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Winning with the Science of Selling w/ David Hoffeld [Episode 447]

David Hoffeld, sales trainer, Founder of Hoffeld Group.com, and author of the new bestselling book, The Science of Selling, joins me on this episode to discuss the scientific, repeatable, testable parts of the sale.

Key Takeaways

  • David started in sales by answering a newspaper ad, “No experience necessary. Make $100K your first year!” That sounded perfect! After two months, he saw nobody there was making $100K, but he went to a different company, and did it!
  • David’s book is based on over 1,000 studies that reveal how our brains make choices. David had researched this for 10 years, after reading in a social psychology academic journal an article that inspired some effective sales behaviors.
  • The Science of Selling is about how the human brain processes information to make decisions. Science shows how brains perceive, so we can align sales with buying decisions.
  • Science discloses reality. If you don’t know the principles of the science of decision making, you can unknowingly work against the sale. Everyone can get better results through understanding the principles.
  • Perceptions are sticky, and lead to confirmation bias. Know how perceptions are formed, and get on the prospect’s good side. Little things can make a profound impact. Smile. It makes you seem more competent, and you also feel good.
  • The science shows that having a few minutes of small talk before a sales call or a negotiation significantly increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. David changed his approach once he learned this, and he improved his results.
  • Besides buying from people they know, like, and trust, people like to buy from people that like them. One of the top ways to build rapport is to show other people you like them.
  • A positive emotional state influences perception. Talk about topics that are packed with positive emotions. Look at the prospect’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile to see positive current events in their lives.
  • Ask people how they are feeling, and listen. They will usually say, fine or good, and they will see you as a friend.
  • Even on the phone, be very mindful of where you look. What you see directs what you think. The prospect on the line can tell when your attention lapses.
  • Balance your extraversion and introversion. Ambiverts combine the best qualities of both to outperform extroverts by a factor of 2:1. Don’t look for extroverts when hiring for sales.
  • What about manipulation? David explains. Influence is leadership. Maintain an intention of service and your integrity. Sell people honestly what they value and need.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:00  

Hi, this is Andy. Joining me on the show today is David Hofffeld, sales trainer, founder of The Hoffeld Group and author of the new best selling book The Science Of Selling. Tell us a bit about you, and how you got your start in sales.


David Hoffeld  2:04  

In fact, it’s an interesting story because I just got my master’s degree, and I needed a job. And so I thought, you know what? I’m sure I can sell something. So I make some quick money over the summer. So I went and looked, and there was an ad in the paper. It said, no experience necessary. Make $100,000 your first year and I was taken back. I said, Well, this is perfect. Because I have no experience. And I would love to make $100,000 my first year. Sounds like a dream, right? It’s an answer in a prayer. Absolutely. They hired me and what happened long and short of it was I fell in love with the profession of selling and here I am.


Andy Paul  4:09  

Okay. Well, you’ve published an interesting new book, and then, you know, November 2016 came out. So it’s been about half a year. So what was the impetus to write this book?


David Hoffeld  4:19  

Well, many years ago, I stumbled on an academic journal in social psychology, which is literally defined as the scientific study of how human beings are influenced in a social setting. And I read it out of curiosity, and I saw an article that I thought could be applicable to what I did every day as a salesperson, so I applied it, and I saw some results from it. And so then I shared it with the others on my sales team, and they got some results. And so that really created the hunger and I started getting a very odd hobby. And that is I began reading academic journals on the nights and weekends and I became actually obsessed with it. And I The more I read these journals that disclose how our brains make choices. The factors that influence us and shape perception. I just kept seeing how applicable this was to selling and, and so I kept applying it and I started getting results, the company, I moved up become their VP of sales and when they become one of the fastest growing companies in the United States on the Inc 5000 list, and I said, boy, more people have to know about this. And so I launched my firm in 2009. And after about 10 years of research, the book came out just this last November, and it’s based on over 1000 different scientific studies that really reveal how our brains make choices, and it helps us align how we sell with literally how the brain buys.


Andy Paul  5:40  

Okay, so the first thing that is sort of interesting is, for a lot of people in sales today, the science of selling is all about the data. And you’ve written a book that’s really not served. The opposite approach is really about how we process information to make decisions and how we’re influenced to do So it seems like at some point, we’re going to start reconciling this truth. 


David Hoffeld  6:05  

So yeah, it’s astounding there are now thousands of scientific studies out there in so many disciplines like social psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics, that are so powerful, it’s just too potent to ignore.


Andy Paul  6:55  

Well, unless it’s really been a revolution that really took hold after World War II. But one of the bottom lines you talk about in your book is that we’re all influencers right? I mean, that is the mission of sales but you know, that’s what Daniel Pink said about his book that 75% of people identify themselves as being influencers, the right part of their job is to influence others to do or take certain actions.


David Hoffeld  7:23  

We’re trying to influence reality quickly, guiding people and taking what you say seriously, and being willing to act on it. So regardless of your profession, we are influencing others every day. In fact, it’s ingrained in communication. You can’t not influence others. And so as sales professionals, we’re professional influencers, we’re trying to influence people to give us an audience to give us some of their time to open the doors, begin relationships, and listen as we talk about our products and services. And so we are trying to influence people left and right. The great thing is, there’s science to it, we don’t have to guess our way to success, we can now lean heavily on this science. And we can be predictable. And that’s what this is all about. Because I have found the closer your way of selling is aligned with how the brain makes a buying decision, the more successful you’ll be. And the further away your way of selling is around the brain makes a buying decision, the less successful you’ll be. So this is literally the foundation of selling, it’s literally success or failure.


Andy Paul  8:28  

Well, yeah, the thing is, it’s been this way all the way along, but as you said, we’ve just been sort of unknowingly testing our way to find what succeeds or not, whereas now, through your work and the work of the research scientists and so on,this is proven science, this is not guesswork when it comes to psychology and behavioral economics and so on. I mean, people won Nobel prizes, multiple people, Nobel Prizes on this, so. It’s an anecdote about what works, what doesn’t work. But there’s use out there science, neuroscience, social psychology, behavioral economics behind the whole thing.


David Hoffeld  9:15  

Yes. And this science discloses reality. So it’s not a question of if we’re going to leverage it or not, every time any of us enter into a selling situation, it’s front and center where we’re in it. It’s just if we don’t realize some of these principles from science, we can often unknowingly contradict it. And that’s one of the alarming things. One of the biggest reasons why we wrote the book is that we saw how salespeople unknowingly were entering into selling situations and conflicting with these basic principles and it drives down their performance. And once you know, some very simple, very practical things, you can become instantly more effective regardless of your experience level because what I found is I’d always been successful in selling before I got into the science but once I got into it, I realized that there were some things I could improve on, all of us can get better. And I also realized that now I understood what was happening. It wasn’t this mystery anymore. I knew what was going on when I was selling, and now I could adapt. I could customize what I was doing to my unique buyer. Because I understood the principles that undergird the entire process of selling. So it made me more flexible, and allowed me to really better serve my buyers, which increases results.


Andy Paul  10:31  

Yeah, well, I think the one of the key points that I wanted to bring out and this is and I took away from your book, is that, there’s been reports out laying for strata report saying, hey, by 2020 20% of business to business salespeople are gonna be gone, replaced by automation or whatever. But you make the point that really the opposite is true. And I think we’re seeing someone’s begin to take hold and use the term a technology saturated world that salespeople are becoming more essential than ever, so why is that?


David Hoffeld  11:03  

Yes, because human relationships still matter. We’re nowhere near the point with AI or any other technology that can even come close to replicating a human person. We still want that relational influence. Certainly our buyers are getting further along through the sales process on their own. They’re looking at our websites, they’re analyzing our competitors. But there comes a point unless you’re selling something very simple, very low risk, that people want to talk to another person they want to have, they have questions they want answered, they want to understand something. And so it’s at that point when the salesperson enters, that’s mission critical. Now, we also have to recognize that because of this changing landscape, selling is very challenging today, because as I just described, every time you enter a selling situation more often than not, you’re in a hyper competitive environment because your potential customers know about your main company. So I got started in selling. A lot of my customers didn’t know who my competitors were. And so it gave me an advantage. That thing is gone.


Andy Paul  13:19  

The flip side of that is that the science also shows though, that perceptions are very sticky. And that, it’s very difficult to change people’s perceptions, even in the face of data that says so. So, to your point is if you are at the point of differentiation, but you’re not bringing it every time, right. I mean, this is the thing. I think that that’s one thing I took away from your book and other research that I’ve done is that you’ve those perceptions being formed in an instant, 250 milliseconds is what it takes for somebody to form a perception of somebody. It’s like, if you’re not bringing it from the beginning, then their perception of you could be negative within the first Two seconds, three seconds, and you can be done.


David Hoffeld  14:03  

You’re absolutely right. In fact, behavioral scientists call it a confirmation bias. And what this says is once we get an impression of a person or situation accompanying a product, we interpret everything, every subsequent piece of information or anything that happens through that lens. And so it heavily skews us one way or another. So you’re exactly right. And the great thing is when you learn some of the science, it shows you how our brain forms that perception in a matter of seconds. And it’s alarming how quickly we can form an impression of someone and how difficult it is to change that. But if you know some basic principles, how when you understand how the brain does that, now you can set yourself up for success. And that can make sometimes little things can make a profound impact on performance.


Andy Paul  14:49  

Like a smile. The power of a smile on first engagement with somebody is substantial.


David Hoffeld  15:01  

Yeah, we talked about that in the book real briefly, a smile and something so simple, but it does some profound things real quickly. One study found that at a trade show when attendees met with salespeople and companies, one of the key factors that influence how they viewed the salesperson and the company they met with at the trade show, once whether or not the salesperson smiled, smiling makes you appear more approachable. One research study found it makes you even seem more competent competency levels go up when you smile. Also, we often think that we smile when we feel good. But what research also shows is that when you smile, you feel good. Here’s what they found that the act of smiling actually influences your body chemistry. That smiling increases blood flow to the brain, which cools the brain and creates feelings of pleasure. So you actually put yourself in a more positive emotional state by doing something like forcing yourself to smile because when you smile, you feel better. It literally cools your brain.


Andy Paul  16:00  

So I mean, thinking about something that we see so often in sales training these days is a point we talked about earlier. Hey, customers, your buyers are increasingly busy in this hyper competitive world. And we’re training sales reps not to do small talk. Yeah, not to engage on a personal level right up front. And as you talk about that, that’s really counterproductive. And that clashes with how they want to buy


David Hoffeld  16:25  

In fact, this is one piece of the science that I was not happy when I found because I, in my past, I always like to jump right into it. I’m like, small talk. That was what I used to think. And I was hit with this research many studies that have found that when you have a few minutes of small talk or a warm up before a sales call or negotiation, the research is pretty conclusive. In this area, the likelihood of having a positive outcome on that sales call or negotiation significantly increases. 


Andy Paul  17:39  

Well, the thing that one thing that comes out of the small talk and Cialdini talks about this in his latest book is that you then start engaging you start giving the impression to the buyer that you like them or they start getting the impression that you like them. And as he talks about his latest book, as you may know about people like to buy from people they know and trust but the fourth factor is they like to buy for people 


David Hoffeld  18:07  

That’s a key point. In fact, we talk about this when you say, how do you build rapport? There’s some pretty compelling research studies that have found that one of the top ways to build rapport is to show other people that you like them. Because if you think about, just picture someone in your mind right now, who you neither like or dislike you, and you’re kind of indifferent to, but now imagine that that same person just said something extremely positive about you, instantly, your view of him or her goes up, you look more favorably on them instinctively. Why we like those who like us, it’s hard to dislike someone that you know, really likes you. And so we leverage that and you’re exactly right. The research shows by engaging in something as simple as a little warm up. little small talk, chitchat people think that you like them and that boosts their perception of you and they’re now we respond much more favorably to the idea of having those that we like and who like us then to those that don’t.


Andy Paul  19:04  

And we have the tools now that your salespeople, but we didn’t have, let’s say when you got started in sales and certainly when I got started in sales, to go into the conversation armed with something that gives us something to talk about, you know, look at people’s LinkedIn profile, their social profiles, their digital footprint, see what they’re interested in, see what they’re talking about. And there’s no excuse for not being prepared to do that.


David Hoffeld  19:27  

That’s so true. In fact, we talked about this in our training and in the book as well about how important a positive emotional state is and how that so when the emotions we feel so influences our perception. It’s alarming. We even signed a study that one of the most famous studies in this area was judicial rulings. They found that when judges weren’t negative they said jobs were in a positive emotional state that gave parole about 65% of the time when they were in a negative emotional state. It was virtually zero. In fact, this causes so many people to go What in the world is going on here?” I mean, one thing shouldn’t be, shouldn’t be objective. It’s traditional rulings. But they found that emotion swayed our perception so much. And one way to engage people with positive emotions and build reports, as you just mentioned, talk about topics that are packed with positive emotions. And you can find that out from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you know, a vacation, they went on if they’re a president of a local Toastmaster club, some award they just won for their company. All these things you can bring up and it’s rich with positive emotions and it makes them feel better as they talk about them. And it starts the sales call off on a very productive and humanizes the encounter as well.


Andy Paul  20:41  

One another key point you have in your your book that I’ve actually now I’ve adopted into my emails and emails, I used to do it in person and on the phone I wasn’t doing in my emails is asking people how they’re feeling as opposed to saying Jeez, I hope everything’s going well for you, which is awesome. A standard standard open but asking the question found that that actually increased your compliance, or the increased compliance on the part of the prospect.


David Hoffeld  21:08  

It does. In fact, this is one of the most controversial parts of the book. I don’t really consider the controversy, but others do because people say, Well, I don’t like asking those questions. And I get that, but equally, I don’t care. Because we look at the science and the science writing pretty compelling in this matter, regardless of your perception. Why is it because when you ask people, you know, how are you feeling this evening, what they found is over 95% will say fine or good or something like that. And as we talked about in the book, there’s some principles that leverages that now people are more likely to, to be willing to listen to and comply with your request. So it’s a very simple thing. That will make a noticeable difference. they’ve tested that numerous ways like we talked about in the book, we revealed the actual studies and walk you through why that is in detail. But it’s something very simple that a lot of people say, Well, that sounds salesy, okay. But the reality is, is that it works. And that’s what we’re all here to do, right? We’re here to be more effective. And so the science shows us that in fact, it’s calling and even has a name. It’s so well established in behavioral science. 


Andy Paul  24:58  

Well, and also when you’re doing a session. Especially if you’re inside a sales rep and SDR, you’re eight years old, turn off your phone and put it away before you call the buyer. You have to get rid of distractions and potential interruptions, because even if you take your focus off the buyer for five seconds, they’re going to catch it. And if they do, then the negative perceptions can be formed. And it’s extremely difficult to change that.


David Hoffeld  25:33  

Absolutely. Well said, Well, I was just writing something as well about eye contact on the phone, which is an odd topic. But even when you’re on the phone, sometimes it’s easy for us to get distracted. And usually when our eyes go, our mind follows shortly thereafter. So even when you’re on the phone, be very mindful of what you’re looking at, even though you can’t see your buyer. If you start surfing the web or you get distracted by emails that might be popping up. All of a sudden there’s that disconnect and as you just mentioned handy and rightly so, we may think they’re not going to know. Oh, no, they know even unconsciously they pick up. There’s a lapse in rapport, and bad things happen. So being very mindful of that you’re exactly right.


Andy Paul  26:12  

Yeah. I mean, if you want to give an example, and I give this example, because I’m guilty of it all the time, my wife calls me and I, and she’ll stop, like 30 seconds of the conversation and go, so what’s that email? 


David Hoffeld  29:44  

Yeah, it’s amazing. And so that’s just one of the really simple ideas that science has gotten right and oftentimes in sales we’ve gotten wrong. Why? Because we’re basing it on well, anecdotal evidence or our perceptions ultimately, just conjecture We’re trying to guess our way to success. And once you look at just some of this basic science, you go, wow, okay, I need to really align how I sell with the science, which is very practical. I don’t want the term science to dissuade anyone. It is extremely practical, it’s extremely easy to understand and apply and it gets results, which is the most important thing.


Andy Paul  30:19  

Yeah, absolutely. And night second that I mean, lots of good stuff coming out of the book. And sort of one last point to make before take a short break is is that our people and I had an email from somebody, Josh, just a week ago who, as I record, my interview with Robert Cialdini was on the show and, and talk about influence and into this person that all the talk of influence felt manipulative, right. And, and felt like it was a hard sell, but it’s not about the hard sell. I mean, to me, it’s about how do I build a rapport with the prospect that gets 2.0 they’re gonna say, yeah, I’ll give you more time to continue to sell to me.


David Hoffeld  31:03  

I completely agree. Yeah, there’s a lot of concern people have well, is this I don’t want to get into influence because it’s manipulative. There’s a lot of issues with that. Number one, the very statement itself because the statement is influential. So you have to borrow from that which you’re against to even make the case, right, because you’re trying to influence someone that influences manipulative. So you know, right there in the argument falls apart. Because you have to borrow from it. There is an important question of the difference between, you know, persuasion and manipulation, but I go with the area’s Stiliyan viewpoint, that persuasion and influence and of itself is very noble. If you think about it, we’re all professional influencers. That’s how our economy is based on our legal system and our democracy is based on influence. We put forth ideas we argue vigorously with the belief that the people will choose the right idea for them. So we have our faith in that democracy. And so I’m very pro I look at as a, that’s how truth is revealed how that’s what Aristotle said many, many years ago. I think the difference between when persuasion really quickly becomes corrupted and it’s manipulative. There’s a number of things. The two biggest things I think we struggle with in selling is intention, making sure that it’s actually in the best interest of another person, what we’re selling them and then withholding and distorting truth making sure we’re giving people all the information and not being not lying or withholding certain pieces of evidence that they need to know. So I’m very pro influence and persuasion. And I haven’t seen a good argument to throw it out yet. And like I said, I don’t think you can even construct one without leveraging that which you’re against.


Andy Paul  38:42  

Excellent, good. Well, I would recommend people to listen to the show do run out and pick up a copy of well worth their time. So David, thank you again and friends. Thank you for spending this time with us. Remember, make a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success and easy way to do that. Join my conversations with top business experts like me. My guest today, David Hoffeld, who shared his expertise on how to accelerate the growth of your business. So thanks again for joining me and until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone.