In the final post of this series of three I want to unveil the little-known research that shows selling as we traditionally have known it is inappropriate because it generates half the success of an alternative approach that very few people are aware of and even less people are using. Would you like to be twice as effective at enabling clients and prospective clients to say ‘Yes!’ enthusiastically to you? What would be the effect on your business if you could achieve that? If you had that effect on your business, how would your life be?
So what is the third reason why selling is inappropriate? It is surprising and I am grateful to Daniel Pink for giving me access to studies I was previously unaware of that helped me to understand precisely why the ALIGNED framework that I use and teach is so effective. http://wp.me/P3sGMs-6r In essence the framework is successful because it is based on a premise that I don’t know whether or not I have the best solution for the client until stage 6 of 7. Step one is about setting up the rest of the process that I and the client will go though. Crucially steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all about questioning and gaining understanding. Through each of these four steps of the framework the question is ‘can I provide the best solution?’
So why is this so important? Why is a questioning approach so effective? Why is the inherent doubt about whether or not I have the right solution so powerful? Surely self-doubt is limiting; that is certainly what the motivational gurus will tell us, the likes of Robbins and McKenna. Surely it is more effective to have our self-talk tell us ‘Yes, we can!’ This is the basis of a lot of sales training – developing the winning mind-set, banishing doubt, and having a positive mental attitude (I can hear the whooping of the sales force right now).
The studies do indeed show that having a positive, assertive, affirmative approach is better than having a negative attitude and approach. Positive self-talk is generally better than negative self-talk. Researchers concluded that the most effective self-talk does not just shift emotions; the most effective self-talk actually changes linguistic categories. This self-talk moves the subject from making statements to asking questions.
In 2010, three researchers from two universities in the United States published the results of a series of experiments that confirmed the effectiveness of ‘interrogative self-talk’. Participants were split into two groups and given the same task to perform. The only difference between the two groups was that one group was instructed by the researchers to ask themselves if they could complete the task, whilst the second group were told to tell themselves that they could complete the task. On average the self-questioning group were 50% more effective than the self-affirming group at completing the task.
Pink kindly explains why the ‘interrogative self-talk’ is more effective, giving two reasons. Firstly, by its very nature, the interrogative approach elicits answers, within which lie strategies for actually carrying out the task. The affirmative approach may go something like ‘I have a sales pitch to make. I’m the best. This will be easy. The sale is mine!’ This approach may well provide a short-term emotional boost. However, if your approach is ‘Can I make a great sales pitch?’ the research shows that you provide yourself with something that reaches deeper and has a longer-lasting impact. You may answer the question with ‘Yes, I have made great pitches on 6 occasions in the last month.’ Or ‘Of course I can, I have prepared meticulously and I know the material inside out.’ And you might also elicit the response ‘Last time I rushed the beginning a little, so I want to start off slower this time.’ Affirmation is good, but the interrogative enables you to identify and obtain the resources you actually need to complete the task.
Researchers found the second reason to be that interrogative self-talk ‘may inspire thoughts about autonomous or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal’. People are more likely to act, and to perform well, when motivations derive from intrinsic choices rather than from extrinsic pressures.
Positive Mental Attitude is important and is more efficacious than negativity, but it really only gets you halfway there!
If you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here email@example.com
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