With competition getting tougher and tougher, companies are now faced with leads that are increasingly difficult to convert. Salespeople struggle to close sales, but barely make it. However, there is a foolproof method to turn every sales meeting into a sales opportunity. In this article, discover the SONCAS(E) method and how to apply it to make more sales.
The SONCAS (E) method: what is it?
According to the SONCAS(E) method, each customer confronted with a purchase decision reacts, not according to a logical reasoning, but according to a certain number of biases. In concrete terms, the principle consists in considering each client as being primarily a psychological being whose choices and decisions are mainly driven by subjective factors.
According to this method, there are 7 biases, each of which corresponds to a typology or psychological profile of the client. Each letter in the word SONCAS (E) is the initial of a client bias or profile. The seven words represented by the acronym are respectively: Security – Pride – Novelty – Comfort – Money – Sympathy – Ecology. This means that each customer will be more likely to make a purchase if the products are presented in a way that activates a lever in him.
If this is the case, any salesperson who wants to sell more products or services must first identify the psychological profile of his or her prospect and understand the mental processes that trigger the buying decision in him or her before making a purchase.
Indeed, it is from the knowledge of his psychological profile that the sales representative will be able to activate the levers needed to push the customer to proceed with the purchase. The development of this method, considered as a sales technique, dates back to 1993.
What are the 7 biases of the SONCAS (E) method?
Want to know the 7 psychological levers you can use to close more sales? Here they are.
Profile n°1 : Security, the one who needs to be reassured
Clients with the “security” profile are people who have a natural fear of taking risks. As soon as he feels that a purchase could represent a risk, he will find, consciously or unconsciously, the way to avoid it. How do you successfully close a sale with this type of customer?
You have to turn your need for security into a motivation. For example, you can design your sales pitch so that your prospect understands that not proceeding with the purchase exposes them to risk.
In addition, it will be necessary to reassure him by showing him certifications (ISO for example), quality labels (Qualibat for example), customer references, reviews, comments and testimonials from consumers, etc.
With this type of customer, use the words “safe”, “reliable”, “guarantee”, “certified”, “standards”, “labels”, “best” in your speech. Avoid using words such as “risk”, “novelty”, etc. that may arouse his skepticism. Try to reassure them, to show them the guarantee of security that you offer. Adopt a speaking style that meets his need for security.
Profile n°2 : Pride, the one who likes to feel important and valued
The prideful profile buys more easily when it feels that the purchase, possession or use of the product or service will give it more value or draw the attention and covetousness of others to it. To this kind of customer, it is useless to offer commercial discounts, at the risk of making him feel that he cannot afford the good or the service you are offering him.
The proud profile will be more inclined to buy a product if it is proven to be expensive, rare, available in limited edition and owned only by the best companies in its field, by the most important people in society, etc. He will therefore be happy to be among the privileged and to own a property that gives him an edge over some of his competitors.
So, with this kind of customer, add to your sales pitch words like “unique”, “exclusive”, “high-end”, “reference in”, “personalized”, “luxury”, etc. Your sales language should be geared towards making the customer feel good, because they prefer it when their ego is flattered. To this end, words such as “discount”, “first price”, “mass market”, “reduction”, etc. should be avoided at all costs.
Profile n°3 : Novelty, the one who is always looking for novelty
The “Novelty” profile does not resist change. No matter if he has already bought a modern and recent product, he will have a hard time resisting the urge to buy if an even newer and more modern version of the same product is put on the market a few months later.
So, to sell a software solution to a “new” profile, you can for example highlight the innovative side of your solution and especially the unique features you offer. Prove to them that you are the only one to offer this type of solution and offer to be among the first to offer it.
With this type of customer, the price of the offer will not have more influence than the novelty of the solution on the purchase decision. For this, avoid words like “classic”, “traditional”, “standard”, “habit”, etc.
Your pitch will be more effective if you load it with words and phrases such as “innovative,” “the latest,” “newest,” “new technology,” “newest on the market,” “modern,” etc. In fact, you get the idea. The goal is to stay enthusiastic during the sales process. Surprise your buyer with your audacity and dare to sell him something new.
Profile n°4 : Comfort, the one who prefers to keep his habits
The “comfort” profile is not primarily motivated by a need for novelty or innovation in their purchasing decisions. He prefers to buy products and services that he is used to. It should not be rushed or taken out of its comfort zone.
To make him buy a new product, you must succeed in making him perceive the link and the similarity between the other products he uses and the one you propose. He doesn’t like having to change his habits. So remove from your speech all words such as “complex”, “novelty”, “innovation”, “difficult”, etc. Use words like “simple”, “convenient”, “easy to use”, “practical”, “functional”, “ergonomic”, etc.
The example of accounting software is very useful to illustrate this. A company director with a “comfort” psychological profile will find it difficult to change accounting software if the one you propose works differently and changes the way his company’s work is organized.
However, the advantage with this type of customer is that they are very easy to retain. Once they have adopted your solution, they will adapt to it, since they will find it difficult to change solutions. So, to convert them into buyers, stay calm and reassuring.
Profile #5: Money, the one with a big appetite for cost reduction
The “Silver” profile is a well-known profile. For him, price is king. As a good thrifty person, price reduction is his main quest. When such customers use a quote comparison tool, they are interested in the lowest cost offer first.
Sing the praises of your offer and tell them about the features of your product. He will quickly return to the issue of price and discount opportunities because money is the main driver of his purchase decision. This customer doesn’t like to hear about “fees”, “surcharges”, “costs”, “additional costs to be borne by the customer”, etc.
Faced with this psychological profile, focus your sales pitch on price or, if you prefer, on the quality/price ratio. Make sure that you satisfy this need before he expresses it in order to enter his world. Tell them about the savings they can achieve by purchasing your product, the costs they can eliminate by adopting your solution.
If your sales policy is compatible with it, offer a money-back guarantee or a free trial. You’ll have an easier time winning their hearts by using words like “ROI”, “cost effective”, “discount”, “economical”, “savings”, etc. Show them the short, long and medium term benefits of choosing your solution. Get them to compare and cost the benefits of your product.
Profile n°6 : Sympathy, the one who wants proximity and a personalized relationship
The “sympathy” profile needs a real relationship with its salesperson. Thirsty for proximity and personalization, they need their salesperson to accompany them throughout the sales process. This type of customer does not prefer solutions with “outsourced support” or “complete autonomy”. He wants to see the product or service from his vendor.
It doesn’t really differentiate between the product and the seller. To succeed in getting them to accept your product, you must first succeed in getting them to accept you as a salesperson. As soon as a real connection and good mood is established between you and the prospect, you have a better chance of making the sale.
You have to be sympathetic and find a way to keep a good mood with them until they make the purchase. Be warm, be a good listener, be attentive, give it time. The language to be used to successfully convert a prospect with a “Sympathy” psychological profile will have to focus on words like “support”, “gift”, “accompaniment”, “collaboration”.
Profile n°7 : Ecology or Environment, the eco-responsible citizen
It is important to remember that the original SONCAS (E) method was based on 6 biases and not 7. The seventh bias, E, was added much later to the method when environmental issues became a global concern.
The environmentally motivated customer pays attention to a number of details when making a purchase. For example, he will be interested in the origin of the components used in the manufacture of the product, the assembly method or the manufacturing process.
With this type of customer, highlight the qualities of your products that meet the environmental challenges. Indeed, he is looking for authenticity and a local solution. For example, he will be more likely to buy a product if he sees mentions such as :
- from organic farming;
- organic product ;
- without additives or colorants;
- products from local agriculture;
- 100% biodegradable packaging;
- zero waste ;
- made in France ;
- ethics ;
- eco-friendly ;
If you offer hardware or software solutions, consider, for example, specifying in your sales pitch that the carbon footprint of your product is lower than the solutions available on the market. For example, the “green” customer will prefer to buy hosting from a provider who respects the ISO 14001 standard and who hosts his data in France.
You can also specify, if applicable, that your products are shipped by train in order to reduce transportation-related emissions. One thing is for sure, if there are words to avoid in your sales pitch to an “ecology” type customer, they are the words “plastic”, “mass distribution”, “imported”, etc.
How to apply the SONCAS (E) method during a sales meeting?
Knowledge of the SONCAS(E) method is not equivalent to its application. In order to apply it to real-life sales situations, 4 main rules must be followed: active listening, questioning, adapting the sales pitch and adapting the way the objectives are handled.
The success of the SONCAS (E) method depends first of all on actively listening to the prospect. It is by paying attention to what your interlocutor says that you will be able to identify his psychological profile.
So listen carefully to your prospects and rephrase what they say to make sure there is no asymmetry between their thoughts and your perception of what they are saying.
When the client brings up a topic that you think is important to identify his or her psychological profile, find a way to bring it up and probe further by asking the right questions.
The prospect’s questioning
Asking questions is the second pillar on which the application of the SONCAS (E) method is based. The goal is to get the future client to talk to you in order to gather as much information as possible about his profile and needs. Avoid closed questions, as a “yes” or “no” will not tell you much.
Only ask questions if you are looking to confirm information or validate an idea. If, like some people, you have trouble finding the right open-ended questions to ask your potential client, use the SPIN SPELLING method.
If you manage to ask the right questions, you will have an easier time gaining your prospect’s trust and a better understanding of their needs and psychological profile. Once you have discovered the psychological profile of your prospect through the questions, you can then move on to the next phase of the sales process.
Adapting the sales pitch
The third pillar on which the implementation of the SONCAS (E) method is based is the adaptation of the sales pitch. As a salesperson, you won’t have the prospect’s attention forever. So you can’t afford to make generic or ad hoc arguments.
Since you already know the psychological profile of your prospect, adapt your sales pitch to this profile. You must be careful with your choice of words. Indeed, if some arguments can help close the sale at this stage, others can precipitate the end of the conversation and make you lose the prospect for good. You must therefore know what to say and what to avoid based on the prospect’s psychological profile.
Adapting the method for handling objections
The fourth and final component of the SONCAS(E) method is to adapt the method of handling customer objections. In fact, from the very beginning of the conversation and conversion, you should expect objections. When properly exploited, objections can become corridors that can lead you more quickly to customer conversion.
However, to be able to turn an objection in your favor, you must be present in your mind at all times. Don’t dismiss the objection out of hand. Don’t judge the prospect for voicing an objection either. Instead, try to get them to explain their objection. Indeed, digging into an objection allows us to discover its deepest sources for an effective management.
But to begin with, you must first rephrase the objection so that it is valid that you have understood what it is trying to express. Next, make an argument to defend your offer and to reassure your prospect.
Remember that your goal is to convince them to give you their money in exchange for your product. So don’t let your defense make the prospect feel wrong. If they have a “pride” psychological profile, you risk losing your prospect for good if you prove to them that they are ignorant.
Therefore, design your sales pitch according to the needs, biases, sensitivities, of the potential customer. Once your argument is presented, do a check to make sure the objection is resolved. Deal with objections one by one, using language that is adapted to the customer’s psychological profile.
How to design a quality sales pitch?
The SONCAS(E) method alone is not enough to convert the client. It only allows us to refine the sales pitch and adapt it to the psychological profile of the customer. It is therefore based on the effectiveness of your argument.
If you want your sales meetings to be successful, take the time to develop a solid sales pitch. A good sales pitch should be based on three main elements
- the various characteristics of the product or service offer, including its technical and aesthetic aspects, according to their relevance to the client’s psychological profile;
- the benefits that the prospect can derive from buying, owning and using your product or service, in relation to their psychological profile. The goal here is to capitalize on the emotional component of your offer;
- Evidence, which is a practical argument used to prove the characteristics put forward and to convince the potential customer of his interest in buying the product or service. Evidence may include warranty documents, product testing, etc.
It is important to make your prospect, through your sales pitch, project himself into the product, to the point of feeling the sensation that buying, owning and using it can bring.
Be sure to keep your speech clear and concise and your communication structured. Don’t repeat your arguments and don’t sound too insistent. You risk creating distrust. Simply present the characteristics of your offer and compile its advantages in a language adapted to the psychological profile of your interlocutor. This is how to apply the SONCAS(E) method effectively.