Propel Your Prospect’s Urgency with these 4 Powerful Approaches

Now that you’ve got your first business meeting, and now that you have established trust with your prospect, what do you do?

The following approaches are the four most powerful skills each seller should master in order to navigate the Middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel™. Although each skill can be used independently, Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training teaches how to utilize them together for even better effectiveness.

Seek First to Understand

Everyone has that one friend: the friend who half-listens to your story, and then immediately launches into a saga that begins with, “That reminds me of when I…” or “That happened to me…” or even, “You think that’s bad….”

It’s your classic case of one-upmanship. And unfortunately, because of that, no one likes talking to that friend, at least not about anything important.

According to Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, responding like that friend is fairly common. Most people listen autobiographically, and with intent to reply. He says,

“You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating.”

Listening autobiographically, as Covey says, doesn’t necessarily make you a good or bad person. That is, however, the exact opposite of what a seller should to do when s/he meets with a prospect.

For example, imagine that friend—the one who starts talking about him- or herself midway through your story—is trying to sell you something.

Most people would immediately shut down. Most prospects would think, “You asked me a question, and now you’re not even listening to my answer. You don’t understand my problem. You didn’t even let me finish!”

What to Do Instead

Before we try to persuade anyone, we first need to understand their perspective. Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training identifies the most common mistake that sellers make is that we sell too soon, before we can understand the buyer. Rather than jumping into the business relationship with a solution, let the buyer continue explaining.

Most people end up thinking aloud if they are allowed to continue for long enough. The longer your prospect talks about their problems or goals, the better, more accurate solution they set you up to provide.

Find Prospects’ Aspirations

As you actively listen to your prospect, develop the business relationship by guiding them to talk about their aspirations.

When people discuss their desires, they form a mental picture. Encourage your prospect to daydream. In his Step-by-Step Guide on how to Visualize and Affirm Potential, Jack Canfield lists the following four things that Visualization accomplishes:

  1. It activates their creative subconscious which generates creative ideas to achieve your goal.
  2. It programs their brain to more readily perceive and recognize the resources they need.
  3. It activates the law of attraction, which draws the necessary people, resources, and circumstances to achieve their goals.
  4. It builds their internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve those dreams.

To compress these four ideas, Visualization makes dreams real. We hear all the time about the power of visualization. Every professional athlete visualizes their victory (Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus, to name a few), but so do successful people in other disciplines: for example, Oprah Winfrey. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carrey.

We want our prospects to succeed, because that means we succeed. Our goals as salespeople in the business relationship are to help them reach success—and once our prospects tell us what their success looks like, we can help them get there! Just remember while your prospect is sharing all their goals with you, that the seller should still—and always—seek first to understand.

Reframe the Conversation

On the popular television show Mad Men, the creative advertising genius Don Draper impresses many of his clients with the line, “If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.” Business-minded viewers of the show may be underwhelmed, however, because while that sounds great… what exactly does that mean? And how can we do it?

Reframing the conversation creates a different way of looking at an interaction or opportunity. Potential buyers engage sellers in a business relationship when they want insight, and reframing lies in changing the buyers’ fundamental assumptions.

Most instances of reframing the conversation involve merely shifting perspective. For example, if the buyer wants to talk about price per unit, reframing involves asking about the total cost of acquisition. In other words, the competitor’s product may be less expensive, but we don’t accept that information as the final evaluation. If the price does not include delivery or warranty, or the more expensive product is 50% more efficient, then we can reframe the conversation by focusing on the values of the product.

Essentially, the seller needs more information to reframe the conversation. If we have information, we can ask how it applies to the situation, and if we need more information, we can ask the seller that, too. Often times, part of getting more information is asking the seller to visualize their success. To extend this example, if the price doesn’t play into their visualization, what elements do contribute that the product won’t supply?

Unveil Their Pain

One of the founding principles in modern psychology is that people move toward pleasure and away from pain. In the section about finding your prospects aspirations, we moved toward pleasure.

Science shows, however, that people are more motivated to avoid pain that to acquire gains. Most buyers don’t realize their own needs until it’s too late to avoid them, and in order to be persuasive, sellers need to help customers discover their problems and the consequences of inaction.

The most common issue for sellers is that we assume that buyers already know their pains when in fact they are unaware. Otherwise, the buyers would already be acting to resolve their issues.

The biggest mistake that sellers make is offering a Features-and-Benefits solution as soon as we discover a need. But our prospects must understand the cost of their problem before they can evaluate the cost of our solution.


There are four main tactics Program on Persuasion’s corporate sales training identifies that help the seller persuade the buyer through the Middle of the Predictive Sales Funnel ™: we must Seek First to Understand, Identify Prospects’ Aspirations, Reframe the Conversation, and Unveil Their Pain. In utilizing these four methods, we can aid the prospect in moving with us to the Bottom of the Predictive Sales Funnel™.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova.