Sell to Win

How to use pattern interrupt to boost sales

Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win
Jacob Thomas
Contributor, Sell to Win

It's important to acknowledge the unfortunate truth of sales: Your leads are conditioned to ignore your sales pitches.

Anyone who's online regularly is bombarded with sales content. It's just the way the internet is. So when your prospects realize you're trying to sell to them something, they shut down and make it difficult to have a conversation. 

This exact phenomenon is one of the biggest reasons why 42% of salespeople claim that prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process. Fortunately, there's a viable solution to the monotony: pattern interrupts.

A pattern interrupt, put simply, is anything that surprises the person you're talking to.

Prospects expect certain things from salespeople. By breaking the mold, you'll alter their apprehensive state and make them much more receptive to you. For example, instead of starting your cold call with the phrase "Hi John, how are you?" what if you said, "Hi John, this is a cold call. Do you want to hang up?"

This opening phrase is different. As such, it forces prospects to at least think about continuing the conversation you're having. You can't ask for more than that!

We'll talk more about specific pattern interrupt techniques later in this article. But first...

When to use a pattern interrupt

Like everything else in life, there's a time and a place for pattern interrupts. Use them at the wrong time or in the wrong place and your prospect will likely shut down.

Here are three ideal pattern interrupt scenarios:

  • Phone: The traditional cold call isn't very effective. If possible, warm up your leads before you get them on the phone. A little familiarity goes a long way and will help your pattern interrupts be more effective, leading to deeper conversations with prospects.
  • Email: Email marketing is powerful—but only if your recipients actually open and read your messages. Unfortunately, this only happens for 18% of emails. That's why we suggest using a pattern interrupt in your subject lines.
  • In-person: A whopping 60% of buyers only want to talk to sales reps during the consideration stage. Using a pattern interrupt at a different stage of the buyer's journey can help you shift negative conversations into positive ones.

To be clear, you can effectively use the following pattern interrupt techniques outside of these three scenarios. But if you can warm up your leads before you contact them or connect with prospects in the consideration stage, you'll probably have more success.

7 Pattern interrupt techniques to try

Now that we know what pattern interrupts are and when to use them, let's talk about specific techniques you can try. Add a few of these tactics to your repertoire to close more deals:

Technique #1 - Speak first

Here's how cold calls usually go…

  • Prospect: Hello?
  • Salesperson: Hi, is this Jane Doe?
  • Prospect: Yes, who is this?
  • Salesperson: Hi, Jane, my name is John Smith with Company XYZ. We sell the best widgets in town and I was wondering if you'd be interested in…

Nobody wants to receive this kind of call. So what if you took a different approach? What if you immediately launch into your spiel after your prospect picks up the phone?

This pattern interrupt is called "speak first" and requires you to literally be the first person to speak in a conversation with a prospect. As soon as they answer, you jump in with:

"Hi Jane, it's John, how are you doing today?"

Why does this technique work? Mostly because it's surprising. When we answer the phone, we expect to be the first to talk. "Speak First" puts the prospect on their heels, unsure of how to proceed. When they don't know what to do next, they'll be more open to your pitch.

Technique # 2 - Shock and awe

The shock and awe technique aims to jolt prospects into conversation. You say something worrisome or outrageous or funny—anything that's outside the realm of "normal." The idea is to peak your prospect's interest and make them want you to tell them more.

  • "What if [Product] costs $1 million. Would you still hear me out? Sometimes, mentioning an outrageous price tag can get a prospect's attention.
  • "What would happen if there was a death on company property? Other times, talking about a worst case scenario will do the trick.

Fair warning: the shock and awe technique must be used with caution. It doesn't work in every situation. When you deploy it, be careful not to cross the line.

Technique # 3 - Answer the question

There are a couple of things we all want to know when a stranger contacts us: one, who is contacting me? And two, why are they contacting me? The second question is actually more important, which is why the "answer the question" pattern interrupt works.

All you have to do is tell your prospect why you've called/emailed/texted them before they ask. You say something like: "Hi Jane, we've never met. Can I tell you why I'm calling?"

In most cases your prospect will say "yes". Why? Because you offered to address their most pressing question. Once they give you permission to speak, they'll be much more receptive to your pitch. After all, they basically just asked you to make it.

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Technique # 4 - Overshare

Here's a pro tip: NEVER contact a prospect without doing your research first.

If you don't know a little bit about the person you're talking to, it will be extremely difficult to make a sale. The "overshare" pattern interrupt is based on this foundational principle.

You do your research and learn three key things about the person you're talking to. Then you share these things with them during your initial conversation.

For example, if you learn, after scouring your prospect's LinkedIn profile, that they (1) work for a well-known manufacturing company, (2) recently attended an industry conference, and (3) are having issues with a specific piece of software, you could say:

"Hi Jane, I saw you attend the [industry conference]. I was there, too—wish we could have connected. We could have talked about the [software] issues you're having at [their company]. Let me know if you still have questions about it. I'd be happy to help."

This pattern interrupt technique works because it's highly personalized and lets prospects know that you've done your homework and have an understanding of their needs.

Technique # 5 - The thief

Why do most people hate sales calls? Because they see them as a waste of time.

They didn't ask to be contacted so whatever the rep on the other end of the line has to say can't possibly be more important than what they already have going on.

You can get around this with "the thief" pattern interrupt technique. All you have to do is acknowledge the fact that you're "stealing" your prospect's time and ask them for permission.

You say, "Hey, I know you're busy. Can I steal 23 seconds of your time?"

Notice how we said "23 seconds" and not "45 seconds" or "half a minute". When using this pattern interrupt technique, choose a strange number like 23 or 37 or something similar. It will grab your prospect's attention more than a round number like 15 or 30 will.

Technique # 6 - Objection

Remember what we said earlier? As soon as someone realizes they're talking to a salesperson, their defenses go up. They start thinking of all the reasons they don't need the products and/or services you sell. It's just the natural response these days.

With the "objection" pattern interrupt technique, you can use this to your advantage!

All you have to do is address your prospect's objections before they have a chance to bring them up. (Note: this means you have to study your prospects to find common objections.)

In action, this pattern interrupt might sound something like this:

  • "I'm sure your current provider takes really good care of you…"
  • "Our products might not be the right fit for you. Can I ask you a few questions to see?"
  • "Feel free to say 'no' if you don't think we can do better than your current supplier."
Channel your inner attorney.

Technique # 7 - Shared experience

Finally, we have the "shared experience" pattern interrupt technique, which will help you find common ground with your prospects and (hopefully!) increase sales.

Lines like, "From one salesperson to another…" and "You know better than anyone how hard sales can be…" and "I saw that we both attended [Industry Conference] last year…"

This technique works especially well in B2B sales and/or if you happen to be selling to professionals with similar roles and responsibilities as you. AKA if you sell to other sales reps.

In conclusion

You know the old saying, "People hate to be sold, but love to buy." It's not that your prospects don't want what you have to offer. They just don't want to deal with another sleazy sales rep. Because of this, they're constantly looking for reasons to say "no" to your pitches.

Fortunately, pattern interrupt techniques will help you get around these invisible barriers, engage with prospects on a deeper level, and make more sales.

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