In this month's installment in our sales training series - which follows February's and March's columns on buyer motivation ("If you want to sell, do this ..." pgs. 56 and 68, respectively), we'll look at the art of painting mental pictures for your buyer - an art that can result in an AOR.

A seller does not always know everything - if anything - that is on a buyer's mind. This is particularly true if you adopt the holistic selling approach of helping a buyer with more than just benefits.

Your discussion will cover more than benefits and prompt the buyer to think about things he needs help with solely because of your discussion. This process of discovery of the buyer about you and his needs can be practiced and fine-tuned. It's called painting mental pictures. It's a powerful sales tactic.

The words you speak with an emotive voice have power. They are suggestive and can guide a buyer to think about things without you being specific. The right choice of words at the right time can create a mental picture that can secure you a sale.


Painting mental pictures of you

What's a buyer thinking when you're giving a sales presentation? They're thinking while you're talking, but about what? How do you want to be perceived by your buyer? Chances are, you want to be perceived as a knowledgeable, friendly, connected and trusted adviser who can be many things for the buyer. These are the mental picture "handles" that you and the buyer will paint together in the buyer's mind. It's what buyers want.

Do you meet that criterion? If so, you'll want the totality of your presentation to paint a mental picture of you as that person in the buyer's mind. If each criterion is important, you'll want to hone your skill at creating the whole picture, not just part of it.

How do you create mental pictures that sell a buyer?

You want to create an image in your buyer's mind that suits your objectives. You cannot tell the buyer everything you know, and you cannot show them all the value-added tools you offer.

Start by identifying three or four cognitions that you want your buyer to remember about you after the sales presentation is over. Then punctuate your presentation with power words that facilitate those cognitions. The result is that they will sink deep into the psyche of your buyer.

Next, interject particular components of your value-added services to stake out a particular position that you want to leave with the buyer. Scroll through the various things you offer as value-added services to leave the buyer with the impression that there is much more than he is thinking about if he works with you.

Creating mental pictures works best when you have either print or electronic media to augment your sales presentation. For the rest of this column, let's assume that you use electronic media in your sales presentation.


Mental pictures for benefits

Paint a mental picture in your buyer's mind for benefits that includes the following handles: complete, knowledgeable, compliant.

You can do this by getting into the minutia of benefits, albeit briefly, to demonstrate your depth and timeliness of knowledge on one or two benefits, that's all.

Then show the buyer all the other benefits that you can help with, but don't talk about them. The "show" part is just to help paint the mental picture that you are savvy in all areas.

You achieve your objective of painting in the buyer's mind when you talk a little bit and show lots of benefits in your technology to assure the buyer that you're deep in all areas of benefits. This simple example creates the mental picture of completeness, knowledge and compliance quickly and effectively in your buyer's mind.


Human resources

Here are the handles of the mental picture you may want to paint with your HR services: breadth and depth, compliance, sample policy language and automated tools. HR services may not be in your comfort zone of selling, but from an offensive and defensive position you must cover them.

I've hammered on this topic in past columns. It is essential that you adopt the philosophy that benefits and HR, while different in content, are viewed as one by your buyer.

HR professionals, especially those in small firms, struggle with lots of paperwork, a cumbersome burden of laws and regulations to know and enforce, and lots of face time with lots of people inside and outside the organization.

HR professionals need help in all areas. You win when you can offer assistance that helps their work get done quicker, more efficiently and, in some cases, get done at all.

Technologies like the FutureOffice Network are ideally suited for helping HR people in all these needy areas.

The HR mental picture is simple to create. Tell a story or two about how your firm can help with, say, I-9 audits or ADA-compliant job descriptions or any number of other areas of responsibility.

Don't just talk about how you and/or your technology can help. Bring up all the categories on the computer screen and leave the index there for the prospect to see. This is the most important part. Your buyer will see a healing balm for his or her job on the screen, in the topics that you cover.

The picture is worth a thousand words, so don't talk too much. Talk a little and let the visuals on the screen create a painting in the mind of the buyer. It's fun to see how this works because it works so well. If the buyer is extroverted at all, he or she will give you some great buying signals.


Employment law

Employment law is all about fear. Everyday courts are handing down decisions that affect HR management. This topic is a simple mental picture. You want to paint in your buyer's mind that bad things can happen if he does not have you to tell him about the changing rules of engagement in the HR game.

It's easy to follow court cases on employment law. You can set up an "alert" in any search engine and you'll get more than you bargained for in your e-mail every day.

Read and have a few fresh and interesting cases on mainstream topics ready to present when the opportunity presents itself. Most settled court cases follow a familiar outline that includes the facts of the case and the decision by the judge. That's all you need for a sales presentation. Again, good sales technology comes in handy here.



By now you get the drift. A broadly worded sales presentation punctuated with specific stories to establish "street cred" that is followed by pictures in print or on a computer screen allows your buyer to create an image of what he or she wants to see. Since you're giving the presentation, the buyer will make the connection that what he or she wants comes from you. That is the perfect set-up for a sale. Compensation issues are no different.

Employee communications

Employee communications may be the ideal topic for creating mental pictures since these materials usually have a visual component anyway. Now just follow the format established in this column. It's a beautiful mental picture to create that you will give your buyer ongoing assistance with employee communications.



I love the mental picture technique of selling because it utilizes the mind of the buyer in making the sale and you don't have to talk much, which probably isn't a bad thing either. Give me a call or drop me an e-mail if I can be of any help on this or other sales matters. EBA


Davidson is Founder of, and the Med Analyzer suite of health care analytics. He is also a lecturer at the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Contact Davidson at (262) 432-0707 or

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