Don Draper, the high-flying ad agency Creative Director in the Emmy Award-winning TV series Mad Men, is telling someone about the subtleties of human motivation: “Trust me, I’m in advertising,” he says with sincerity. Hearing this wonderfully ironic remark, we smile knowing all too well that advertising people shouldn’t be trusted; they’re masters of spinning the details to get us to buy what they’re selling. And while, it has been said, people do like to buy, they don’t like being sold.
The overwhelming tsunami of the world’s sales messages is greater than ever and growing all the time. Our natural reaction to this onslaught of propaganda is to protect ourselves by ignoring it, or reacting defensively. The more persistent the attempts to influence us, and the stronger the assertions – the more defensive we become. But as teleprospectors and sales people it’s our job to communicate the value of what we offer. How can we accomplish that without triggering negativity and resistance?
One solution to this apparent dilemma is to use skillfully directed questions instead of assertions. Carefully focused queries can be tremendously powerful. When we substitute questions for assertions we avoid evoking defensive reactions, and most importantly, we engage the prospect in the buying process. And as we mentioned earlier, people like to buy but they don’t like to be sold.
A brief example: At a recent PMA caller meeting we were discussing how we don’t want to ‘scare prospects off’ by pushing too hard to schedule sales meetings for our clients when insurance renewals are many months in the future.
“I’ve done that and found the prospect got annoyed and backed off altogether because he felt I was being too pushy,” one of our callers offered. Another responded,
“What if you framed it as a question instead? You might ask the prospect, ‘How would you feel about meeting with the agent this month when you’re not under the typical renewal pressures and have more time to dedicate to the process? Some manufacturers find this a better alternative. What do you think?’
When approached this way the prospect may agree to schedule a meeting now, or they may decline and prefer to be called again closer to their x-date. But odds are strong they won’t feel pressured or react defensively. Instead of a push/pull discussion, both parties are thinking and acting collaboratively.