Do your Sales Reps Know How to Do Thorough Sales Discovery?
According to business sales training experts, when you’re discussing your range of products or services with a client prospect, you should spend a lot of time during the sales discovery process on the one you think would be the best fit, the one you really want them to buy, and little on the others. This may seem like common sense but there’s real science behind this statement.
The phenomenon of “perceptual contrast” briefly means that what you think about something is a function not just of the thing itself, but of the thing in comparison to other things.
The Perpetual Contrast Experiments
Our sales microlearning experts point to a set of interesting experiments with perceptual contrast by two behavioral scientists that’s relevant for sales reps and sales management training for leaders.
The researchers, professors Zakary Tormala of Indiana University and Richard Petty of Ohio State, wanted to investigate people’s perceptions of how much persuasive information they have about a product. They designed their experiments to see whether the amount of information people think they have about something can be influenced by the amount of information they think they have about something else.
They asked volunteers to read messages giving positive information about two fictitious department stores. The participants all received the same message about the second store. But the messages about the first store, which they read first, varied. Some of these messages gave a great deal of information about the first store — more than what they received about the second store — while others gave a mere smidgen.
More Info, Less Info
The results demonstrated the force of perceptual contrast in a compelling way. Those who read only a tiny amount about the first store thought they had 32% more information about the second store than those who read a lot about the first store. But in terms of attitudes toward the two stores, here’s something even more powerful – those with only a little information about the first store were 21% more favorable toward the second store than the other participants.
The researchers did one more experiment to see whether the prior information even had to be relevant to create perceptual contrast. And they found that it didn’t. When the participants were given more or less information about a certain model of car, and then information about a department store, the perceptual contrast effect kicked in again, in the same way.
The human mind, it seems, really wants to make comparisons, even when things aren’t strictly comparable.
Implications for Sales Teams
So what does all this mean for sales professionals?
- It Does Not Take a Lot of Information
For one thing, it means that you can range pretty far afield for your comparables, the things you want to give just a little information about before giving a lot of information about your target product. Since things don’t have to be perfectly comparable to create perceptual contrast, you don’t need to limit your comparisons to your own product range.
You can quickly mention one or two alternative options, give cursory information about them, and then proceed to your more detailed discussion of the sales solution that you feel best suits their needs.
- Sales Discovery Still Matters
But even more important, it stresses the critical importance of doing a thorough pre-call sales planning and sales discovery of the buyer’s unique needs. If you’re going to leverage perceptual contrast by giving only a little information about the products or solutions that you think aren’tquite right for your prospect, and a lot about the one you think is right, you’d better be darn sure you know what the buyer really wants and needs.
The Bottom Line
A thorough sales discovery is a must for the sales professional who truly has their buyer’s best interests at heart. With this new “tool” of perceptual contrast, it matters even more that you have a thorough understanding of what matters most to the buyer and give the most weight to the solution you truly consider to be the best fit.
To learn more about the best questions to conduct a thorough sales discovery, download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget to Know What Matters Most