So our salesman has successfully gained access to the relevant decision-maker. In most cases, this leads to a short, simple Q & A session. Do you need what I'm selling? Are you likely to in the future? Thank you and goodbye.
Occasionally, however, the decision-maker is very unforthcoming or guarded, and declines to discuss what his company is doing or planning to do. The salesman may get a very vague response like this:
"We do occasionally have training requirements, but I'm not prepared to say more than that. If you just put some literature in the post..."
Our salesman's goal now is to drill for information. May I repeat for emphasis that cold reading techniques may be of no use whatsoever. On the other hand, they may work, and there's nothing to lose by trying. People find it a lot easier to agree with information than to provide it, so our salesman might try a variation on the Good Chance Guess, like this:
"I understand, and I'll certainly do that. But I mean, you obviously do run Java courses don't you? And your development department is, what, about 20 people, roughly speaking?"
This might, just possibly, unlock the information the sales person wants:
"Yes, well, about that. 15-20. We're re-structuring. But I really don't want to get into this..."
And the salesman has the information he wants. Another possible tactic is to combine a Good Chance Guess with an Incidental Question, like this:
"That's fine. I'll leave you in peace. It's just that I read you guys were expanding your R&D department, and you'd be strengthening your in-house Java capability. Sounds like pretty good news, doesn't it?"
If the buyer is very astute, and an effective 'blocker', he might see through this and dismiss it with another evasive response. On the other hand, he just might slip and give away more than he meant to:
"Well, it's fairly good news I suppose. I don't know about expanding the department, but we're certainly bringing the Java up to speed - and about time. But I really don't wish to say more about it."
And so he confirms the information without really meaning to. You may say this is not a very plausible dialogue. I can tell you that while it may not be typical, it certainly is possible to squeeze slivers of information out of prospects in this way, and I've done it in real life.
So far we have looked at 'cold calling', and seen how some cold reading techniques might help in a few special situations. Now let's consider a different context, when the salesman actually meets the prospective customer. The cold reading techniques we have looked at in this book can help in two specific ways, the second being by far the more interesting:
- staging the sales meeting
- creating an illusion of knowledge I'll deal with these one at a time.
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