Jerry believes he had his client eating out of his hand. After all, Jerry had done his research, asked the critical questions and made a presentation so smooth that the client was simply impressed speechless.
In addition to Jerry’s impressive pitching and presentation skills, Jerry believed he had assembled the perfect package that was customised to meet the client’s every need. It fit the client’s requirements to a perfect “T”. The client could not have gotten any deal better than the one Jerry was pitching.
Jerry has every reason to feel confident that the client will buy. All that the client needs to do is to simply get the relevant approvals, and the contract will be signed and confirmed in a few days’ time.
Well, the days turned to weeks, and there still wasn’t any clear reply from the client yet. Eventually, the client revealed that while Jerry’s proposal was indeed impressive, they have decided to stick to their current vendor for the moment.
While Jerry fully understands that it is difficult to lure away his competitor’s key account, and make them buy from him instead, he is nevertheless disappointed at the outcome. Now, Jerry is wondering what else he could have done to make sure he wins the deal.
Undaunted, Jerry seeks turns to the Six Thinking Hats to help him cover all aspects of what the client is thinking, so as to win his next sale.
Structuring Your Sales Conversations According to the Six Thinking Hats
For the uninitiated, the Six Thinking Hats is a creative decision making tool that allows a group of people to generate innovative ideas quickly without individual emotions or personal egos getting in the way. In essence the 6 hats are:
• Blue Hat – Setting and managing the agenda and focus of the meeting
• White Hat – Information gathering and sharing
• Yellow Hat – Logical benefits and positive feedback
• Black Hat – Logical negative feedback, could be any potential risks, costs or negative impact
• Green Hat – Sharing of creative ideas, alternatives, proposals, interesting viewpoints, provocations, etc.
• Red Hat – Instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling, without the need for giving any justification
While the Six Thinking Hats are commonly used to solve problems, generate innovative ideas, or mapping business strategies, here’s an illustration how you can use it to win more sales and get more customers.
Before you start any sales meeting, be sure that you plan out the sequence of how you want to conduct that meeting. At the start of any meeting or communication with a customer, use the Blue Hat to set the agenda and focus of your meeting. Since customers are busy people, they will want to know what you would like to discuss with them, and for how long. You may phrase the your Blue Hat statement as a Valid Business Reason, which simply is a clear, concise and complete statement to help your customer accomplish, modify or avoid some important business issues.
Alternatively, you can also use the Blue Hat to explore certain issues with the customer, starting with “Would you be open to explore something new to reduce costs while improving results?”.
Besides setting the agenda and focus of the meeting, you can also use the Blue Hat to:
• Drive the conversation between you and your customer, so that all key issues are covered in time;
• Decide if you should adjust your meeting plan according to the responses of the customer;
• Suggest the next steps, and get the customer’s agreement on your next steps
Winning the Customer to Your Way of Thinking
Once the agenda and focus of your meeting with the customer is set, you can then structure to find out what they need you to do, IF they are going to buy from you at all. In short, here’s a set of suggested steps for your sales meeting:
1. White Hat:
o If you had done some research about the client and understand some of their current situation, you may actually start by sharing what you know, and get their validation if you got your facts right
o Ask questions to ascertain what kinds of solution they are using currently, and what will be their expectations if they were to change to a new and better solution in the future
2. Yellow Hat
o Ask them what they like best about their current solution
3. Black Hat
o Ask them what are the areas that can be improved for their current solution, and why are these aspects so important to them
o While this may seem positive, it is actually getting the customer to state the negative aspects of their current vendor in a positive way!
4. Green Hat
o Explore with your customer some possible solutions to the challenges they face currently
5. Red Hat
o Check the customer’s immediate, instinctive feedback.
o Be sure NOT to argue or justify with the customer at this stage
6. Blue Hat:
o Check with the customer how they would like to move forward, especially if you get a favourable response from them
o You can also then decide if you would like the customer to put on the Black Hat to state the shortcomings of what you proposed, or even get them to put on the Yellow Hat to tell you what are your strengths
o In any case, use this Blue Hat to lead the customer to your next meeting, or setting the next-step actions
As Sun Tzu says in the Art of War, “The victorious army plans for victory before fighting, the vanquished army fights before planning for victory”, planning for your meetings with customers could be the key success factor for your sales meeting. In fact, most sales people don’t plan before seeing customers, and that is precisely why they could not improve their sales results despite their best efforts.
As Dwight Eisenhower aptly summarises, “In preparing for battle, I have found plans are useless, but planning indispensable”, the usage of the Six Thinking Hats is not to stick to one fixed plan regardless of what are the customers’ responses. It is because you have planned how you would like to lead your customer in your conversations, so that you know what will be the contingencies you can fall back on. It is entire then up to you to be flexible about adjusting your plan.
Handling Customers’ Objections Using the Six Thinking Hats
While using the Six Thinking Hats to lead your sales conversations might reduce the number objections from customers, it does not mean that customers will not raise any objections at all.
Here’s what you should know when faced with objections:
• It does NOT mean that the more objections you overcome, you will get closer to the sale. You still have to do your best to avoid objections
• Never ever get into an argument when your customer raises objections, because you will win the argument but lose the sale; and
• It is usually the objections and concerns that the customer did NOT raise that will kill your sale. Hence, rather than waiting for objections, take the initiative to soothe your customer’s concerns and win their trust and confidence
So here’s some suggestions in using the Six Thinking Hats to handle objections:
1. Black Hat
o Get the customer to talk about their concerns, perceived potential risks and other issues that they don’t like.
o Don’t interrupt them while they state their concerns and objections. Simply encourage them to give all their objections until they exhaust all negative ideas
2. Yellow Hat
o Once the customer has exhausted all concerns and objections, get them to tell you what they like about you, especially if the above concerns raised can be resolved
o Encourage them to keep on telling you why they like you. If they can state a lot more positive aspects about you and your solution, then the objections stated above will be a less serious concern
3. Green Hat
o Explore with the customer how they would like to resolve their concerns. While you may have great ideas to resolve those customers’ concerns, involving your customer to generate solutions to resolve their own concerns is likely to give you greater buy-in
o If this is not possible (especially if it is a price issue), get the customer to evaluate that for the value that you are delivering, will they be willing to compromise on their demands
4. Red Hat
o Check for subtle changes in the customer’s facial expressions or body posture. See if they give positive or negative cues unconsciously.
5. Blue Hat:
o Agree on the next-step-actions with the customer