Going by my personal experience, sales is tough, even for the best of business owners and salespersons. I used to really hate it when I just started out, because the prospect ends up leading the conversation. I made lots of sales conversation mistakes, because I didn’t understand the potency of cognitive bias or how to apply. But as I became smarter and better, I came to a dawning realization…

As a business owner, if you let your prospects lead the sales conversation, often times than not, you will not close that sale. This is because the conversation veers towards what is on the prospects mind, leaving your business at a disadvantage. With clients, first impression does really matter.

If you start your sales conversation on a wrong foot, you will be in limbo until yet another prospect slips through your grip. Rather than bringing the benefit of your business for the prospects to fore, you open a space for every objection that the prospects can come up with.

In all honesty, there are a million and one things that a prospect will rather be doing than talking to you. It is paramount that you establish trust and value to your prospect quickly. You need to spot your prospects need and launch into it during your opening conversation.

You have only limited time to close that sale and you need to be in control. When you are in control, you lead the prospect on your journey, while letting them sail on their own. This is just like planting a seed and leaving it to grow. You can do this effectively if you understand the principles of cognitive bias and how to leverage it.

In this article, we will not only be talking about sales mistakes, we will also discuss the various cognitive biases and how to apply them in tackling sales conversation mistakes. Stay glued!

The Various Cognitive Biases as Related To Sales Conversation

First off, we have to understand what cognitive bias means. The term cognitive bias refers to the systematic ways in which the context and framing of information influence the judgment and decision making of an individual   ̶   away from rational objectivity. It is a critical aspect of psychology that influences the client to take action. Let us now look at what cognitive biases apply to sales conversation.

1. The Bandwagon Effect

To successfully lead a people, you don’t need authority, you need influence. The bandwagon effect is the high tendency of your prospects to trust social proof. If people are testifying about it, it is relevant.

Come to the conversation with a lot of testimonials and reviews about your products and services that are highly relevant to the prospects needs. This helps you gain positive outlooks and trust from the prospects.

2. The Halo Effect

Your first impression with clients really does count. You have the tendency to either lose a sale or close it in the first 90 seconds of a sales conversation.

Leverage on the first 90 seconds to build a rapport and gain your clients trust. This is basically what the first call should be about, instead of pitching your services.

As a professional service business owner, how do you lead a sales conversation and ace it? You can achieve this if you understand and apply cognitive biases.
Sales Cognitive Influence

3. The Anchoring Effect

Your prospect tends to build their reactions and conclusions about what you have to offer from the first piece of information they get about it. As such, be two steps ahead by knowing the immediate and critical needs of your prospect and the solution they expect.

This will help you ensure those are the first features and benefits you highlight when you get in that sales conversation. It will hook the interest of your prospects and also make them explore other benefits that they may not have been initially receptive to.

 4. The Confirmation Effect

Prospects tend to go for services and products that agree with their preconceptions. While in a conversation with your prospects, be attentive to their line of thoughts and what healthy preconceptions they have.

Leverage on these preconceptions by relating them to your services, thereby confirming them. This lets them know that they are not alone, and you are together. You have higher chances of closing a sale, if both of you share same beliefs or if you can relate it to your services.

5. The Ambiguity Effect

If your prospects do not understand certain aspects of your pitch, mistrust starts to build. Prospects have a high tendency to mistrust what they don’t understand.

Do your every best to make simple your sales proposition. Use the right lingo your clients can relate to and possibly connect it with a story for better understanding.

Let us now look at sales conversation mistakes and what cognitive biases to apply.

Sales Conversation Mistakes You Make In Business (and How to Rectify Them Using Cognitive Biases)

1. Failure To Prepare

Many years ago, I came home from high school on holiday and my dad took me with him to the office on one of the days. A terrazzo tiles salesman who had booked an appointment with my dad walked into his firm to pitch sales for tiles.

Here is a question my dad asked, “You called my receptionist?” He answered in the affirmative. My dad then said, what do you know about my firm, what style of houses do I build, why should I use terrazzo tiles, do they fit my style? You have ten minutes, because I’m about to step out.

I would have thought that that was the best and easiest way to make sales on earth, but you know what? The dear salesman flopped! He only knew that my dad ran a construction firm that built houses. He had no idea if the firm’s style was modern, contemporary, historical, vintage, etc.

He had no idea that they built roads and schools asides houses. My dad simply got up, told him their meeting was over and walked out. A more prepared salesman got the deal running into millions, and my dad used their services for a long time.

Before you get into a sales conversation, it is expedient that you do your research about your prospects. It makes them feel that you are really interested in them and hooks their interest.

Failure to do this makes you run on a lot of guesswork and you would find yourself filling in with unnecessary words. This will make you say much more than your client while not focusing on the matter at hand. This is a huge blinking red light.

Adequate preparation helps you gain useful information about your prospects which you can use to tailor your pitch, building strong trust and rapport in the process.

The cognitive biases that you can leverage on here include the confirmation effect, ambiguity effect, halo effect, and the anchoring effect.

Lots of professionals use LinkedIn and twitter more than any other social media platforms you can think of. Check them out on LinkedIn in to see their career history, then go on their twitter page to see the kind of information they share and their preconceptions.

With the information you get, you can tailor your conversation and pitch to fit what they need to hear. Make reference to something of note that they have done either personally or in their career.

When you do this, they realize that you’ve put in work to understand everything about them – which goes to say that you have their interest at heart and not just on closing the sale.

 2. Doing All Of The Talking

As a top professional service business owner in a sales conversation, your talk time should be only about less than 30% of the whole conversation. You can achieve this if you prepare using the ambiguity effect, the confirmation effect and the anchoring effect.

When you equip yourself with the necessary information about your prospects, you will go right to the point. You will find yourself talking less, blending in your proposition seamlessly, yet giving very relevant information.

After building rapport and gaining the prospects trust, going by the information you have, prepare questions that your clients will likely need clarifications on. Questions to ask your clients that hit right at the heart of their needs.

These questions help the clients figure out their needs and along the line, you prescribe potential solutions to their challenges. And when potential solution aligns with what they are looking for, the close becomes ten times easier.

As a professional service business owner, how do you lead a sales conversation and ace it? You can achieve this if you understand and apply cognitive biases.
Sales Conversation Error

3. Premature Pitching

Be it a phone sales conversation or a physical one; shelve the pitch into a corner unless you are very certain that you can close the sale. Your first conversation should be about setting the stage and gathering more information about your prospect to create your arsenal, unless they are the ones who called.

I had a classmate from the university whom I’ve not spoken with since we graduated. One day, she just popped up on one of my social media platforms pitching insurance packages to me. I was first confused about who it was, and then pissed by the manner of approach.

She didn’t care about me or how I was doing, even though I tried to keep in touch after graduation, without reciprocity on her part. I just drove right in and told her I wasn’t interested in any insurance package, ending the conversation instantly. She has been trying to reach me since then, and I think it is time to mute her messages.

Take for instance you hop on the phone with a client who is interested in your coaching services, the first thing you do on the call is to tell them that this isn’t a sales conversation, but you want to find out more about them and what their goals are.

You get to know what drives them, why they are on the call in the first place and the challenges driving the crazy at the moment. When you do this, the first thing that comes to the clients mind is that you really do care about them and you are not just about the money.

Contrast this to a typical sales conversation where the first thing ever the potential client is told is “we have a program or package that might interest you”. This makes the client apprehensive right off the bat. Their mind is “oh he’s about to sell me something”. Their brain comes up with objection and they shut you out entirely.

When you pitch too early, you will not be able to identify the actual pain points of your prospects. It leaves them cold with the feeling that you are only concerned about selling your services. The prospect doesn’t really matter to you.

Understanding how to leverage on ambiguity effect, bandwagon effect, confirmation effect and anchoring effect will help you know when and how to smoothly pitch.

Rather than diving heads first into a pitch, ask your prospective clients questions that relate directly to their pain points. More like, how would they feel if they got certain relief or increased productivity in a certain aspect of their business or lives?

Bring in social proof as a way you can help relating to that tangible aspect you mentioned. The next thing is to suggest if they are receptive to you sending them some relevant information   ̶   or you displaying how your help works. You have their attention already!

4. Ignoring The Atmosphere And Cues

Here, you need to fully employ the halo effect cognitive bias. Lots of business owners and salespersons just get into a sales conversation, going on and on. They do not sense if it is a good time to talk or not.

They cannot pick if their prospects sound harassed, stressed or totally uninterested. Picking up on cues can help you know what format to best reach the prospect with. For starters, always check if it is a good time to talk before you begin.

If it is not a good time, reschedule another call or appointment. You can also grab yourself a smart conversation opener by sharing a content that directly relates to the prospect   ̶   within the window period, before the next call.

For instance, if you were trying to make a pitch to an obese person and it wasn’t a good time to talk, reschedule the call. But before you drop the call, seek permission from the client to send them materials that hits right at their pain points. They will read this through the window period before your next call. This gives you a conversation opener for your next call.

5. Failure To Demonstrate Your Expertise

As an expert and successful salesperson, you should know that, more than selling products or services, you are also acting in the capacity of a consultant. This is because you have mastered the needs of your prospect and tailored your offering to meet their direct need.

You can start by showing your expertise through the kind of relevant questions you ask which points out the prospects need. Then tailor your benefits solely to these needs you identified in your questions.

Your conversation and pitch should be more about the value you will give the client and not the features of your services, unless they specifically ask for it. Lastly, simplify your story and make it compelling enough for the prospect to relate with.

 Are you ready to double up on your sales?

Then you need to know what to do and how to do it right! Sales is not easy, but it can be fun and rewarding… raising your income and helping you build lifelong relationships in the process. You can   correct sales mistakes by leveraging on the cognitive biases we discussed above.

Simply identify some of the sales conversation mistakes you have been making. They could range from premature pitching, to not picking on cues, failure to plan, not demonstrating your expertise or doing all of the talking. These are mistakes that can cause you a consistent loss of clients.

Understand the cognitive biases which include the halo effect, confirmation effect, ambiguity effect, anchoring effect and the bandwagon effect. A proper understanding of them will guide you as you plan on getting in that sales conversation. And if you apply them, you’d close that sale like a rock star!

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