Selling and the power of familiarity

Most buyers find comfort in familiarity.  And, many companies count on it – enticing customers to purchase by creating a familiar buying environment.

That’s why, for example, fast food establishments – whether selling hamburgers, chicken, or tacos all have the same basic structure – stand on line, place your order, and then bring the food to your table.  According to Dr. Art Markman at the University of Texas, this formula helps customers navigate through their purchase because they quickly recognize what they’re supposed to do.

As might be expected, the fast food example doesn’t translate well to the B2B market.  Unique products and complex solutions don’t lend themselves to best practices established for the restaurant business.  Rather, Dr. Markham suggests relying on the power of analogies to create a sense of familiarity.

However, most customers rarely conjure up good analogies on their own.  As we’ve often written, it’s up to the sales person to “connect the dots” – don’t rely on customers. But, even experienced sales people can’t consistently create just the right analogy in real time. This means when planning sales calls, sales people should think of analogies that can “bring to life” the value associated with their product.

We believe analogies can be a highly effective sales tool for helping customers develop an understanding of the value of your solution – the more complex the solution, the greater the potential impact of the analog.

In prior blogs we introduced the power of storytelling in sales. While storytelling can stand on its own, incorporating analogies to make a point or illustrate an idea can enhance the power of the story.  Skillfully using analogies, storytelling, or both can be very effective for helping customer become more familiar with what you’re selling – developing customer comfort by the power of familiarity is fundamentally a good idea.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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