A few years ago, a rep I was working with and I politely walked out of an appointment when the prospect simply refused to admit that he had any need for our product. 

The prospect had been wasting thousands of dollars on a solution that didn’t really meet his current needs, but claimed he was doing that because “I’ve done it forever”.  As tempted as I was to point out that his reasoning was illogical (Not a good idea, no one wants to hear their baby is ugly), what became obvious was this prospect was stuck in his current thinking, and he wasn’t open to considering anything but the costs. His beliefs about the issues facing his business and the real costs of those situations were simply not aligned with us, and more importantly, not aligned with reality.

For a sale to proceed, some key beliefs have to be aligned between you and the buyer. In cases where they won’t agree to that, the Take-away is really your defense not to get sucked into a dead end conversation.  Sometimes, it actually unlocks the prospect from their thinking, even if it takes a bit of time. Six months later, that very same prospect called us back and switched over from his current vendor. His beliefs had changed, perhaps with some help from our conversation with him. He had started comparing both the costs AND the benefits of both his current provider and our company.

Now might be a good time to formalize your belief requirements. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down the 2-3 beliefs that a prospect must agree with in order for them to be a qualified prospect. What does one need to believe about your industry to be a viable client? What do they need to believe about business? Life? While this may seem idiotically simple, many sales professionals waste an enormous amount of time spouting out features and benefits about their product that are not aligned with the reality of their prospect’s beliefs. Loudly and passionately preaching the quality of your chicken doesn’t make a vegetarian more likely to buy it. It just ticks them off! The validity of your chicken argument is lost on the vegetarian. More data won’t change that. Even more damaging to your sales efforts is the fact that enough conversations with vegetarians will make you start to doubt the value of the chicken you are selling. The truth is that the argument ALWAYS needs to be about the fit. If you spend your time defending your product or service, you are trying to dig yourself out of a whole. 

Write out the core beliefs that power your value proposition and before you discuss price, delivery, logistics or benefits, qualify each and every prospect by asking questions and making sure you are both aligned at the belief level.

Whenever this topic comes up in training sessions, I always get asked for examples, and the chicken example can seem overly simplified. 

I’ve spent the majority of my sales career in the advertising field. From newspapers and other printed media, to CPC/CPM web advertising to promotions based advertising, I’ve worked in almost every facet of the advertising space. In those years, I quickly discovered that there were 3 main core beliefs that a potential client had to agree to for them to be likely to buy advertising from me.

– People won’t just “find” your business (At least, not enough people to make you successful).

– Advertising should be designed to directly result in revenue (vs just “getting your name out there/branding”)

– Advertising needs to be trackable, or it’s just gambling in a different format

Every time, every single time I made an exception and presented to someone when one of those big 3 core beliefs were not aligned, I ended up wasting time and effort on someone who ended up not buying. Finding agreement on those 3 beliefs became the starting point of the sales conversation, and my sales efficiency improved as a result.

Find those for your product/service. Discuss them with your team and colleagues. Look for the commonality of beliefs of your current happy customers as a starting point.