Have you ever been taken aback by your own impulse, your instinct, your reaction to a certain situation? Here’s a fun fact: we’re slaves to our brains. Shaped by millions of years of evolution, the grey matter is the veritable engine of our entire life experience. And while the popular symbol to feeling things might be the heart, both reason and emotion are created and processed in the brain.
What does this mean for MSP sales? It certainly pays off to learn more about human psychology. It doesn’t take long for prospects to form an opinion about you—often just a few seconds. If you want consistent and repeatable customer acquisition, you need to understand what’s going on in the brains of your buyers. It’ll allow you to effectively tailor what and who you’re selling to.
This isn’t some hokey-pokey new-age shamanism. Neither is it mind tricks or undue influence. It’s proven science that will allow you to better structure your sales methodology. Let’s dive right in.
We all buy things all the time. Let’s have a look at what happens in the brain during the buying journey; you tell us if you recognize these unconscious processes!
AKA the first, immediate impression. The general judgment whether something is important or not and whether you should pay attention to it.
Since a lot of variables are at play when making a decision, the brain wants to focus on one key aspect that will facilitate the process. This could be the price, your perception of the other party etc.
Premature cognitive commitment
A cool indie band name, but also a fancy way of saying we make up our minds quickly and without much data. We’re wired to make choices quickly, which is a great survival technique; however, it presents a significant hurdle for salespeople.
Not unique to buying/selling but rather present in all aspects of our lives. We tend to collect information that suggests we’re right and ignore opinions pointing out we might be wrong. We always look for info that supports our decision.
Once we make a decision, we hardly ever change it. This is a powerful behavioral pattern that withstands most contrasting or contradictory evidence.
Your brain pays attention to the beginnings and endings of things, while the middle tends to go ignored. It’s designed this way to save energy, of which it consumes a disproportionate amount.
This all sounds very emotional
Looking at these processes, you’re probably thinking one thing: this isn’t the right way to choose an MSP at all! It’s too emotion-driven, too illogical, and most of it happens in the unconscious.
You are absolutely right. And yet, this is how our brains make choices. Sellers have traditionally focused on meeting a customer’s need as it contrasts with the competitors’ offer (solution selling), but that’s difficult to do now that selling technology essentially means selling an everyday commodity.
What now? Enter emotional selling.
Emotional selling vs. transactional/solution selling
There are strategies to employ that’ll help you benefit from emotional selling and the way the human brain is wired. Successful managed services sellers have a strong front and back end, showing the value and emotional connection vis à vis what the prospect is looking to purchase.
The critical element: a documented sales process, regardless of what your actual sales procedures might be. Map out what your sales motion looks like and produce some documentation/reusable assets to support and drive it. Make the buying psychology work in your favor: even though you’re selling the same thing, you can still look—and feel—different.
It’s a common issue, really: the seller and buyer mindsets are not aligned. The prospect cares about other things than the sales rep. When describing the product, sales professionals tend to unconsciously go from the bottom up—saving the most important aspect for last, long after the buyer’s gone through all the stages of the emotional decision-making process described above.
Once you realize there’s an issue, the remedy’s obvious: chance the sequence in which you ask questions. Cost comes last; the prospect knows everything comes at a price and that ‘fast-good-cheap’ doesn’t exist. Instead, start with their objectives, perceived risk and business challenges.
There’s another strategy, borrowed by salespeople from therapists: start with the ‘what’ questions, then the ‘hows,’ then the ‘whys.’ Not the other way around! Show that you’re willing to truly understand and build a relationship with your customer. It’s a powerful way to drive engagement and trust, in addition to really giving you a better picture of your client’s business needs and helping you stand out among other companies that haven’t revised their playbook in years.
Each type of question activates a different part of the brain. The ‘whats’ are logical, the ‘hows’ are visual and the ‘whys’ are emotional. By sequencing the questions like this, you’ll gradually activate the emotional part of the brain, which, compared to the logical brain, creates infinitely more instructions per second. You’ll see your win rate skyrocket!
Emotional differentiation: how to set yourself apart
You could prepare rational arguments, logical explanations or in-depth presentations. But the real differentiation happens on the emotional level, often in a very casual, flippant manner.
- Call it a channel, an industry or a vertical. No matter the nomenclature, though, you need to show your prospect you belong to the same group. I know your reality, I speak your language, I understand your acronyms. We naturally like people we have something in common with.
- Our primary motivators are fear and desire, and of the two, fear is by far the stronger one. We are by no means implying you should engage in fearmongering or panic strategies. However, it should be noted most buyers will respond to the prospect of risk reduction with gratitude and relief. Show your clients how you can reduce risk for them; it’s a piece of cake for security, compliance, or data protection.
- Create an ‘alignment email’ at the end of your discovery cycle or meeting with new clients, whether you’ve met online or remotely. It’ll help set you apart from competitors who don’t have one!
Create a template that can be reused and tweaked as needed. Remember, since the brain rewards simplicity, you want to give your business proposal a visual form. It’s highly impactful—again, we tend to pay attention to the endings. You want to be in the prospect’s line of sight right before they make their choice. Just don’t make it overly complex!
Presenting your proposal & closing the deal
We all know that most MSPs’ proposals look practically identical every time. So how do you make yours stand out?
It’s okay if the content of your proposal presentation doesn’t change radically from account to account, especially if you focus on a particular vertical or industry. Still, try this: call your prospect before you send the proposal over and ask for 30 minutes of their time. Typically, they won’t be annoyed; most actually appreciate when someone genuinely cares about the details.
Have a brief discussion about the highest points of tension in the deal: these tend to be aspects with high risk or financial stakes. Ask transition questions to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Some examples:
- Have we missed any significant business objectives?
- Which of these operational impacts do you feel are the most critical to address immediately?
- What other business case elements have we missed?
What is this for? The prospect gets to see valuable context—the price of the product gets anchored against the benefits and value it will provide them. All that’s left is to close the deal.
Win those customers
Building on the tips described in the previous paragraph, remember to:
- Compare & contrast pain points to highlight the business benefits of your proposal. The human brain loves to compare when making decisions;
- Again, focus on risk reduction;
- Ask for the prospect’s commitment to proceed. Why do this? More often than not, they’ll come with an objection of some kind. By indirectly fishing for it, you’ll be able to address it quicker and show more value.
This methodology was originally presented by Mark Stuyt, Chief Engagement Officer of Neural Impact, at the 2019 Accelerate Cloud Summit. Neural Impact specializes in developing selling methodologies for the Microsoft Partner Network.
Accelerate is our annual can’t-miss get-together of industry professionals. For the 2020 edition, we’re offering a whole series of online events to help you gear up for the future of managed services. Think of it as an expedited MBA for MSPs.
Mark will talk about the impact of the recent changes on the economy and the buyer behavior; the key challenges of acquiring talent; new strategies to drive upsell and cross-sell; and driving an effective remote sales cycle. He’ll be joined by other experienced professionals in conversations on future-proofing MSP businesses. Registrations are now open—and it’s free!