You’ve probably heard the frog in boiling water anecdote. So the theory goes, a frog that is placed in cold water and gently heated will be slowly cooked to death, whereas one that is dropped into boiling water will leap to safety. Is it possible that your prospects behave in the same way?
By the way, it’s an interesting theory, but scientists have held varying opinions about whether the effect is true. According to Wikipedia, the German physiologist Friedrich Goltz - while searching for the location of the soul - demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but his intact frogs attempted to escape the water.
Recognising the Need for Change
I’m not suggesting that you replicate this experiment with your more troublesome prospects or that you search for the location of their souls. But it’s probably worth considering what approaches you might use to help an otherwise well-qualified prospect who seems to be comfortable with their environment to recognise the need for change.
Many of the solution selling methodologies recommend that you sell to the pain, and that’s an effective strategy if you prospect has just encountered the equivalent of boiling water. But what if their pain is not so immediate, or so obvious, to your prospect? How can you raise the temperature around them?
Persuade Them That Their Sensors are Faulty
One approach - recommended by Geoffrey Moore and others in a recent Harvard Business Review article - is to provoke your prospective customers into recognising the need to change by presenting them with information or insights that they were previously unaware of.
You might, for example, draw their attention to an industry trend - and its consequences - that will affect every player in their market unless they react to it. In this case, it’s not the trend that might cause them to act, but your focus on the consequences of a failure to respond in time.
Extrapolate Future Impact
Another successful approach involves acknowledging that the current change may be a gradual one, but to dramatise its future consequences. You’ll want to find ways - through strong visuals or compelling stories - of helping to project a potentially painful future state, and helping them to see the need for change.
Anecdotes that draw upon similar past situations can help to dramatise the story. Or you may want to draw upon the projections of respected industry analysts. One way or another, you’re trying to persuade them to feel increasingly uncomfortable with their current situation.
The Power of Conversation
You can raise your prospect’s awareness of the rising temperature around them through a variety of means - by writing provocative thought leadership pieces, by quoting respected analysts, or by sharing strong case studies. But that's just the start of the process.
If you’re selling complex, high-value solutions, turning their initial interest into action requires compelling conversation skills. Your top sales performers almost certainly do this instinctively. But the rest of your team may need some help.
Dramatising the Story
This isn’t the sort of skill that is developed using conventional sales training. And it’s a completely different skill from that taught in product training. What you’re trying to do is to equip your sales people to dramatise pain that your prospects may currently be unaware of.
This isn’t about encouraging ham acting. It’s about equipping your sales people to tell compelling stories and weave compelling conversations. Conversations that could persuade even a comfortably warming frog to recognise that it’s time to move on.
Are your sales people leaping at the opportunity?