In the sixties, a scientist called Mischel, performed a now famous experiment on ‘impulse resistance’. In this experiment, a cake was put in front of a number of children between 6-8 years old by an adult, who informed the children that he had to go out for 20 minutes.
Before he left the room, the children were told that if they didn’t eat the cake by the time the adult returned, they would be rewarded with two cakes, double the size of the ones before them.
Cameras captured the anguish that the children went through as they contemplated the risk/reward scenario and battled with their self-control. Some children licked the cake; some picked it up and made angry noises at it. Others took tiny little nibbles, while some simply couldn’t resist the temptation and just ate the whole thing.
The children were tracked throughout their school lives and it was found that the ones who were able to resist the impulse to devour the cake not only performed better at school but also showed signs that they would go on to have more successful careers.
I first became aware of this idea of impulse resistance when I saw a modern version of this experiment on TV, and it struck me that the most successful sales professionals are the ones who are capable of resisting the impulse to dive into solution mode or to talk about their products or service too early.
Instead, the successful sellers avoid talking about themselves or deriving solutions until much later in the conversation. Only when there is a deep level of understanding of their customer’s world and the problem their customer wants to solve/result they want to achieve, would they even consider talking about the product/service.
This is because they realise that..
it is not what they sell that matters, buy why the customer buys
So they don’t touch the cake. They resist the apple. They know it is there, but they are aware that the prize is much more likely to come and will be much bigger if they resist their initial impulses and focus squarely on the their customers challenges and issues.
They skillfully establish context for the conversation, taking pains to ensure they are seeing what their customer sees. They verify and validate the evidence that a problem
...and then and only then do they talk about what potential solutions may help their customers succeed.
Talking about what you do is the easy road for both you and the buyer, but it is not progressing the sale. It is not the product that is being purchased, but the impact of the product on their lives or organisations. The value in the product comes from what it can do to address problems and enable results.
The buyer will often try to pull you into these conversations early, and ask you to uncover your price before value is established. But the consistently successful sales person does not play because they know it serves neither buyer nor seller to do so, and the prize for waiting is significantly larger.