Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Getting to a final agreement might take 5 minutes, an hour or a year, but getting the FIRST yes has to happen within 30 seconds if you are meeting in person, and even sooner in print or online.
It's all about Resonating
You've probably heard that it's a good idea to "establish rapport" before trying to sell someone. There are hundreds of books that teach you to compliment people, ask them personal questions, and establish camaraderie by commenting on things you see in their home or office. Classes on NLP (neurolinguistic programming) will go even deeper, and teach you to "mirror" and "match" a person's breathing and movements as a way of establishing subconscious rapport.
That's all well and good, but in today's skeptical, busy, distracted world, you'll rarely get the chance to do any of that before the mental gates come crashing down and your fate is sealed.
Scientists have discovered that when exposed to persuasion, the brain is either in an "open" mode or a "closed" mode. If the brain signals are in open mode, a person is interested in seeing or hearing whether something might be good for him or her and you have a 93% chance of closing the sale or getting them to agree with you.
On the other hand, if the brain signals are in closed mode, the person has essentially already made up their mind to reject your argument or proposition and you only have a 3% chance of closing the sale or getting them to agree with you.
To dig deeper into how this works, researchers interviewed thousands of people after they were exposed to a persuasive argument. They found that while everyone forgot or misremembered parts of the pitch, people who had been in open mode, misremembered in FAVOR of the seller or persuader. Some even made up or embellished favorable facts! They operated like a biased judge and rigged the trial in favor of ultimately saying, "yes".
People who had been in closed mode did the opposite. They conveniently forgot important facts that might have convinced them, they misremembered features and benefits in a downgrading way, and they judged the character of the seller or persuader as less complimentary than most people did.
One of my business partners, Tom Travisano, did extensive research in this field. He used to sit in on a company's sales calls. After the first couple of minutes, he would write down on a piece of paper whether he thought the sale was going to happen or not. If the sales process was short, his prediction would be proved or disproved the same day. If the sales cycle was going to take several meetings and many months, they would put his answer in a file cabinet until the deal was done or blown. Across the many hundreds of times he played this game, Tom's accuracy in predicting the outcome of the sale was around 92%.
The bottom line is that if you want to have a good chance of closing a sale, you have to get the mind open right away. So how can you get to that first "yes" quickly? You resonate.
Resonating is a response not unlike the one you get when you are lost and standing in front of the big directory map at a shopping mall and you suddenly find the "you are here" X. It's that relieved sense of being seen, known, found, or understood.
Marketers have been using resonating for years. They craft campaigns that speak what is on people's minds in order to create a warm fuzzy feeling in their hearts.
How can you do this face to face? Obviously, walking in spouting a marketing slogan isn't likely to get a favorable response. Instead, do some background research to find out what really matters to the person. Look for pet peeves or a strongly held values. You need something that will immediately "strike a chord." It doesn't matter if it's a positive or negative chord, as long as they perceive you are on their side.
The goal is to make a resonating statement right out of the gate. One way to do this is to ask a strategic question or make a statement based on something you noticed about their life, their job or their environment. For example, when meeting with a programmer, you might say, "Wow, I'm surprised that you work in an open environment like this, I always thought that writing code would require intense concentration. I'd go crazy if I was interrupted all the time. You must have amazing focus!" This statement is likely to trigger the programmer's own frustration and start them on a rant about how they hate constant interruption. This intense emoting will create a bond between you because they feel like you really know what it's like to be in their shoes.
Another example would be if you see a photo of children on someone's desk, instead of giving the usual compliments you learned from sales books, you could say, "Oh wow, such adorable kids!" Then lowering your voice, "It must be hard to be away from them all day". If the person agrees, you could continue with a quick personal story (or a story of someone close to you) about being at work when the baby took its first steps. As you share stories of sacrificing family for work, you and that person "resonate" with one another and form an instant bond that transcends pleasantries.
The biggest mistake people make when trying to create resonating statements or questions is they try to talk about the benefits of their proposition. Questions like "if I could show you how to save you hundreds of dollars a month would you be interested in my product?" or statements like "I'm sure you'd love to take your business to the next level right?" do not cause the resonating response. In fact, they are likely to cause the brain's defenses to go up
A resonating statement is not about your product, service or proposition. It is about the person and his or her life, feelings, preferences, sacrifices, or pet peeves. It is a statement or question that shows that you know what it is like to be them and you feel the same way. The same resonating statement, if well crafted, would work to "pick someone up" at the bar, or to get them favorable towards your million dollar deal. It's not about you or your offer. It's about them.