Claims of value, however, can be less definitive and are generally based on one’s judgment or predilections rather than on known facts. Value claims (e.g., preference, success, relia- bility) are more difficult to analyze because value has no standard gauge against which to compare. Value claims normally appeal to the buyers’ emotional interests, their expressed partialities, and even their sense of achievement for making the best choice. In their book The Structure of Argument, authors Annette Rotten- berg and Donna Winchell define claims of value as an “attempt to prove that some things are more or less desirable than others. They ex- press approval or disapproval of stan- dards of taste”—but they cannot be substantiated.
Now Show Them It is imperative that the buyer is con- vinced that the salesperson’s claims are truthful and dependable. There- fore, all claims should be supported with evidence. Product performance statistics are considered the most reliable forms of evidence because they are usually based on hard test data and/or measurable experience. Performance diagrams, graphs, ta- bles, statistics, etc., are preferred forms of proof. The single most important chal- lenge for a salesperson might be to adequately dismantle—or at least minimize—competing claims and in- terests, whether they come from a competitor or from detractors within the customer’s organization. Sales- people must anticipate and identify issues that may cause controversy or uncertainty in the mind of the buyer and be prepared to address them. Key to offering proof is to ensure that the available evidence is suffi- cient in quality and quantity, that it is relevant to the user’s needs, that it accurately represents the product’s features and functions, and that the information is unambiguously defined
and up to date. Of course, the sales- person must be able to satisfactorily articulate the product’s features, functions, and benefits as they are applicable to the customer’s needs and expectations. Beyond the func- tional attributes of the product, indus- try experts and existing users’ testi- monials can be par- ticularly useful, al- though they may not be easily or indepen- dently verified. To defend against claims of value, Rottenberg and Winchell suggest that because value terms are abstract, “use examples and illustra- tions to clarify mean- ings and make distinctions. Comparisons and contrasts are espe- cially helpful.” Beware that there may be no single “correct” choice—only “possible” and “improbable” ones.
Use the Language of Debate Using precise terms that are distinc- tive to the industry or its products conveys an impression of knowledge and competency. Conversely, when discussing technical and complex products or technologies, use lan- guage that will not demean the lis- tener or make him or her feel embar- rassed for lack of understanding. When using sophisticated or eso- teric terms, it is imperative that unfa- miliar language be adequately defined to avoid misunderstanding. Addition- ally, all claims and proof should be de- scribed in a way to convince the cus- tomer that the products’ features and benefits will also apply to his or her specific needs. As powerful and convincing as a product pitch can be, the buyer’s emo- tional reality must not be ignored. Facts and figures can paint compel- ling reasons to buy, but unless the buyer’s sentiment is also favorable, logic is at a disadvantage. Jay Hen-
richs writes in his book, Thank You for Arguing, “Logic alone will rarely get people to do anything.” Since Aristotle, students of logical thinking contend that “emotion trumps logic.” So if the technical argument is solid but the buyer has yet to make a com- mitment, find out what emotional barrier needs to be overcome. In fine-tuning one’s arguing skills, it is important to be aware of the in- fluence of the gram- matical verb tense construction. Hein- rich notes that when discussing beliefs and values, use the present-tense con- struction. For instance, “Conditions are bad” and “I love Italian food” are expressions of judgment or value. When wanting to place blame, the past tense is applicable (e.g., “Why did they raise our taxes again?”). He also points out that for making decisions or choices, the use of the future tense is the most effective tool of those who want to persuade. Keen salespeople respect and learn from discussions relevant to customers’ beliefs and values. But intuitively, perceptive salespeople will also guide those discussions to fact-based, proof- supported, emotionally compatible choice options that will optimize the product or service benefits that favor the customer. This can only be done in the language of choice in the future tense: how the product will solve the problem, will be more economical, and will be the better choice. Don’t argue to “win.” Argue to learn, understand, and persuade. Re- member, the salesperson is responsi- ble for the evidence. The customer is responsible for the choice. ;
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Remember this: Your outward behavior is the truth, whereas your inner perception of your behavior is often an illusion.
—FROM THE BOOK
The Power of Focus