Mark Boundy

By Mark Boundy

Three Sales Strategies for Even Keel/Indifference

150 150 Mark Boundy

Indifferent or “Even Keel” mode happens when  a buying influence sees no compelling reason to change what they’re doing. Because any change (including a purchase of something different) needs to overcome the uncertainty and interruption factor of that change, indifference happens any time the perceived value an improvement doesn’t outweigh the perceived cost of change.  To get someone out of Even Keel, you need to change their perception somehow:  reduce the perceived cost of change — or increase the perceived payoff from making that change.

Indifference is common, threatening many sales opportunities by causing the prospect to default to the status quo.  It’s often the biggest competitive threat in play. Great sales professionals prepare for indifference so they can plant the seed for perception change during that next meeting…the only one they can count on ever getting.

I was recently asked for a list of the strategies that a sales professional can use to get a buying influence out of “Even Keel” or “indifferent” mode.  He’d read in The New Strategic Sellingabout waiting for the person’s perception to change, and knew there had to be more options available.

Perception is personal. Thus, changing perception should be about people. Let’s examine whomight serve as catalyst for changing a buying influence’s perception to leave indifference behind.  There are three sources of perceptual change:

  1. The prospect changes their own perception based upon perceived change in their environment or situation.
  2. The sales person is the agent of change. That is, the sales person influences the process of changing the prospect’s perceptual change.
  3. A credible (to the prospect) third party acts as perception-changer.

Here are some thoughts on the three strategies for dealing with indifference, to help you prepare for your next sales interaction:

Let the buying influence (BI) change their own perception.

I list this strategy first because many sales people don’t consider it fully. When you are taught to “take control of the call” or something similar, the strategy of letting the flow of events do your work for you is counterintuitive.  While it’s not always the shortest path, it works directly on the perception of the prospect.  There are a couple of variations.

1. Let them fail on their own. When this option works, it works great.  Prospects are likely to transition directly into “I’m in trouble” mode, which is highly leveragable.  It also means you need to politely maintain contact.  Be the one with share of mind to get their first call, then be the most responsive.  Unfortunately, this route can take a long time.  This option is one of the few viable options when the prospect is so overconfident in their current solution that their willingness to listen to anyone is limited.

2. Let them watch as a competitor begins to win. This is a variation of the ‘let them fail” option.  Only certain buying influences will be in a position to see this or care that it’s happening: affected sales people and sometimes  top executives (it can be less impactful to User or Technical buying influences).

The Seller changes the  Buying Influence’s perception

 Note: credibility is foundational for this strategy.  If a prospect doesn’t trust what you are telling them, you can’t build a case for change.  I work with my clients to establish and build credibility at all times — for this reason and more.  Once you’ve got credibility, you can:

Show the prospect that reality isn’t as acceptable as they perceive it; that potential losses from doing nothing are higher than they perceived.  Help them see their problem more broadly (in MHGroup terminology:  help them change their Concept, or solution image.). My readers, who are familiar with my focus on customer value will recognize the imperative to uncover unrealized value.

  1. Uncover and crystalize needs. With deeper investigation, implicit needs become explicit.
  2. Examine the impact of any existing gaps in more detail. What is the “impact of the impact” (including monetizing it).
  3. Think about the prospect’s role in the sale and in the decision dynamic for ideas on possible perception changes. This will help you prepare some high-impact discovery questions.

Mutually discover that you can help them solve a business problem that they didn’t see being connected to your solution. Again, you need credibility with this prospect to secure time to do extra discovery…or to do it in small bites over time.  This means expanding their concept.

Find a sufficiently compelling personal win,tied to a result. If a buying influence sees an adequate (but previously not compelling) business benefit plus a significant newly-realized personal win, that business benefit will become one they are willing to advocate to their peers. Some possible wins:

  • Be the first to respond to a budding problem.
  • Propose a solution before a rival within the company does

Have a trusted third party change the target’s perception.  

 Much of what I said about salesperson-led change above applies below—if your credibility is less than needed, this option might be a good one.  To execute this strategy when needed, you’ll need credibility with that third person.  Here are some options:

A co-worker changes their perception. This person’s credibility will be the key to their mind, and helping that co-worker find a role-appropriate gap may be needed.

  • Might you need to coach that co-worker? How?

Executive adjusts their perspective. Credibility with the target prospect is not a big problem when it’s their boss. Making sure the buying influence saves face or comes out with a personal win should be a point of emphasis.

A Coach changes their perception. A Coach is anyone who has credibility with your target, and who wants your proposal to succeed (Miller Heiman Group alumni: there’s one more criterion. Quiz:  what is it?).  These people can advance and promote the case for change.  Caution:  don’t let your coach cross the line to selling on your behalf, or do anything that damages their own credibility with other buying influences.

Takeaways:

Every salesperson soon learns that status quo is often the biggest hurdle to be overcome in many sales situations.  Buyer inertia is a presence in just about every sales situation, and salespeople need to be able to deal with it.

Salespeople need to build credulity in every customer interaction. This lays the foundation for everything they try to accomplish in the future:, open the prospect’s view to new options , establish value of options…even gain the right to secure a meeting in the future.

Pre-plan how you will bring value to every interaction.  Using your domain expertise in your offer/solution/service/product is of limited value to most prospects.  Apply that domain expertise with insights and knowledge of the prospect’s unique business situation, and your perspective can have that rare value sought by today’s more sophisticated buyers.

If you’d like to talk about creating value with prospects, it’s a skillset I am passionate about helping my clients improve..  Comment below, or contact me directly (mark@boundyconsulting.com) to share your unique challenges.

To your success!

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