It’s a sunny day in the island nation of Guyana and a businessman leans over the edge of railing to peer at the waters of a fish farm. As he stares down at the fish swimming beneath the surface, he holds up a keyring to the light. Attached are a series of swatches like paint chips which peak in fishlike fins. Immediately, any onlooker would notice that the paint chips are all variations of one color: salmon. The shades range from the palest pink with barely any coloration to a rich shade that borders on red. What you’re seeing is the profound power of consumer preferences in action – and how understanding them is essential to effective persuasion.
What the Salmon Fan Can Teach Us About Persuasion
The item described above is what’s known as a “SalmoFan.” When consumers go into the store to purchase a salmon filet or order it at a restaurant, there’s a certain set of images that comes to mind. Salmon spawning in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest; schools of silvery fish slicing through icy ocean waters in the wild. But the reality of consumer preferences, information architecture, and selling salmon to the general public is infinitely more complex. National Geographic estimates that fish farming provides 70% of the global salmon supply. [“Salmon Farming Gets Leaner and Greener,” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140319-salmon-farming-sustainable-aquaculture/] In other words, salmon preferences are big business.
One of the curious things that fish companies quickly learned is that different types of salmon are favored in different markets, and certain markets prefer different hues. Different consumers have individual ideas about what a healthy or fresh salmon should look like. These wide-ranging preferences gave rise to the SalmoFan. The fan displays several tiers of salmon shades. Farmers simply need to know which market they’re targeting. Supplements are added to the feed that’s given to the fish and the end result are fish that are a perfect shade of pink for consumers in Denver, London, Boston, or beyond.
Micro Preferences and Persuasion
One of the underlying messages of the SalmoFan is how far today’s consumers and business buyers are in terms of their precise preferences. Today’s buyer no longer has a preference for salmon over cod or hake. They have a preference for E6 salmon, with a nice ruby glow. The reality of increasing personalization and fragmentation is true across every product type you can imagine.
Consider retargeting technology from online advertisers. When a user searches for a product on Amazon, ads of that product follow them around the web in side bars and banner ads on every site that they visit. Every element of our online experience is deeply personalized to our interests and our buying habits. The level of personalization offers a clue into what buyers expect from sales professionals and underscores the importance of really understanding your audience.
Said differently, people care about themselves. They’re driven by having their own needs met, desires fulfilled and problems solved. Within the YESCALTATE® framework, the idea is referred to as ALPHA. It’s imperative to understand your buyers at a deep level. What are their problems? Their desired solutions? How do they discuss the issues that impact their life or business? How much would they trade in order to solve those issues? When you’re deeply tuned into what your prospects need and value, you’re able to deliver that and give the right signals throughout a sales interaction to lead to a successful close.
How Micro Preferences Impact the Sales Process
Understanding your customer’s highly specific preferences impacts every element of the sales process, from how you frame your overall pitch to the questions that you ask. The question that many sales pros want to know is this: how can you apply the idea of micro preferences to your work and really get to know your prospects?
Control the conversation with questions: Don’t dominate the conversation by talking. Control it by asking smart questions. Sales professionals can use the right questions to demonstrate expertise, while giving prospects the opportunity to talk about what they find most interesting: themselves and their business! Think about your questions from the prospect’s perspective and keep them highly relevant to their interests.
Get very granular in your questions: A successful sales pro doesn’t just say, “Tell me your problem.” Stopping there leaves you without the micro-insights needed to succeed; instead, you’ve got to dig down for more information. Seek to quantify the prospect’s problem in a meaningful way. Ask questions like:
- What are your goals?
- What obstacles are preventing you from reaching them?
- How does this impact your work and the company’s overall progress?
- How does it leave you, specifically, the decision maker feeling? (e.g. stressed, overworked, without access to the right data)
- Try to uncover measurable impacts to the bottom line. What is the problem costing in dollars? In time? In other metrics that matter?
Get to the prospect’s own language: Ask your prospect how they discuss the issue with their colleagues. Pay attention to the language used and statements that follow “I” and “we.” They can be very revealing about a prospect’s top priorities through an ALPHA lens.
Effectively managing the sales process today requires a deep understanding of your prospect. Within your own industry or space, you need to understand their preferences down to the level of the SalmoFan analogy. YESCALATE® can help you GET TO YES FASTER® by giving you the knowledge and skills to ask the right questions, pick up on important cues, and convince clients that you aren’t just selling – you are interested in them.