The answer could mean the difference between a pitch that goes nowhere and one that secures the customer’s business…
Over the last few years there has been a seismic shift in the selling environment. Top sellers are adopting a radically different approach and displaying a blend of collaborative behaviours to help them become the value of whatever they are selling. In fact, selling on value seems to be all everyone is talking about, but there is little advice on how to actually do this.
Here are two lessons I’ve learnt:
DISRUPT THE BUYER’S THINKING PATTERN
Traditional sales lore tells us we need to try to engage buyers with powerful and intelligent questions. The aim is to drill down, find their pain, and then provide a solution. The problem is that there are hundreds of salespeople out there offering “solutions”. And, if the offerings are similar, it can be very difficult to differentiate yourself. The result? Price pressure and discounting. While consultative or solution selling is not dead, it is often not enough to bring home the win, and your approach may need reshaping.
In my view, an essential part of creating value is the ability to disrupt a buyer’s thinking. Your buyers are likely in one of these states: comfort, paralysis or fear. And, they will remain there forever, particularly if they hear the same old sales pitches day in and day out.
How do you disrupt this state and force them to start thinking? By shaking up their thought patterns and being controversial, that’s how. Does this sound crazy, even dangerous? This example may convince you otherwise. We sell sales training courses to companies and research has shown that 87% of all learning and retention is lost within three months of undergoing training.
Our answer to this is a sustainability programme that should be conducted after our training. You’d think it would be an obvious sell, but all buyers don’t go for this optional valueadd. To convince them, I ask a disruptive question like: “How long do you think the sales skills will last?”
The answer is usually: “Oh they won’t last too long, but we have to give our new staff some basic sales skills.” My next disruptive question would be: “Isn’t that a very poor return on you investment, pretty much a waste of money?” I then wait for an appropriate moment to introduce our programme of sustainability. What I want is a searching engagement with my prospective client, not a superficial chat.
Here are some generic examples of this disruptive approach:
>> I’d like to share up front what our service/product cannot do for you and here they are…
>> You are probably thinking, “this won’t work” and you are quite correct.
>> I am sorry to say this, but our service/ product won’t solve all your issues with XYZ.
>> Yes, there’s a temporary fix here, but it won’t last because of XYZ.
>> Can you take a moment to reflect on how this could be applied to your business?
Disruptive conversations aim to shock and shake the buyer, and ultimately engage them. Remember the buyer will try to stay in her comfort zone and will only make a change if seriously challenged. This may sound like “shock” therapy, but it’s what you have to do to get your buyers to start thinking. Of course, you may scare them away. But, those buyers who stay are the ones you want as they are true prospects and likely wins, not suspects who constantly sit on the fence.
Most people avoid confrontation at all costs. But to be a true trusted advisor means asking about those deep, maybe even sensitive issues, and even taking an adversarial stance.
You need to ask these uncomfortable questions and discover the real issues, not chat about symptoms. Top sellers challenge the buyer’s reality and are not scared to disagree with the buyer. It’s only by being courageous and disruptive that we gain the respect of the buyer.
Mike Shultz, author of Rain Selling, puts it like this: “Insight sellers must embrace their role of change agent and push buyers out of their comfort zone. To carry out this strategy, where the conversation can become uncomfortable, difficult, and risky, requires courage and ruthless honesty – assertiveness not arrogance.”
DEVELOP INSIGHTS THAT DIFFERENTIATE YOU FROM THE PACK
A recent Forrester Research survey revealed that the # 1 factor that separates sales winners from the pack is their ability to provide insights that provide new perspectives and ideas. These sales pros are seen as trusted advisors first and foremost. They earned this title right at the beginning of the relationship.
Now the seller becomes the value through using his insights to dig deeply, redefine the root causes of a problem, question the status quo, challenge current strategies, introduce a fresh perspective, create new solutions collaboratively, and inspire their clients to new heights.
Through these collaborative behaviours the seller helps the buyer achieve his goals. The seller then becomes an indispensable business partner, a member of the team; an accountable one at that. Buyers now perceive these “sellers” to be integral to their success.
Top salespeople start courageous conversations around the compelling reasons for change. These special sellers are called insight sellers. While other salespeople continue to do battle over the customer’s needs, the top salesperson “becomes” the value as exhibited in his insights and behaviours.
As a result of their actions, collaborative sellers build relationships, build trust and maximise sales conversions. By collaborating you make your prospective client an active participant in the sales process. It makes for a pleasant change.
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, the authors of Blue Ocean Strategy, contend that winners succeed not by battling against competitors, but rather by creating a “leap in value for their customers, while making the competition irrelevant”.
This is what insight sellers do.
The real question is whether or not you have the courage to start disruptive conversations and whether or not you can produce these insights? Do you see yourself as a change agent or just a salesperson?
You’ll never know until you push yourself to the limit and you may even surprise yourself.
SALES & MARKETING
YOUR BUSINESS June/July 2016