a weakness on his own, he feels deceived. If he has difficulties and you warned him in advance, he may still be disappointed but his trust in your honesty will be maintained.)

What objections do you anticipate?

In the previous chapter, the author delineated some of the kinds of objections that might arise - but much depends on the kind of product you are selling and the kind of customer to whom you are selling. You likely know from experience what kinds of objections have been offered in the past, or if you lack personal experience your colleagues or manager can provide ample information.

Scurrying to deal with an objection when it arises always makes you seem clumsy and desperate. Being prepared in advance enables you to address the objection effectively, with poise and grace that builds confidence in your claims.

What opening adjustments must you make?

Recall that opening is a critical part if the process, and the first 45 seconds are critical to gaining the prospect's interest and trust. Putting your best foot forward is very important.

However, you should not approach every prospect in the same way. Practice a handful of openings and decide which is appropriate, and be prepared to make further adjustments if need be to adapt to the prospect.

What personality adjustments will you make?

The author indicates that the way in which you approach a prospect should be tailored to their individual personality - he then launches into a few pages of descriptions of three personality types that he later admits is "a rather quick jaunt through the word of personality."

(EN: I'm skipping it, because it's a very sloppy and inaccurate discussion that stereotypes people into three vey basic categories - which can lead to some truly awful mistakes. My take on this is that you should either put a lot more effort into understanding personality, or a lot less - a person who simply has "good instincts" and follows them will fare better than a person who ignores their instincts and goes with a badly conceived schema such as the one the author provides.)

Personality is important because people react in different ways to different approaches. A "strictly business" approach works wonders with someone with is a strictly-business type, and fails miserably with a prospect who is more leisurely and social. A casual and chatty approach would work well with the latter and fail with the former.

Adapting to another person's preferred style is necessary if you want to influence them. You cannot insist that they adapt to your own preferences. (EN: Actually, you can if you are in a position of power in negotiation - but even that is a waste of time because you must first "sell" them on your interaction style before selling them on the product.)

It's Not About You

There is a certain personality type that is often associated with sales: an aggressive go-getter who treats every encounter with a prospect as if it's a competition, himself versus the customer, and making the sale is about winning. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Salesmen who have long-term success and develop a stable of regular customers that give them a lot of business over a long period of time do not try to win against the customers, but to help the customers win for themselves. It's not about you ... it's about your customers.

Transition to another problematic attitude: you are not your customer. Not all people work the same way or are persuaded by the same things, and if you attempt to present a customer with an argument that would win you over, it's not necessarily an argument that will win them over. You'll succeed only at selling to the small number of people who have the same personality type as yourself, but fail with all the rest.

Persuading people means speaking to them in their language, and not your own, and adjusting your interaction to accommodate their needs, interests, and personality.

However, you can't present a prospect with a personality test to figure them out - that tactic has been tried and has failed, as the other person has no motivation to be analyzed, feels the questions are an intrusive waste of time, and are suspicious of your motives for asking.

As such, personality is something you have to learn to "read." The author has no practical advice to offer on learning to do this, and seems to regard it as a natural ability that develops with experience over time.

(EN: That can be done, but that's not to say that it's always that way. You can figure it out as you go along, or you can study personality to avoid a lot of sloppy trial-and-error.)

And Finally

The author suggests that what he has taught in this book is a process, and not a bag of tricks. The problem is, a lot of sales training does take the bag-of-tricks approach and people develop their own tricks that they use on the job. And they are very quick to revert to their old ways at the first sign of trouble.

The problem is that training is designed to be used in exactly those situations: you don't need to be trained to do something that is comfortable and familiar, but to deal with something that is difficult and out of the ordinary. In such situations, persevere with his teachings rather than abandoning them.

He goes back to the misconception of sales as a contest between the seller and the buyer rather than a collaborative process - which is why people who teach about sales so often revert to metaphors from competitive sports. (EN: It occurs to me now that this author didn't do that - if there was a single sports metaphor in this entire book, I don't remember it now.)

Celebrating a sale as if it were a personal victory is likely the wrong approach. It's a great thing, but if you think that "winning is the only thing" you will not hesitate to cheat in order to win. And in the long run, cheaters do not prosper - the deception is discovered, and they lose all respect and honor, and some are banned from playing ever again. This happens to a lot of salesmen, one customer at a time.

If there's any lesson to be taken from the world of sports, it's not about winning. It's about being good at doing something, and it's about playing well and playing fair. Honest effort and good sportsmanship are qualities that are worth admiring, and are more important in the long run than winning every single game by any means necessary.

If you can change your mind about that, and let your actions proceed from a proper set of ethical values, you will be "good" in every sense of the word. You will be the kind of salesmen people want to do business with, and you will gain more business from them over the long run. This above all is why it is important to practice the art of influence without manipulation.