Why facts and reasoning won’t sell your Canadian ag message

In our digital age, consumers have the same access to information as sellers (i.e.: you, the producer). While access to information 24-7 provides an equal opportunity for everyone to make informed decisions, the downside is that, sometimes, acquired facts don’t broaden people’s minds, but reinforce their current opinion as they unconsciously ferret out ‘facts’ that bolster up what they already believe to be true.

More important than facts or logic (or sometimes pseudo-logic!) in the consumer decision-making process is emotions. Humans are like a moth to a flame: they are hardwired to head towards the bright light that is a profound, heart-strings-plucking, emotional flash bomb when deciding what to do or buy or what expert to believe.

In one way, we’ve come full circle: we crawled out of the mysticism and superstition of the Dark Ages into a time of exploration and exponential growth of scientific discoveries and confirmations of how the world works. But now that potentially anyone can cherry-pick from the vast repository of online information, it can be difficult to determine who’s the actual expert or what information is factually correct. And so, in response to a bombardment of information, our brain sometimes falls back into default mode: an emotionally charged, physiological fight or flight response. If we can’t make heads or tails of anything, our brain throws up its tiny hands in exasperation and pulls the Old Brain (that ancient core of our brain that governs instinctual response) off the bench to make the decision for us – one that will be based on pure, raw emotion.

A past blog post explored how knowledge about a specific issue doesn’t change people’s behaviour – or as Seth Godin concisely puts it, “Facts are not the antidote for doubt.” We need to figure out ways to mesh fact with emotion as we look for ways to sell our products. Like a seasoned salesperson, we need to make an honest effort to discover what stage of the marketing funnel our listeners are in (awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, purchase. Your content should meet them where they’re at!) and explore and address their pain points.  And since the reptilian brain is insecure, we must approach conversational partners with empathy to draw them out and engage them. Then make the sales pitch.

Survival Tip

As with any sales process, selling your Canadian ag messages requires understanding your audience’s pain points, how you can solve them, and highlighting what benefits they will enjoy. As part of the selling (i.e.: education and influence) process, keep the following in mind:

  1. Anticipate possible questions: First, put yourself in your audience’s shoes to imagine what types of questions they’ll ask and what information they’re looking for. To help get inside your audience’s mind and empathize with their concerns, you may want to research and/or talk to a few demographically/psychographically similar people.
  2. Provide answers that support your key messages: Your answers should always bring the conversation back full circle to what you’re ‘selling’ to reinforce the important information you want your listeners to take home. Your response should obviously also answer their question, but by demonstrating the benefits they’ll enjoy from your solution/product/method/etc.
  3. Disarm loaded questions: Loaded questions are ones that are based on false information, myths or assumptions. Politely ask the questioner to further explain their question if it’s not entirely clear what they’re trying to say. Many people will (often unwittingly) spout erroneous random soundbites or tweets they’ve seen online, but didn’t follow the information trail far enough back to get a handle on exactly what the real issue is. (Case in point, this video.) Similar to companies who keep a sharp eye on online product reviews to help them improve their products and processes, you need to be aware of the common misconceptions and misinformation out there. Then, like a sales pro, you’ll be prepared to address objections. Don’t take the bait and get all fired up if someone is purposely poking the bear with loaded questions. As Farmer Tim says, “Don’t be the same. Be better.”
  4. Divide and conquer: Answer complicated questions by breaking them down into bite-size portions and following the tips discussed in a previous post “How to respond to questions you don’t want to answer.”

With his usual cagey and clever insight, Godin suggests the following sales path: “Earn enrollment first, a commitment to find a path, then bring on the process and facts.” No hard sells, no cheesy used-car pitches. A great salesperson knows how to expertly appeal to both logic and emotion by being honest, genuine, and trustworthy. Don’t beat your head on the wall trying to make someone change their mind; instead, figure out how you can contribute more value to the conversation for better engagement and all good things will follow!

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