The Wedge: A Simple Concept that Changed How We Sell

October 16, 2017 by

Like you, I’ve been to dozens of sales training classes. I’ve read several hundred sales books. Most of them provide something of value, but occasionally there will be one nugget that will change everything.

Here’s the nugget… pure gold. It has made millions of dollars, and it will make you a lot of money, too, plus provide massive confidence as a salesperson.

Previous to reading about this “one” thing, I was a traditional sales guy.

Meaning, I would try hard to put enough bows and ribbons on my “not so different” value proposition to impress a prospect. I would ask traditional probing questions. Those traditional questions rewarded me with traditional answers and in many cases made me appear manipulative and uninspired.

We all have the same basic goal — build a relationship, find (pain) problems, offer solutions and close the business.

The one thing this nugget offered me was a change in where I looked for problems.

Historically, I was asking questions of what we might call their conscious mind, meaning, asking questions for which they are consciously aware that they might have a problem.

Doctors do it as a standard practice. It’s a diagnostic type of question.

Doctor: How do you feel?

Patient: My throat hurts.

Doctor: How long has it been hurting?

Patient: A couple of days.

Doctor: Is it getting better, worse or about the same?

Patient: A little worse, it seems.

Doctor: OK, open your mouth, stick out your tongue, and let me take a look. (Looks red and swollen.) Here’s what I want you to do… gargle three times a day with salt water and take these pills. You should start to feel better in three to five days.

Patient: Thank you, Doctor.

Diagnostic questions are great at diagnosing a known problem. But, what about the unknown problems? Or said differently, what about the problems that one has, but they don’t know it. Or, they had a problem, pursued a solution and it never got better, so they learned to accept it as the way it is.

We could label that as a “condition” or “acceptance.”

Acceptance: Willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation. “A mood of resigned acceptance.”

Condition: A particular state of existence. “A condition of misery.”

The curtain rod was invented in 1892, and was quickly adapted to be used as a shower rod. It was straight.

Imagine that you were a big guy, getting into one of those hotel bathtub showers with a straight shower rod. Not too comfy in there… you can barely move as the tile wall is on one side and the shower curtain on the other.

We all put up with that for almost 100 years.

A straight shower rod: No elbow room. Having no elbow room was a condition – something we’d learned to accept.

Then, someone created a curved shower rod.

Once we saw it, we all bought it. And many of us were saying: “Why didn’t I think of that?” But, up until then, we were conditioned to put up with a straight shower rod and very little room.

Staying with the concept of “condition” or “acceptance,” there are many things insurance buyers have learned to tolerate or accept (their straight shower rod).

In one of our workshops, we do an exercise that might be useful to you to flush some of these things out.

Before you do the exercise, do you agree that most buyers hate insurance? Why do they hate it? Because they don’t understand it and can’t control it. Key words: They don’t understand it.

The many things they don’t understand have become conditions; things they have learned to accept/tolerate.

So, put on your buyer’s hat and make a list of those things they hate because they don’t understand them and can’t control them.

After you’ve made that list, then put your seller’s hat back on and develop a process that would make that understandable for your prospect.

The point I’m trying to make is this… Instead of asking the traditional “diagnostic” type questions: How’s your service? Any coverage concerns? I took a different angle. I imagined what it is like being a buyer of insurance… and just started listing all the things they don’t understand and don’t feel they can control.

Then we started creating processes (proactive services) that solve those problems.

Let’s suppose we have a financial advisor that just proposed a group of eight mutual funds for us to invest in. Considering that there are 9,511 to choose from, how did he reduce it down to these eight?

If we brought the financial advisor in the room and pressed him to defend why he chose those eight, could he justify those eight mutual funds with clarity?

In most cases, he couldn’t do it. He would say: “We have a guy in Boston that helps us do that.”

OK, do you know how the guy in Boston gets down to those eight?

“Yes, he has an algorithm to help with selection.”

Do you understand his algorithm?

“No, not exactly.”

And yet, many of us give our money to the advisor hoping things will turn out OK. But, would you want to know why your money is where it is…. If they could make it more understandable?

I would… but they make it so complicated, for most of us it’s a “condition,” so we tolerate “not knowing” and suffer from a sense of “loss of control.”

A financial advisor could… build education and worksheets to help us understand the “sorting” process: “How we get from 9,511 down to eight.”

How many of their prospects are suffering from this problem, not knowing why they are investing in the funds they are? If they did that work, they could go after almost every investor out there, converting a condition into a known solution.

Instead of asking: “How are your investments performing?” A traditional diagnostic question that few would answer honestly, because it would make them feel stupid…they could go after conditions (not knowing why they are in their current investments) and convert ignorance into control.

That’s not a very sexy subtitle, but it could make you a lot of money simply because you are serving your client at a level that meets one of their most important psychological needs: “A feeling of control.”

Give it a shot and send me your feedback.