5 Proven Ways to Set the Stage for Successful Sales Calls

Selling and acting are similar. Perhaps that’s why I have always enjoyed acting and the theatre as well as my sales and training career. In both professions, setting the stage is critical to the success of the performance. The stage provides the proper environment for the players to perform or tell the story. The top producing reps devote time to setting the stage and the strategy before jumping in to make a recommendation or a request.

You can use persuasion techniques to change or prime your prospect’s perception of the “stage” or environment. Perception is a lens through which we interpret reality. If you alter the lens, you can change how people view and interpret reality and ensure the prospect is ready and open to receive your message. Here are your five tips to successfully set the stage:

1. Similarity – The more similar you appear to the person you are trying to persuade, the more you increase likeability and the more likely you can persuade them. We are psychologically compelled to gravitate toward similar stimuli because people who are more similar to us appear less threatening. This mindset stems from the caveman desire to survive.

Dress similar to your prospect but always be well-groomed as the more well-groomed and pleasant appearing the more persuasive you will be. Of course, discussing shared backgrounds or similar interest generates less threatening conversation. But take care not to fall into the trap of comments on photos in the prospect’s office that may have been placed there to catch smooth talking sales people.

2. Ideomotor response (chameleon effect) – Our tendency is to perform a physical behavior simply by thinking of the behavior. You can gain rapport by mimicking your target’s behavior. When another person imitates our non-verbal behavior it activates the medial orbital cortex and that brain region is associated with reward processing so it’s biologically pleasing. This is not a “monkey see, monkey do” but rather relaxed arms and hands, posture, head nodding, and a sincere smile.

3. Behavioral consistency – When the behavior is not consistent with their attitude, they are motivated to resolve it. Robert Cialdini, noted influence speaker, suggests the “foot in the door” technique to motivate the prospect. First, ask the prospect to comply with a small request such as permission to sit down or to ask a question. You can continue sprinkling small requests in your conversation. Odds will then be in your favor for later larger requests as the prospect seeks consistency with previous behavior. However, do not use the old tricks such as asking questions that obviously require a yes answer. Use true questions of interest that further the sales process.

4. Storytelling – Stories, particularly self-disclosure stories (Who You Are Story) build trust, clarify, enliven, and make relationships more interesting and exciting. A good story follows the hero’s journey outlined by Joseph Campbell. It’s more than cold facts. It includes a conflict or challenge that you overcame and the resulting change or transformation that occurred. This often leads to a discussion of shared values or the prospect’s desired outcome.

5. BYAF (But you are free) – People do not like being pressured into a decision. They fear the loss of freedom. Because their motivational state is perceived as a reduction in freedom of action, it is considered a counterforce and is known as “psychological reactance”.

Research shows the best way to get someone to do something is to tell them they don’t have to do it. This technique doubles your chances of a yes. Suggest action but say “You are free to choose”. I saw an interesting implementation of this technique. A stop sign near my home displays the following: “Rolling stops $125 fine, full stop free. Your choice.”

Tell the prospect up front that there is no obligation. One of the major purposes of the call is to determine if there is a fit to work together. If there isn’t a fit, they’re free to end the current relationship and perhaps re-engage at another time when there is a fit.

Implement these techniques and you will increase your chances for a “yes” in your next customer interaction.

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