Nine Principles of a Sales Intervention


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In today’s sales the complexities have increased dramatically. We no longer are just about solving a problem but now we often confronted with building consensus. A good example of this is outlined in a recent book called The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results. One my favorite “sales” books, Cognitive Coaching, discusses many similar problems around these principles, and a particular one is in getting someone “unstuck” and back to what the authors call resourceful states.

“Resourceful States” are something we all would like to achieve in every sales call. In the book, they go into detail about pacing and leading areas that certainly should be addressed but in addition, they discuss the principles of intervention which I find fascinating when relating to just about each and every sales call. I have the bold face intact verbatim from the book, but I have paraphrased the explanations as needed and hopefully did not distort the authors work too much when applying it to sales.

Nine Principles of Intervention:

  1. People act on their internal maps of reality and not on sensory experience. Each person perceives the world from his unique vantage point, seeing it through frames of personal history, belief systems, representation systems, and cognitive styles. This principle reminds us to learn how the world appears to the other person and to sensitively gather data to understand the other person’s maps and how they are constructed.
  2. People make the best choice for themselves at any given moment. This principle does not suggest that people make the best choice possible, only the best choice available to themselves at the moment. High emotionality will limit choices, as will strongly
    held positions or points of view.
  3. Respect all messages from the other person. Empathy and respect are critical resources. We should seek to be non-judgmentally attending to and respecting both verbal and nonverbal messages.
  4. Provide choice; never take choice away. In several cases, Milton Erickson worked with suicidal persons. His approach was, in effect, “Yes, that’s one choice. What are others?” When we attempt to limit a person’s choices, they are often drawn even more stubbornly to the choice we’ve removed. Effective salespeople keep options open.
  5. The resource each person needs lies within their personal history. Erickson would frequently tell students or clients that their “unconscious contains a vast storehouse of learning, memories, and resources.” Salespeople need to be mindful that they are there to facilitate the customer’s access to learning, not to offer only solutions.
  6. Meet the other person in their model of the world. The skills of rapport are helpful in connecting with a customer psychologically. However, this does not imply that the salesperson must stay in the other person’s model.
  7. The person with the most flexibility or choices will be the controlling element in the system. The greater a repertoire that customers have, the greater flexibility and choice they have regarding implementation and solutions. The same is true for the salesperson in a helping relationship. When sales efforts fail, it is frequently due to the salesperson’s inability to exercise the necessary flexibility.
  8. A person cannot not communicate. Even if a person is not communicating verbally, they are still sending nonverbal messages Some behaviors are very subtle, such as breathing shifts or a slight nod of the head. These behaviors are important for the salesperson to notice especially when trying to empower or persuade.
  9. Outcomes are achieved at the psychological level. This principle is based on the reality that several levels of communication operate simultaneously. One of these is the social level message carried in words. Another is the psychological message usually reflected in the voice tone, gesture, or emphasis. When these two levels of communication are incongruent, the psychological message will determine the outcome of communication. This principle reminds salespeople to be conscious of and intentional about their levels of communication.

This is not meant to be a prescriptive process as you might gather. The interpretation of non-verbal signals are important. Living in the virtual world, it is also helpful to use the tools we have available such as Skype and Google Hangouts to mirror that real-life experience as much as possible.

When reviewing these principles, I cannot help think about Boyd’s OODA Loop and the emphasis he puts on the second step of Orient and in CAP-Do the emphasis I put on the Adjust state. It is during these steps or “intervention” that our relationship is understood and leads to how we react and move forward.

Related Blog Post: Adjust Step in CAP-Do

How was your last intervention?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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