By Michelle Nichols Remember Morris Alpert's old song Feelings, that staple of karaoke crooners? For most listeners, those lyrics -- "Feelings, nothing more than feelings" -- will come as a reminder that some folks should confine their singing to the shower, but that's not my reaction. What springs to mind when I hear those words is a classic sales technique: Feel. Felt. Found. As a means of connecting, it has probably saved the day -- and the deal -- for thousands of salespeople. Moreover, it's easy to remember because of the alliteration, and because it taps a basic and potent instinct: the human need to heed the crowd.
Here's an example of how F3 works. Let's imagine you're most of the way through the sales process when your customer says, "Gee, I love your product, but it's more than we wanted to spend." You can say something like, "I understand how you could feel that way. Many of our other customers initially felt that it was more than they wanted to spend. But after they bought it, they found that it actually saved money on training, overtime, and shrinkage."
JUST THE FACTS? NEVER! Warning: Never say, "I know how you feel." As soon as you do, the prospect will reflexively think, "You don't have the foggiest idea how I feel!" and immediately stop listening. No matter how clever your patter, the connection will be damaged, so watch your words carefully.
Another application of this classic sales tool is to put down on paper the 10 most common objections, and then pen an F3-formula response for each. This approach will provide you with mental ammunition. Just as thorough training prepares our brave soldiers for the sudden and unexpected perils they face in the field, even if you don't actually deploy one of the responses you have prepared, the next time you are in front of a live customer, just knowing you have them available will give you confidence.
Maybe some readers are wondering why I'm talking about feelings. After all, our customers say that what they want most of all is to talk about facts -- things like price, dimensions, and return on investment. But savvy salespeople know that how a customer feels about the offering actually carries more weight in their decision-making than quoting dry statistics about pounds, feet, miles per hour, or whatever.
THIS VS. THAT. First, consider how your customer feels about things when making a decision? For example, is the fact that your product comes in the yellow and green of the Green Bay Packers an added incentive for the customer to sign a purchase order? Like a lot of followers of that football team, it could be that the prospect is a fanatic and would dearly love to demonstrate support any which way possible. On the other hand, maybe the customer simply has a distaste for the color red, and will settle for any other hue. In the first situation, the name and shades of color would be key factors in winning the sale. In the latter situation, it wouldn't carry much weight once red had been ruled out.
Next, find out how much the prospect already knows about the alternatives to your product. If he or she is unfamiliar with what your competitors are offering, there will be no yardstick by which to measure how much your line is faster, smaller, or cheaper. For example, if the SUV you're pitching boasts 126 square feet of interior capacity, that information will be meaningless the prospect is aware that the closest rival model offers 25% less. As the salesperson, it's up to you to make sure that information is available and has been digested.
Successful salespeople focus their two-pronged pitches on both facts and feelings. To ignore either aspect can be a recipe for disaster. No matter how much we humans like to imagine ourselves as logical as the emotionless Dr. Spock of Star Trek, the truth is that our decision-making depends on a blend of both. Putting into use -- or dusting off -- the Feel, Felt, Found sales technique really can help to close more deals. Happy Selling!
Editor's note: Reader mail poured in after Michelle Nichols' column, "How We Keep Score in Life". Click here to read some of those from-the-heart responses. Michelle Nichols is a sales speaker, trainer, and consultant based in Houston, Tex. She welcomes your questions and comments. You can visit her Web site at www.verysavvyselling.biz, where her new CD, 72 Ways to Overcome the Price Objection is available. She can be contacted at Michelle.firstname.lastname@example.org