Influence and Relationships
Build them to change them
By Dan Neundorf, Ed.D
In an economic era of depressions and rebounds, one constant in sales gets consistently overlooked: the relationship between you and your client. Many companies overlook this factor. They focus instead on rigid sales programs that put the salesperson in a vacuum of staleness and mediocrity.
Rigid sales systems, however, just are not effective. In a flooded economy weakened by the financial state of the market, you need your pitch—indeed, your sale—to stand out. That’s only possible if you have the freedom for creative and independent thought. That will allow you to build an actual relationship with your client.
How many sales are lost because clients or customers just doesn’t believe that what you’re selling them is justified or in line with their experiences? Think about it. Why would someone buy a new car from you when their older, still-running car is perfectly sound? Since their experience with the current car is positive, replacing it wouldn’t be justified. The key to making this sale? Find a way to alter the customer’s perception by building a relationship that can be influenced, perhaps by suggesting a leased arrangement.
That’s where DEBA comes in. DEBA is not only the process that leads up to the purchase, but also the parameters within which a good salesperson can operate to wield influence. It’s essential to understand the systematic order of DEBA and the way that each step will affect the steps that precede and follow it. This allows you to function within the dynamics of client relationships by understanding how the roles are constantly changing.
Take a closer look at the steps of the DEBA process:
- D: Data--Create awareness of the product or message through the spread of data, or information. This can be done in a number of ways: advertising, word of mouth, giveaways, sales tags, etc. After all, if the client doesn’t know about the product, what kind of experience or interest can you generate in it? None. D, or data, is the foundation for your relationship, one built on truth and information and seen as mutually beneficial.
- E: Experience--Generate a genuine interest in the product based on the data in combination with the customer’s experiences with similar products or with past practices. This can be tricky. People can hold fast to irrational beliefs based upon their experiences. For instance, a traumatic childhood incident could be incorrectly linked in the client’s mind to a certain color of a product, thus causing their resistance. It is up to you to help them uncover these irrational beliefs for themselves, much the way a psychologist leads a patient down a path to self-discovery.
- B: Belief--Create a desire for the product. In order to do this, the clients must not only believe that the product works, but also believe that they need the product and that if purchased, their problems, whether real or imaginary, will be either lessened or eliminated. This belief is based on the experience (E), so in order to influence it, a relationship must be built through data transfer and trust.
- A: Action to Buy--Influence the prospect to take action. Do this by working the preceding steps, changing roles and shifting the prospect’s belief system as necessary in order to alter his or her experience with data and influence.
Obviously, a great deal more than a simple, formulaic sales system is involved. This is not a computer-based program. The detailed steps of DEBA and changing roles rely on a profound relationship. A good salesperson doesn’t simply herd cattle to slaughter. Instead, this is a process of building influence through consensual relationships that are based on each unique situation.
Changing a “no” into a “yes” only becomes operative when you understand the dynamics of client-salesperson relationships. Using the DEBA process not only establishes these relationships, but provides the framework within which you manipulate data, experience, and beliefs in order to influence action.
Expect to encounter some resistance since it’s at the heart of every change and decision. Arm yourself beforehand with this knowledge. That way, you can prepare for any resistance and learn how to turn it to your advantage.
Tackling resistance in order to affect change is part of every good salesperson’s job description. You can either make it work for you or eliminate it altogether by thinking about the situation or person at hand instead of the results you desire and the actions you are taking to attain them. Focus on the building and maintaining of a personal relationship based on the transmission of data and the tweaking of beliefs by providing good experiences. Thus, we have the D, E, and B of DEBA. When implemented, they result in the A, or action to buy.
First, determine what kind of client you have. Some people are risk-takers, others tend to be risk-avoiders. Other people will do whatever they can just to maintain their status quo. Ascertain which type you are dealing with by asking questions in order to discover as much information as you can about their needs, values, and ultimate desires, then linking that information to your product or proposal. This will involve sharpening your listening skills.
At this point, you can expect to run up against resistance. Don’t panic, but if you do, breathe. Relax. There’s a simple trick to overcoming resistance: People are more likely to believe something is true if they've discovered it on their own. Keep in mind, too, that a customer’s beliefs are often faulty and improperly based on his or her prior experiences. The resistance is not against you but against beliefs risen out of those old experiences. Thus, it’s your job to help clients see the proverbial light on their own, rather than to push your own agenda.
Because most irrational or erroneous beliefs are based upon prior formative experiences, you must lead clients to the answer, rather than directly give it to them. This is the most effective way to change someone's beliefs, or in other words, to exert your influence. Want proof? Think back to grade school when you were learning math. Whether you used an abacus or beans or apples, you were allowed to physically see why 2+2=4, rather than just being told to accept it. That experience of being allowed to come to the conclusion yourself shaped your belief. You still believe that 2+2=4, don't you?
This method helps the client to save face, something we often don’t think about when trying to influence or change someone’s belief system. Influencing this way is sub-consciously appreciated. It allows you to further build your relationship with the client, this time not as a salesperson or teacher but as a peer. This change in roles happens so fast and discreetly that the influence parlay goes unnoticed by the client. but will be substantially reflected in your sales figures.
You can strengthen this relationship further by putting by forth the notion that being correct has nothing to do with human value, thereby using subtle psychological methods to strengthen the relationship. When you strengthen the relationship, you strengthen the amount of influence you wield. And as we all know, your influence with the client directly correlates with your sales numbers.