Easy to Swallow, Easy to Follow

Successful selling is all about building and nurturing relationships with new prospects. But the field is crowded with other sales people selling the same product as you. The competition seems to be at an all time high. How do you differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack?

In their 1981 book, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind, Jack Trout and Al Ries explain how positioning is used as communication tool to reach target customers in crowded market place. Every sales person, regardless of experience should read this book. If your copy has been gathering dust on your library shelf then it’s time to dust it off and read it again.

According to Trout and Ries, being first in your product category is the easiest way into the prospect mind. We can all remember who was the first man to step on the moon, but who can remember who was the second man to step on the moon. But in today’s crowded marketplace, being the first business in your product category is probably a difficult thing to be. So establishing your business as the first to claim a unique position in the mind of the prospect can help you effectively cut through all of the marketing clutter within your product category.

We live in the over communicated society. Our prospects are bombarded by thousands of marketing messages and sales calls every single day. When you study the physiology of the human brain, you soon learn that as a coping mechanism, the brain simply begins to tune out most of this information, especially that which is unfamiliar or not needed at the time. Unfortunately for most of us, the prospects are tuning out our marketing efforts.

If you can’t be positioned as the first business within your product category, then perhaps positioning your business in relationship to the number one brand can be a successful strategy. Miller Light was not the first light beer but it was the first light beer to be positioned as a light beer. They even named it a light beer.

Lowenbrau beer was the most popular German beer in America. But Beck’s Beer figured out a way to position their product in a different way. They used a marketing statement that said “You’ve tasted the German beer that’s the most popular in America. Now taste the German beer that is the most popular German beer in Germany.”

In order to be a better business person, you must become a student of the psychology of human behavior and the physiology of the human brain. Let’s begin with physiology of the human brain.

The reticular activation system of the human brain acts like the information clearing house letting through only that information that is consistent with what we already know and feel. In other words, if the information is not important to us, or have some bearing on the quality of our lives, the reticular activator will discard that information very quickly no matter how many times it is repeated.

The reticular cortex is the part of the brain that stimulates attention and that can only happen if the messages being decoded somehow provide a solution or answer to a need or desire that is bubbling up from within the prospect themselves.

Repetition alone will not cause the reticular activation system to accept the information we are trying to communicate and commit it to the prospect’s long term associative memory. In fact, if the irrelevant message is simply repeated over and over again, the reticular activation system may simply assign an irritation value to your message making it even harder to break through and gain a foothold in the prospects mind.

The brain develops perceptions and associations that it holds in long term memory. Irritating repetition will certainly doom your marketing message to the trash bin of the human brain. If and when you change your message to something more relevant to the prospects needs and desires, it may be too late because your message may have been permanently branded as nonessential.

The key to breaking through is to craft a simplified message. ”Easy to swallow, easy to follow” is the brain’s heuristic for influence. The message must be consistent with what the prospect already knows and believes. When you focus on the prospect instead of your product you will start to get past the reticular activation system roadblocks.

One way to appeal to the prospect’s needs and desires is to frame your presentation in a way that emphasizes the positive outcome of a relationship with you and your company.

In a research project conducted by two psychologists at the Wharton School of Marketing, the customers of a car wash were divided into two different groups. Each group was given a loyalty card that promised after eight paid car washes, the customer would get one free car wash. Each time the customer would visit the car wash, the attendant would stamp the loyalty card.

The terms of the loyalty card were exactly the same, pay for eight car washes, get one free. But the layout of the loyalty cards was different. On the first card, there were eight spots on the card. When all eight were stamped, the customer earned a free car wash. On the other loyalty card, there were ten spots but the first two spots were already stamped out. Both offers were exactly the same. The only difference was the presentation style of the offer.

The number of customers with the ten spot loyalty cards that returned to the car wash to claim their free car wash was 78% higher than the number of customers that had the eight spot loyalty cards. It was exactly the same offer but the one loyalty card offered the powerful illusion that the business was giving that customer a head start to a free car wash. Having two car wash spots already stamped out also drew the customer into the promotion by creating a perception that they might as well keep coming back because they were already on their way to getting a free car wash. The customers with the ten spot loyalty cards were more likely to complete the offer than those that perceived they had to start from scratch.

This is a common practice. Many airlines have branded credit cards that promise you a bundle of bonus miles on your first purchase giving you a head start on your next free vacation.

Not all of us have a loyalty program that we can use to help us get our toe in the door with a new prospect so we have to come up with other ways to frame our proposition in a way to get past the prospect’s reticular activation system.

In an over built market place, competing apartment complexes might offer the prospective tenant their first three months rent free, if you sign an annual lease. The apartment management doesn’t really give the tenant three months without paying anything; they simply reduce the price of all twelve months accordingly.

Price isn’t always the determining factor either. They key to unlocking the door to the prospect is going to be unique to the prospect. It’s going to be all about appealing to their felt need, the one thing that dominates their thinking that all of the other vendors have been unable to satisfy.

In many cases the key is going to be framing yourself as the vendor with the knowledge, the preparation and the resources necessary to follow through on what you promise. Perhaps providing your prospect with a complimentary analysis of their needs could open the door for you to demonstrate you have the answers they seek.

Whenever you are in front of the prospect, just imagine they have WIIFM stamped on their forehead; What’s In It For Me. When you listen to the prospect with empathy you will find the keys to unlock their reticular activation system and get a chance to become their vendor of choice for whatever you have to offer.

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