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Greg Nanigian, of Greg Nanigian & Associates, explores important advice for attendees of AE Ventures Summits on how they can improve pitches, optimize engagement, and deliver solid and consistent sales results.

Making a sale is no walk in the park. Most days, it seems to feel more like climbing Mount Everest while out of shape and without any proper experience. Fortunately, like a sherpa guide, author and motivational speaker Greg Nanigian has a few tricks up his sleeve that can help salespeople level the mountain and make it to the summit. Among the key strategies he offers are discovering a prospect’s “pain,” utilizing “striplining” and offering hands on surveys and notecards to presentation attendees.

John Galante, president of AE Ventures, sat down with Nanigian and discussed some of the foremost sales strategies and solutions you can use to gain traction and convert more conversations into real opportunities after visiting an AE Ventures summit (the event, not the mountain). Since 1987 Nanigian has been the President and CEO of Greg Nanigian & Associates, an affiliate of Sandler Sales Training. In 2017, Nanigian used his decades of experience to write and publish “Why People Buy: The Real Reasons Features and Benefits Selling Doesn’t Work.” Today, he uses his decades of wisdom to advise clients on how to become peak sales performers.

What is most important when it comes to sales strategies?
One of the most important aspects of making a sale is identifying a need and finding an emotional core/starting point for the sale. A great way to do this is to uncover the prospect’s “pain.” Understanding their pain is the best way to fully understand the scope of the potential client’s issues, and it will help you best address how your product/service can be the solution. Nanigian has an acronym to help identify a prospect’s pain, “It’s very very important to uncover pain, but it’s a misunderstood concept, which has been frustrating. Here is the bottom line so that you can know when you are actually uncovering pain. I go by the acronym ‘FUDWACA’. It stands for Frustration, Uncertainty, Doubt, Worry, Anxiety, Concern, and Anger.”

Nanigian describes how during conversations it is vital to not only gather information from these prospects, but to uncover their needs and go deeper into how they feel about those problems and challenges that they’re experiencing. “This should happen to a point that the prospect is sharing they have some level of Frustration, Uncertainty, Doubt, Worry, Anxiety, Concern, or Anger. When you hear those words, it facilitates qualifying enclosure. Things happen much faster when somebody starts to have a conversation with you and they’re sharing those negative emotions. People find ways to avoid and overcome pain. If there is no pain, there is no sale. Your ability to uncover that pain and have meaningful conversations in which they share it with you is key to the closing process. As quickly as you can and as efficiently as you can, try to get good at uncovering FUDWACA,” he summarizes.

Nanigian also notes, “One strategy to help locate any possible pain points is to ask the prospect, ‘from 0-10 how happy are you with the number of appointments you’re booking right now?’ If they give less than a 7, generally, they’ve got FUDWACA. If they are giving an 8 or higher, probably not so much.”

Sometimes a potential client may not even know that they have pain, so you might need to do some extra digging to first recognize that the pain point is there, and then to show the prospect that your product or service will eliminate time effort and energy that they’re currently investing.

Are there any other useful strategies you recommend for uncovering a prospects “pain”?
Nanigian describes another key sales strategy called “strip-lining.” This is acting in a way that is the opposite of what the client expects. He cites an example, saying, “If I’m speaking at a networking event and after the event I’m mingling with the audience, and someone comes up to me who works in the printing business, I might say to them, ‘Oh the printing business! Everybody needs that stuff. That must be pretty easy.’ And their natural response is to say, ‘Well it’s not that easy, I have a lot of competition.’” This is a valuable strategy to lead people towards quickly uncovering their points of pain.

Strip-lining can also be a fantastic tool to uncover loose bricks with competitors. “A lot of times in the professional space it’s all about trying to uncover an incumbent vendor, so to say ‘Oh you’re using XYZ vendor, you must be doing really well! I bet they support you in design and production.’ Can prompt a response that will expose some of those pain points and clue you in to what’s going on behind the scenes.” Nanigian details. “Starting with strip-lining can be very disarming to the prospect and can help build credibility, because it makes your own company seem financially secure when you point out ‘Oh you’re working with vendor XYZ, I heard they’re doing very well, you must be satisfied with the quality of service they’re giving you.’ And seeing where it goes from there.”

How should I apply these strategies to an AE Ventures event?
“For the purposes of an AE Ventures event, you would ideally want to get to a place at the end of a meeting where the prospect is taking a phone call with you, scheduling a Zoom call, having a drink with you, anything of that nature.” he says. “Traditionally the people you may be meeting with may represent only a small discipline within the business, so being able to secure a meeting where you can get yourself in front of a broader audience of decision makers within the company is a great outcome.”
Nanigian describes how politics are key to a successful meeting, explaining, “This is a large reason as to why political mapping is so important. It’s important to know who the people are that you’re meeting with. How much influence does this individual have over their company? Who within the company has authority, and who has influence over decisions?”

Oftentimes when trying to make a sale, you are aiming to target the individual at the organization with the most influence over decisions related to your product or service. The goal is to engage with them to uncover their pain as well as their personal agenda. Maybe the person with the most influence is also trying to become a partner in the company. Knowing that context can help you better understand how to best approach a potential sale. Having an idea of a company’s decision-making structure and how much sway an individual may or may not have is key to communications and is critical to success within an AE Ventures event.

What other kinds of information should I find out about a company before meeting with them?
Another factor that might make or break success is early discovery of the budget and decision process. Generally, you are focusing on building strong working relationships, but getting to budget or company information early in the conversation can make things a whole lot easier than waiting until the pitch begins.
Nanigian discusses how he teaches this to his trainees, noting, “I like to train people to ask, ‘Could you be kind enough to share with me how decisions are made within your organization?’ very early on in the conversation.”

Remember, the question can be phrased as a convenience to the prospect. Stress that “I want to do this the way that you need it to be done. Who, what, when, how long? The more I understand, the more efficient our communication will be.” It’s key to ask these things early in the conversation. If you wait, the prospect is much more likely to freeze up because now they know that you’re trying to get a yes, and they don’t want to give that up.

AE Ventures offers two types of meetings at our events. The first is a one on one 15-minute meeting with a potential client. How would you apply Sandler principles to that type of meeting?
“I think it would be important to mention the features and benefits of whatever you would like them to buy, but also share some of the specific pains or problems that your product will help them to eliminate.” Nanigian states. “Ask if they are interested in more information, but whatever they ask you, reverse it, ‘Hey that’s a great question, but before I answer I just want to make sure I’m on point with my answer, why’d you ask me that just now? Can you help me with that?’ I want to dig a little deeper and find out the true intent of their question because underlying that, they may have some pain and I want to have a meaningful conversation with them about that pain.”

Fifteen minutes is a short amount of time, if you’re effective enough to uncover one pain in that time, the next step would be to schedule a follow-up conversation. Getting to the pain facilitates closure and opens the door for the next step. If you want a follow up meeting to stick, you need to uncover one pain. There’s a direct relationship between the ‘stick rate’ and how much pain you uncover. Most people may uncover a need, but they’re not asking, “Well how do you feel about that need?”

Nanigian shares another key tip, noting, “I love the idea of sending them an email after the meeting and summarizing the meeting. Reiterate the pain point that you uncovered and summarize any commitments they may have made during your time together.”

The other type of meeting that happens at AE Ventures events is a boardroom presentation where sponsors have the opportunity to present to a group of 10-12 people over the course of 35 minutes. How would you recommend someone make the best of that time, and how do you extract pain from a group?
“I’m a big believer in handing out index cards to everybody in the room and having them indicate on that index card the answer to a fill in the blank question. So, if I was having a boardroom presentation in front of a bunch of salespeople, I might say ‘I only have a limited amount of time with you all today, I want to make sure I do a good job and address points that are important to you. I’ll be handing everyone index cards and I’ll be asking fill in the blank questions. If you could all be so kind as to write your name on it and complete the questions, I will work off your answers. Then at the end of the session you all can evaluate whether you would like to take a next step with me or not.’ My fill in the blank question may be, ‘I could sell more, if only I could _____.’” He details.

This tactic not only makes the session more engaging and more compelling for the attendees, but it also allows the speaker to directly address the attendees’ concerns, making a sale much more likely.
Nanigian also notes that you can reach out to the attendees before the boardroom presentation takes place. You can call them and ask, “I understand we will have limited time during the presentation next week, so I wanted to reach out to you and ask what would be interesting to you? I don’t want to waste your time and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job, so what would you like me to speak on that would be the most relevant to your company?” You can use these answers to guide your presentation and uncover the pain for the organization.

Nanigian adds a final piece of advice, finishing by recommending at the end of meetings, whether it be a one on one, a zoom call, or a boardroom presentation, it may be beneficial to collect a survey form from the attendees. He also adds the tip of adding a QR code to your business card that leads people directly to your calendar. This is an easily accessible way for attendees to meet with you, they can simply scan the QR code to book a call with you that fits both of your schedules.

Click here to view our full interview with Greg Nanigian

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