Is the customer persuaded by logical reasoning, or by emotional persuasion?
When it comes to B2C sales, it is a combination of emotive factors and logical reasoning. However in a B2B environment, the decisions are largely made based on logical reasoning.
Weeding out superficial factors and other influences (such as pricing) to the decision making process, what will persuade a Business to buy a product depends on:
1. How well the offering solves the problem or meets the requirement
2. The credibility of the organization making the offering.
All Sales and Marketing teams recognize the need to persuade, and at an organizational level, they do build Product and company presentations, Sales collateral intended to persuade, Case studies and Client testimonials.
In Enterprise level organizations, the Sales teams largely have Critical Thinking skills, and are able to leverage these effectively, and also meaningfully modify them depending on the need for that particular Client requirement. But when it comes down to organizations that don't fall into this category, this expectation is likely to break down, and Sales teams are unlikely to leverage all the strengths of the organization presented in the sales and marketing collateral.
There are two big reasons for this breakdown:
- Lack of adequate technical knowledge
- Lack of Critical Thinking
The solution to the first is obviously technical training.
As for the second. there is no formal solution since there is no sharp recognition or articulation of this conceptual weakness. Managers recognize the problems manifested in weak proposals, presentations and sales discussions - but are often lost for a generic solution that gets the sales team thinking in the right direction, consistently irrespective of the sales situation.
Some organizations try to mitigate the problem by providing Proposal templates. This could be at the organizational level or the departmental.
Sales Proposal templates
Well thought out Sales Proposal templates tend to anticipate all dimensions a customer needs to know to make a decision. And they may even have standard content to go into some sections of the template. The thought behind this is to dumb-down the proposal preparation process and try to achieve some uniformity in the type of proposals submitted. Unfortunately this leads to a situation where the Sales Teams often adopt copy/paste processes, and at an extreme, just change the client name, offerings and pricing. Unfortunately with some, the Proposal Template substitutes Critical Thinking about the specific Sales Opportunity, and how best the Organization can meet the Client requirements.
Copy/Pate Proposals are prone to slip through with the wrong client name, and unnecessary/erroneous information in Document properties . This carelessness is not necessarily encouraged by just the fact that there is a Proposal Template, but more by the fact that the importance of the Proposal is not appreciated. The Sales Teams just look at it as a necessary evil in the Sales Process where they dump their prices and Terms & Conditions, and hope for the best. Application of Critical Thinking would tell them otherwise and lead to a different course of action.
The teams need to internalize that the Sales Proposal is an important document that tells the client about the organization's understanding of the client problem, how the problem will be solved, reasoning that demonstrates why the organization is competent to deliver the solution, and establishes the Credibility of the organization in that domain.
In essence, they need to understand the pattern of reasoning the Client adopts in evaluating proposals. Developing an understanding of client reasoning by focusing on the specifics of a proposal, or the specifics of a situation are not the best way to go about it. Client requirements and situations change. Teams need to have a broader understanding of Critical Thinking to be able to logically respond specifically to each sales situation. They need to start thinking Critically at all times, and not just in the sales situation. Critical Thinking is not something that is learnt for application selectively in a particular domain or situation. However they can learn Critical Thinking using the sales function as the example domain.
If they think critically they will understand that the Sales Proposal is the documenting of a solution and not just a price quote. And they will also realize that the proposal is the natural end-point of a thinking process that works out the solution specific to the client problem.
Training in Critical Thinking for Sales Teams
The training needs to start with generic Critical Thinking and moving into a discussion on the application of Critical Thinking to Sales Proposals. Starting with generic training will help them develop Critical Thinking skills across all domains, and subsequent application to Sales Proposals will help them apply the skills learnt to a specific domain. A training module should cover these broad areas:
- Generic Critical Thinking framework
- Patterns of Reasoning (Inductive reasoning and Casual Explanations/Inferences)
- Fallacies (Hasty generalization, Slippery slope arguments
- Develop an actual Sales Presentation specific to the Company business
- Develop a Sales Proposal Template
- Develop an example Sales Proposal
At the end of such a session, teams will iteratively discover the strengths of the organization and their offerings. They will also learn how to articulate customer problems, and the process involved in developing solutions.
Most importantly, they will learn about the elements required to make a logically persuasive proposal that is specific to the customer situation.