If you’re like most salespeople—and most salespeople are—you’re pretty positive. The same is true if you’re a business owner or CEO. You tend to be goal-oriented, you see the potential upside in situations, you take risks in order to seize opportunities, you tend to move toward those outcomes that bring you pleasure and satisfaction.
As a result, you tend to sell positively. You discuss features and benefits, you show how your product or service will help your prospect achieve better results and you paint a picture of how their life or business will be improved.
There’s one problem with this approach: It doesn’t work half the time.
That’s right. As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone is as positive as you are. In fact, approximately half the population are negative thinkers. They’re security-oriented, they see the potential downside in situations, they pass up opportunities in order to avoid risk, they tend to move away from those outcomes that bring them pain and discomfort. (Sound like anyone you know?)
Your challenge is that you can’t use a positive sales approach with a negative person. They can’t appreciate the benefits you’re describing because they’re too focused on the costs and risks. They can’t see the picture of their bright future you’ve painted because all they can imagine is a future where everything has gone wrong.
So how do you sell to a negative thinker? Negatively.
Yep, you have to do a 180. Focus on what resonates with them.
Alert them to the dangers of doing nothing. Warn them of the downside of choosing an inferior product or service. Explain how your offering reduces their risks and safeguards what they already have.
Don’t talk about how your product or service helps them to get more of what they want, talk about how it helps them to have less of what they don’t want. Don’t show them how it enables them to move toward a goal they desire, show them how it enables them to move away from an outcome they fear.
How can you tell if your prospect is a negative thinker? Listen to what they say when you conduct your needs analysis. Do they have a hard time describing their goals, but gush about their challenges? Do they have a lot of concerns and worries? Do they frown more than they smile? Have they been putting off action on this issue for a long time? Bingo, they’re negative.
Let me be clear: that’s not a bad thing. It’s just the way they are. In fact there’s value in negative thinking. (My friend Craig Price has a great book on the subject: Half a Glass: The Realist’s Guide.) It simply seems alien to those of us who are positive thinkers. Just as our focus on the positive seems alien to them.
Which means, if we want to boost our sales, we need to adapt to their way of thinking. For most salespeople, selling negatively takes practice, because it doesn’t come naturally to us. But if you work at it, I’m positive you can succeed at it.