The lexicon of sales clichés is filled with words and phrases designed to convince people they have a problem that only the salesperson’s product or service can solve. Selling (facilitating the buying process) however, is rooted in helping, not convincing. It is something that requires empathy, understanding, and the knowledge of how to reassure the prospect of your objective and your ability to help. In this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter we examine a tool called the reassurance statement and we look at three ways to use it to help the prospect make a confident agency selection.
1. Claiming Expertise
A reassurance statement is used in conjunction with a positioning statement to claim an expertise and describe exactly how the agency helps its clients. The formula I start with for both is as follows:
(Agency) is a leading (expertise) agency in the (geographic or vertical) market.
We help (client types) to (benefit) and (benefit).
Here’s a hypothetical agency to flesh out the example:
Idea Partners is the leading retail advertising agency in the Pacific Northwest. We help shopping malls and fashion retailers build brands and drive targeted store traffic.
The positioning statement makes a claim of expertise. Words like leading, expert, or specialist should be used or implied. The reassurance statement follows up the claim with a narrower description of how the firm helps specific clients solve specific problems. A reassurance statement is a double benefit statement. Together, your positioning statement and reassurance statement constitute what is often referred to as an elevator pitch – those few carefully chosen words that you deliver in the short ride between floors when the person next to you asks what your firm does. These tandem sentences should be among the first words delivered on your website, in your agency brochure, in your telephone introductions and in the elevator. These are the words that you and all your employees should be able to recite in your sleep.
Your positioning and reassurance statements may be refined or altered to be less formulaic and more compelling than the examples I have offered, but once created they become powerful tools that you will use many times in many other ways. The very exercise of writing both statements is highly beneficial, although rarely easy.
2. Overcoming Objections
Your positioning statement is cast in stone and should not change. Reassurance statements, however, change and evolve to fit the situation at hand. You will have many reassurance statements. The one that you marry to your positioning statement – the one that goes on your website and in your elevator pitch – is what I call the motherhood reassurance statement. It too is cast in stone, but unlike a claim of expertise its permanence does not preclude you from developing additional ones. It is in overcoming specific objections that you will craft reassurance statements on the fly.
The Three R’s
One broad-based tool to aid in overcoming most types of objections is The Three R’s. This is a tried and tested conflict resolution tool that helps you understand, and be understood by, the other party.
The first of The Three R’s is to Restate the objection in your own words. Restating often begins with the words, ‘I understand…’ A price objection of, ‘$25,000 is a lot of money for a marketing plan,’ might be restated as, ‘I understand we are talking about a sizeable investment.’
Beyond just mirroring the same words back, your restatement must demonstrate your ability to hear, process, and reframe in your own words (thereby truly understanding) the concern.
The second of The Three R’s is to Reassure. It is here that you employ your motherhood reassurance statement, or you construct another to address the specific objection raised. After restating the price objection, the principal of Idea Partners would follow up with the motherhood reassurance statement: ‘My objective is to help you build your brand and drive targeted traffic to your store.’ Or perhaps another reassurance statement to address more specifics needs that the prospect has shared: ‘Our goal is to help you reverse the decline in store traffic, and increase customer loyalty.’
The third R is to Resume your point, connecting back to your reassurance statement. Our hypothetical agency principal might resume his recommendation as follows: ‘To do this we begin with a diagnostic assessment that allows us to fully understand your current situation and market, and to make our recommendations with confidence. The marketing plan is merely the outcome of that understanding and those recommendations. Our clients find that an investment of a small percentage of the total budget right here helps ensure the rest of the budget is invested wisely.’
In summary, Restate the objection in your own words to demonstrate that you are listening, Reassure the prospect of your intentions, then Resume your point or recommendation. The net effect is, ‘This person hears me, understands my concerns, and is focused on my objective.’
3. Combating Buyers’ Remorse
Buyers’ remorse is doubt about the purchasing decision that the prospect experiences late in the buying cycle but often before he buys. Here, late in the game, the prospect is looking for inconsistencies in your actions and words. If you are too eager, too loose with the truth about your abilities or past experience, or too lackadaisical in your handling of the details of the relationship then you risk running the prospect off. It is here that reassurance in the form of references, money back guarantees, and the process-framed case studies we discussed in the October issue should be employed. Your own words, in the form of your reassurance statements, are equally important here.
I encounter many agencies that have a valuable packaged first sale – a diagnostic or strategic direction setting process – that place too much emphasis on what it is they are selling (the audit, the discovery session, the research) and not enough emphasis on the end objective. Design-based agencies in particular are often guilty of selling process when the client really just wants a logo. While the process is valuable support for the agency’s positioning, pricing, and product, the prospectneeds constant reminding that the process is the means to the end – and not what they are purchasing. Forcing yourself to recite your reassurance statement in a closing opportunity reminds you to get the focus back onto your objective (to help the client build the brand and drive targeted store traffic) and off of what he may begin to think is your objective (to sell him an expensive marketing plan).
The next time you are going into a closing opportunity take a few minutes to craft a situation-specific reassurance statement, and enter the meeting with the intention of delivering it at least once. You might be surprised at how your focus on the prospect’s objective helps to facilitate the transaction. Simple yet powerfully effective conflict resolution tools, reassurance statements also work on co-workers, spouses, and children. Use them responsibly.