Exactly What Are “Hot Buttons”?

And How Do You Use Them to Make a Sale?

You often hear the phrase, “find and press their Hot Buttons”, and I certainly use it when I help people write tenders, or in my TenderWins workshops.

Do a little research online and you will find it being used in all sorts of situations. The Miriam-Webster dictionary defines them as “an emotional and usually controversial issue or concern that triggers immediate intense reaction”. Now that could be applied anywhere; from the office, to the home, politics, whatever.

To make a sale’ is the only situation I’m interested in, and I’d like to narrow than down even further in a minute.

What exactly are hot buttons?

Here’s a definition:

“A problem, need, urgent desire or source of pain that stirs enough emotion in the prospect to motivate the prospect to want to take immediate action to solve the issue.”

In this case, the action you are seeking is for them to say “Yes”, to make a “buy” decision.

The key words to remember are emotion and intense. They drive the need to take action to solve the problem, met the need, urgent desire or remove the source of pain.

Why are Hot Buttons important in a sales situation?

You’re pitching for a sale. It may be face-to-face, it may be a proposal a prospect has asked you to submit. Or you may be in a more formal situation, writing a tender for a government body. No doubt you’ve also been schooled in not just demonstrating the features of your offering, but in also explaining the benefits those features bring.

Now you certainly have to do that. People don’t want the product per se, they want what the product will do for them.

But there’s an issue here - A benefit does not always create an emotional reaction that leads to a buying decision. Emotion is certainly important. As has been said many times, people buy for emotional reasons, and rationalise their decision with the facts (the features).

However, are those emotional benefits you put to the prospect the ones that are really important to them? You have to dig deep to find, and understand, the real pain the prospect is feeling, or fearing. You have to find their “hot buttons”.

So how do you find these hot buttons?

Emotional triggers are not always easy to find. To find the prospect’s emotional triggers, you need to find their problems. Some digging is required to find the real need or source of pain.

Having a prospect express an interest in your offering is one thing, but interest in itself will not lead to “immediate action”!

How you find them will depend on the situation you are in, whether you are selling face-to-face, or responding to a Request for Quotation (RFQ) or a Request for Tender (RFT).

You need to have a systematic method of asking questions to uncover the prospect’s problems. Find areas the prospect is losing, hurting or suffering in some way due to the lack of your product or service. Exemplify those areas of problems and pain, and then present your solution and you will hit the hot buttons on the head.

The best way to find out what your customers hot buttons are is to ask them.

In a face-to-face situation let the prospect do the talking. It is easy to find your prospects’ hot buttons once you have gained their interest and allowed them to open up. If you do all the talking they will mentally close down.

As copywriting pioneer Claude Hopkins says, “any…attempt to sell, if apparent, creates sales resistance.”

There’s an old sales saying that you should listen twice as long as you talk – “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less." Some people are slow learners.

Of course you need to listen as well as hear. Slow down, allow the client to talk, and they’ll reveal their dominant desire – their hot buttons.

If you are in a more formal RFQ or RFT situation more is required. You need to capture as much as possible about the buyer’s driving force for the RFT.

If you can get to talk to the buyer, please do so. You will learn a lot, maybe something your competition does not pick up (like the hot buttons) and you will more than just a company name when they are assessing the responses they receive.  I’ve been amazed over the years the number of times I’ve been the only person who has gone to see the person putting out the RFT in their office.

If you can’t get to see them, research is required. Go to their website and look for connections between the purchase being sought in the RFT and what they are saying about themselves. Bring out the connections in your response. I’ve won tenders doing just that.

ProposalWorks.com recommends a strategy session with people in your business who have had meaningful contact with the buyer. They could be technical, sales, accounts people, or whatever.

  • List any concerns your team has been able to ascertain the buyer might have about the purchase being sought, what might delay or cause it to fail, or potential problems the buyer sees. Remember, you are looking at this from the buyer’s perspective.
  • Prioritise those concerns from the highest to the lowest. The hot buttons will be those concerns that have the highest priority.
  • Now you have a good idea what the customer is most concerned with and what you need to make sure you address.
  • Then brainstorm what you can offer the customer to resolve each and every one of his concerns.

Unearth the prospect’s problems and pain and you will discover their hot buttons. Then present how your product or service will solve those problems, and you will be pushing those hot buttons.

If the RFT is from a government agency, remember you are dealing with bureaucrats – and you want to have their attention. They are risk averse, but also want to be seen to get the best possible result. Understand that the particularly for bureaucrats, fear of loss is a far more intense emotion than the desire for gain.

Note that a prospect’s Hot Buttons can vary, depending on their requirement and the situation they are in. What is a burning issue this month may not be next month.

How to Push the Hot Buttons

As they say, “Sell the sizzle, not the sausage”.

Recognition of the hot button/s and your solution must be placed in the lead of your response. It cannot be lingering on page three or page 33. It must be up front, so the buyer can have his a-ha! moment before he mentally dismisses your proposal. It is the effect it has on the intellect and the heart of the buyer that you need.

Please do not open your response talking about how wonderful your business/product is. Talk about them, their problem that they are trying to solve, and what is critical to them (hot buttons). Let them know you understand, and that you have a solution. Only then do you go on to describe your solution, the hot button pushing results it provides.

Could your Sales Response be Improved?

There’s nothing like an outside view, a second opinion of your response to a Request for Quotation or Request for Tender. Have you identified their Hot Buttons, and responded to them effectively?

Very often when we read something we’ve written, we read what we expect to see. And miss the mistakes, or lack of logic, or lack of persuasiveness.

I have an upcoming online course, TenderWins, a 4-week intensive course designed to help you win more tenders, without the stress and time issues that currently hold you back!

If you would like to discuss how this might help you,This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There’s no cost for a consultation. It is my gift to you.

Or buy "Small Change, Big Result", my manual on how to increase your success rate with proposals and quotations; make a few small changes, and reap the rewards.

Catalyst Consulting

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