Engaging Prospects, Growing Clients: Turning Contacts into Champions | SalesAndMarketing.com
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Engaging Prospects, Growing Clients: Turning Contacts into Champions

Previously, we detailed how to create urgency in complacent prospects. The next challenge we face as sales professionals is turning contacts into champions.

During a sales cycle, we're not always around to influence the buying team. Most of the selling is done internally behind closed doors. But even this doesn't happen if we don't get someone passionate about our help.

Noted business researcher Herbert Kelman first discovered the real key to getting people passionate about taking a different path. It's called internalization. This is a heightened engagement in work that happens when the worker sees that the work doesn't just help reach the company's goals but also her own.

The strategy we teach to create internalization is called Spark a Performance Pursuit. Why? Well, when I was a boy, I rode Chaquita, a friend's horse, up a long trail to the top of a mountain. She was a great horse, but she would stall and eat, sway to a new trail, and occasionally rest. I'd prod her along as she walked where I wanted her to go.

Later after we reached the summit and took in the view, I turned Chaquita's reigns toward home. I felt a spark in Chaquita's effort as she sprinted home. Chaquita was pursuing every essential need: food, protection, the herd, pecking order—everything important her.

A single need like an apple, her usual form of paycheck, wouldn't have stopped her sprint to the ranch. I was just hanging on for the ride.

We can spark a powerful momentum change with contacts like the effect reaching desired goals had on Chaquita. The solution has to become theirs, not ours. It has to align with their company goals.

But our research team put dozens of potential work motivators in front of over 10,000 business and professional people worldwide. These contacts you and I work with every day said: "opportunity for personal development and growth" would engage them more in the work than anything else.

A well-rounded set of personal benefits creates emotional adoption much more than product benefits alone. Well-rounded personal gain creates new performance increase better than even money (or an apple) alone.

We're not talking about noticing mere hobbies in pictures on a contact's wall. In our research, we heard salespeople finding out how the engagement could contribute in areas that sounded a lot like Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: physical, security, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Contacts' urgency around these needs never goes away—it just spikes at different times and in different ways. We need to find out how we can help in many ways.

On the physical level, contacts sometimes need a resource or to maintain it. Obviously, we're hoping this is our product. But this need may also spike with pressure to remodel a home, start a fitness program, or repair a crashed network at work-all physical needs.

As basic needs are met, our contacts maintain a varying sense of security. For example, our contacts jockey for position, job security, or work hard to make things go so smoothly at home. Top sales professionals listen for striving to secure something.

A contact with healthy sense of security seeks to belong. Belonging is how a person feels within a team—whether they fit. Top performers also listen for contacts' ambitions to belong to new professional circles or to associate with the fast-trackers at work.

As a contact associates with the right team, esteem shows up—whether they've been recognized by the team or not. We should learn how contacts personally feel about their place within the pecking order, whether their expertise is called on, and if the contact feels appreciated generally. We can help.

Once contacts know that others recognize their value, they seek to excel and go beyond themselves—self-actualization. Growth leaders discover this highest need including career pursuits and personal aspirations, not just hobbies. Top performers listen for specifics on how contacts see their selves and their pursuit to go beyond self. Then, they notice how related opportunities or characteristics like tempo, dedication, and other traits could be utilized.

Now, the "hierarchy" of these needs implies that contacts, generally, try to satisfy these needs in order—in hot pursuit of self-actualization. If we could discover some of these thoughts over lunch or listen during trusting conversations, we'd be in a position to lead contacts to become champions that take action. But we must be genuine, and this can't be part of a formal meeting.

It's usually when we help others see tasks as their passion instead of our prodding that we spark performance. Adopting the work as contributing to "my" pursuit sparks a healthy self-interest in contacts. And that's why we call this strategy Spark a Performance Pursuit.

Mark Cook is the author of "Sales Blazers" and the accompanying "Leading Client Growth." He also leads sales performance services at O.C. Tanner. E-mail him at mark.cook@salesblazers.com or visit www.salesblazers.com.