I was working with a Pharmaceutical Sales Consultant recently who I asked, “What’s the biggest challenge you face?” The answer she gave me both surprised me and confirmed my suspicions.
Her job is to reach out to Clinical Researchers in hospitals and attempt to get face-to-face meetings to introduce new products.
And that was her biggest challenge – getting the Clinical Researchers to slow down long enough to hear her message, not just nod their heads.
According to this Pharmaceutical company’s ethnographic research, these Clinical Researchers were so busy they were changing task every 20 minutes. That means they will have worked on 24 different tasks throughout an eight-hour workday!
No wonder this was her biggest challenge. She couldn’t slow down her clients long enough to get her message heard.
Slow down to speed up
It can feel like an impossible task to slow down your customer when they are moving too fast. Your instinct is to get sucked into their busy mindset and try and play at their speed.
But this only hurts your chances of making a sale.
If you can’t find ways to slow them down, they will make decisions the way busy people make decisions…
- Busy customers will stick with the status quo or “safe purchase” with existing suppliers (no one ever got fired for hiring IBM). If you’re not the incumbent you won’t even be on their radar.
- Busy customers are blind to the value you offer because they only see you as “the other guys”. They’ll focus only on your price (the last thing you want them to see) and never see the value of your product or service.
So how do you break through their busyness and slow them down?
One of my favorite techniques I use to slow down a client is O-B-P. Which stands for Overview, Benefits, Permission.
When I first enter into a conversation where I feel the client is moving too fast, this is the first step I take.
Clearly state your intentions (Overview)
This is a sentence or two that openly declares your agenda for the meeting. Be specific on what you would like to achieve.
By declaring your agenda it drives fear out of the conversation when potential clients are expecting sales tricks. Showing your hand up front disarms them.
Plus, it cuts to the chase and that feels fast. Something hurried business professionals like!
Here’s an example of a basic “Overview” statement…
(O) What I’d like to do today is spend some time learning about what you’re hoping to accomplish this year.
How the customer will gain (Benefits)
The second statement is a statement of “Benefits” for whoever is the decision maker you’re working with.
To slow someone down you need to give them a relevant reason for following your agenda and entering into a conversation.
A great “Benefits” statement will challenge your Empathetic Imagination. By that I mean you’ll need to imagine what is immediately relevant to the person you are engaging. Not always easy, but done correctly is effective at gaining their attention and slowing them down.
Building on the “Overview” above, here’s an example of a “Benefits” statement:
(O) What I’d like to do today is spend some time learning about what you’re hoping to accomplish this year. (B) That way we focus our time on how we can help you achieve your goals and get you that promotion.
Make sure you are using the second person “you” in your “Benefits” statement. A benefit to a company is good. But a benefit statement that is personally relevant, like bringing a good report to your boss is better.
Ask if you may proceed (Permission)
The last last step to slow down your customer is a “Permission” statement.
This may seem easy to do, but asking permission is most often overlooked and undervalued.
The pushback I receive is that by asking permission you are somehow diminishing your authority in front of the client.
I don’t see it that way. In fact, my experience has consistently been that asking permission to proceed elevated the conversation and distinguished me as a professional and potential business partner. That’s the exact position I want to occupy!
When you ask permission to proceed you show your customer respect. Making them feel valued and not just another sales prospect for you to manipulate.
To round out our O-B-P here’s an example of a “Permission” statement…
(O) What I’d like to do today is spend some time learning about what you’re hoping to accomplish this year. (B) That way we focus our time on how we can help you achieve your goals and get you that promotion. (P) Would that be OK?
Your “Permission” statement doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply ask if it would be ok if you proceed with the conversation you overviewed. And 99% of the time your customer will say YES.
Preparation makes perfect
A well-delivered O-B-P is deceptively difficult to do. You need to practice for it to feel natural.
You may think you can just “put it together” in the moment. I understand that instinct. If you are in sales, you usually pride yourself on your excellent improv skills in conversation.
But an O-B-P is a deliberate action. It is how you slow down your customer long enough so that you can use your excellent improv skills and get your message heard.
A safe place to practice is when you are have meetings internally. Practice by starting off the meeting with an O-B-P. See how it can slow down your colleagues and set a clear agenda for the meeting that everyone agrees to.
When you can slow down your customers with a well delivered O-B-P, you will build trust and get your message heard.