Think about the last thing you bought for pleasure. Maybe it was ice cream, tickets to a show, or a new shirt.
You didn’t make this purchase to solve a problem in your life -- it simply made you feel good.
Because human beings are more emotional than logical, we buy things for pleasure rather than pain fairly often.
But many salespeople solely sell using the second emotion. They look for their prospects’ problems, figure out if their solution can solve those problems, and show their prospects the impacts of changing versus doing nothing.
This approach can work well. Yet it falls flat if your prospect doesn’t believe her business challenges are significant or worth prioritizing. In addition, if your competition is using the same strategy, all of your pitches will sound similar.
Invoking optimism to close a deal can be a highly effective alternative to a sale focused on pain -- follow this three-step strategy to craft your messaging around opportunities rather than challenges.
1) Identify Your Prospect’s Mindset
Buyers who spend their days putting out fires respond to pain-based selling. They don’t want to think about the next five years -- they’re too busy making it through the next five months. And if your product can make those five months easier, you’ll get your buyer’s attention.
However, if your prospect is focused on the long term, she’s probably curious to know how your product can enhance her business and drive its strategy. This type of buyer is ideal for opportunity selling.
How can you tell which type you’re dealing with? Ask your prospect about her day-to-day. If she’s jumping from crisis to crisis, she’s likely the first type. But if she’s planning projects or making decisions that’ll be relevant far into the future, she’s probably the second.
You can also ask, “Where would you like your [team, role, product, department, company] to be in four years?” or “What’s your long-term vision?”
If she can’t answer, she’s not a good candidate for opportunity selling.
2) Factor in Their Status
The further up the ladder you go, the more effective opportunity selling tends to be. Executives are usually passionate about their company and excited for its future, which means they’re primed for positive messaging.
Suppose you’re selling to a mid-level IT professional. He might be worried about his department’s ability to classify, manage, and protect the organization’s vast amounts of data. To show him the value of your product, you should speak to this challenge.
But if you’re working with the CIO, she’s likely focused on finding new technologies that’ll keep the company ahead of the curve. You don’t need to prove anything’s broken: Instead, speak about the opportunity to become the most advanced business in this space.
3) Pinpoint Your Prospect’s Vision
Your work isn’t done once you’ve determined the buyer will respond well to a hope-based approach. Every prospect has different aims for the future, so try to figure out what this specific one is envisioning.
Here are some helpful questions:
- “What’s your vision for [business area]?”
- “If you could see three years into the future, what would you love to see?”
- “What are your reach goals for [the team, X campaign, Y project, the organization, the department, your career]?”
Seeing which sound bites generate an enthusiastic response is also useful. For example, you could say, “Many of our customers who originally bought our software to run virtual team meetings now use it to conduct customer surveys as well.”
If your prospect says, “Huh, I could see our team doing that,” you’d want to explore that topic further. If they don’t seem interested, on the other hand, you should move to another use case.
Stand out from your competition and inspire your prospects to action. With this simple strategy, you don’t need to identify challenges -- you can sell on opportunities.