Episode #103: The Complete Guide to P&G’s Persuasive Selling Format

Procter & Gamble has been in business for more than 180 years. Clearly, they’re doing a lot of things right. And one of those things is their persuasive selling format. Every salesperson at P&G learns the technique. And they all use it. In today’s episode, I walk you through the five-step persuasive selling format.

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Oh, yeah. Okay, so today I’m going in the way back machine. And we’re going back to Procter &Gamble where I started my career. And we’re going to talk about the P&G persuasive selling format.

I actually wrote a post on this on Copernican shift. Copernican shift is my blog. I’ve been running Copernican shift for years, at least 15 years. I wrote this post in June of 2014, so about seven years ago. And the great thing about my blog, it’s got pretty good readership. Some of the articles are definitive. If you do a search on P&G, persuasive selling format, this is the top result. There are about 165,000 visitors — uniques — to the site every year, which is kind of cool. I don’t run any ads on it. And there are no commission links or anything. I run it completely income free and I do it to help my teams learn and to help train my teams. It’s a really great way for me to refine my own thinking.

I wanted to direct you to this because… do a search on Copernican shift, and the article is called How to ABC, always be selling: P&G’s persuasive selling format. If you just do a search on “always be selling,” you’ll find this article about five results down. It’s got a big picture of a laundry aisle with Tide, Bold, Gain, and Dreft, and Ivory Snow and all the other great detergent brands that P&G makes.

This is the format that the P&G salesforce uses. It’s got five steps. And it’s a really fantastic format. It actually maps to the P&G, one-page memo format that you use to make recommendations. And we talked about that on an earlier podcast a few days ago. This is a selling structure. And the recommendation, quite frankly, is a selling structure as well, because we’re all selling all the time. All new salespeople at P&G attend a one-week training course called NRTC, or new rep training course. And at the core of it is these five steps of selling. And if you talk to anyone at P&G, they’ll tell you what these five steps are. So, I’m going to tell you what those five steps are. And it’s a pretty powerful way of thinking about how to sell and how to make things happen. It doesn’t have to be selling detergent. It can be selling anything.

The first thing that you do, what you’re told to do as a seller, is to summarize the situation. You start the conversation by sharing information that gets the listener interested and makes them receptive to what you have to say. Because it’s best if you talk about things your customer said were important to them, or the last time you spoke.

You can also share key facts, information, or industry trends to set up the discussion. One thing that my CRO here at Sprinklr, Luca Lazzaron, talks about is to try to discover the pain above the noise. The thing that concerns them more than anything else. The thing that is the strategic priority, where the best people are being put, where budgets are being put. So, summarize a situation. It can be something as simple like: the new store across the road is driving more traffic than you are. That’s the situation. You need to drive more traffic. Hey, end-aisle display, Tide, $2.99. That’s an easy way to have that conversation. Or, summarize the situation could be trends in the industry, trends in different products, trends that are going on, or strategic priorities for the organization. So summarize the situation.

The second thing, and this is where a lot of people make a mistake. A lot of people are very shy, they wait to the very end to do this. At P&G it’s like, here’s the situation. First, I’m going to tell you what my idea is. So you’ve got their attention, Don’t beat around the bush. Just get right to the point and tell them a brief statement of the idea. It could just be a headline of the recommendation stated in a way that makes it compelling. Get the idea out there up front, so the people know what you’re trying to sell, and what you want them to agree to. If they really don’t want to listen, and they don’t want you to waste their time, they’ll tell you right away. Most people will continue listening, but they know where you’re driving. They’re not trying to guess. And knowing where you’re going is a lot more helpful.

Then you explain how it works. Once you’ve clearly stated the proposition now you provide details on the recommendation. This includes information about the product, pricing, execution of the proposal, how timing and logistics will work. This is basically Hey, my idea is: there’s going to be an end-aisle display of Tide at $2.99. The way it works is we’ve got a special form deal, which gives you two bucks off every box. You’re going to still make a buck a box and I can have it shipped to you by rail car and in your warehouse by the end of next week. That’s sort of how it works.

Then you reinforce the key benefits. And this is like the key of it. And what I love about this structure, if you think about what I’m doing here, I’ve essentially said, here’s a scenario, here’s an idea and how it works. Now, I’m going to tell you why it’s a good idea. Often people will try to reverse the order of these things, which is the academic discipline. But you lose people, and they get distracted. Or they’ll start to interrupt you. When you’re reinforcing the benefits, you hit home the key reasons why they want to agree to move forward.

Sometimes it’s called the three reasons. And you really need to have three. If you’ve only got two reasons, it’s not really enough. And if you have more than three, then none of them are really very powerful. Always have three. I always have three things. When someone asks me anything, like, Did you like that movie? Yes, I liked three things about it. And I always have three things. I may not have them at the second that I start to answer the question, but I always do have them eventually. I always have three reasons for any position. Even if at the moment, I don’t know what the three reasons are. Because somehow, for some reason, three always appear. Every once in a while I’ll make the mistake of saying there’s two things I really liked about it. And sure enough, before I get to the end of two, I’m like yeah, there’s one more thing. There’s always a third.

And then always suggest easy next steps. You’ve got to have a close. At P&G we were taught to move very naturally to the close by suggesting easy next steps to make it easy for them to say yes, by planning in advance to remove barriers, and show them a path to agreement that fits easily into the situation. You’ve got an order going in this week already, if I could just add the Tide to it with the new deal structure, we’d make sure you have that stuff in time for this weekend so you can drive more traffic to your store.

This idea of summarize the situation, stating the idea, explaining how it works, reinforcing the benefits and suggesting easy next steps. That’s the persuasive selling format. Now in the benefits, one tweak that sometimes is done, which is kind of cool, is to have the benefits for both the “sellee” and the seller. So, there’s three reasons why this is good for you: more traffic, you’ll make money, and your store will sell more meat. But then also the benefits of what’s in it for us. The reason I want to do this, I want a better relationship with you, I want to hit my quota for the month, and we want to be competitive within another detergent.

It’s often helpful to have your own benefits in there. Because people are always curious, what’s your ulterior motive? What are you trying to achieve? Why do you want this. And if you just tell them upfront, hey, this is why I want this. This is what I’m getting out of it as well as you, you can create enlightened self interest between the two of you. It creates more trust. It can be something as simple as, if I don’t get this deal, I won’t make my quota this week. That can actually help sometimes. People want to help each other, they want to help you make your quota. So, think about mutual benefits as a way of structuring it.

That is the P&G persuasive selling format. You can look it up online. There are tweaks to it, they’re always making changes and stuff. But the essence of it really is get the idea up front. And always make sure that you have benefits. And if you do that, you’ll have a pretty happy selling career.

And it doesn’t just have to be selling detergent. And you don’t have to be a salesperson. It could be any situation where you’re trying to sell. For example, hey, we’ve got company coming over tonight for dinner. And, by the way, this is a totally real situation. We have company coming over for dinner tonight. And they’re going to want to eat dinner at a really early time. They don’t want to wait for dinner. That’s the situation. My idea is to do corn on the cob and steak because I can do them both in the barbecue in about 10 minutes. It’s a quick, fast, delicious meal. And the way it’s going to work is that I’m going to dry rub the steak and pre-microwave the corn. And then I’ll take it all out onto the barbecue. And then I’ll just barbecue it and I’ll bring it in. And as long as you have the mushrooms cooking, we’ll be ready to go and we can serve dinner at 630 just like we want.

It’s got some benefits. Number one, our company will eat on time. Number two, it’s reasonably easy to make so it’ll be quick to do and fun to do. And number three, it’s delicious. Who doesn’t like corn on the cob? So those are my three benefits. And what’s in it for me is I don’t want to eat out tonight because I’ve eaten out a lot and I’ve got some stuff scheduled for tomorrow that I don’t really want to feel like I’ve got salt in my system. So I want to have something that’s homemade and delicious. And I want something that will be easy to clean up after. And this is a super easy meal to clean up after. Easy next steps. You don’t have to do anything. I bought it already and I’m ready to start cooking.

And with that, I’m off to go barbecue. And for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and I’ll see you… next time.