Over the last few posts, I have been writing about the way selling has changed over the last decade or so. I get a like here and there, a “relevant” and maybe a nice comment, but the reality is, while some folks agree, there is very little that has been done to change the way folks sell to their customers.
I’d like to go a little deeper and suggest that as a seller, when you are looking for your next opportunity, make a change in the way you approach your customer or territory of accounts. It starts with eliminating these words from your vocabulary:
Huh…that just looks weird. All of those words are synonymous with selling. And therein lies the problem. You see…those words are “offense” words. As in, Offense and Defense. The minute you start down the path of any of those words, your customer throws up a defense that you MUST address, regardless of whether or not it is valid, or has anything to do with what the customer actually wants or needs to do.
This is truth for ANY sales rep. Every rep starts their day with an objective: find opportunities to SELL a solution/product/service. As many as they can.
Unfortunately, customers today are hyper aware of what is available, and can do plenty of their own research to compare available solutions. Companies tend to counteract this with outbound calling campaigns, sales plays, competitive take-outs, etc. Massive activity. They do this because, just like you have heard for years…selling is a numbers game. I call baloney.
I don’t subscribe to dialing for dollars. Don’t get me wrong…consistent customer contact is absolutely essential…but it cannot be contact through peddling wares alone. There must be a reason for it that is not self-serving (think sales rep commission and revenue generation).
Think deeper. Why is the company you work for in business in the first place? It must have identified a problem that a lot of folks needed to solve. For example, an industry-wide issue. Somebody listened well enough to identify a problem and developed a solution to solve that problem. The question now is, how do you find all of the customers that have the same problem?
Discovering Business Opportunity
When you meet or contact a customer, think about what is motivating the customer to succeed in the fast-paced, competitive and price conscious market of today. You must recognize that they are ALSO trying to differentiate themselves from their competition, while meeting and exceeding the needs of THEIR customers. This means…they have key business drivers that require a constant review of their business design, processes and infrastructure challenges.
Keeping these things in mind, what about other things that are impacting the customer – market conditions, costs, competition, regulations? You need to do research on your customer to get SOME idea on what they are likely dealing with.
I’m talking about asking questions and being curious about your customers challenges – the things they are struggling with and are concerned about. They are the ones that know what they can and cannot do…and unless you can get them to share these issues with you, you are not going to be of value to them. Don’t rely on luck and timing.
Of course, this all assumes you have a solution that can solve a common industry or customer challenge. As you work through your discovery phase, you are collecting information about the business, the person you are talking to, the make up of the organization…all of which may take multiple discussions…with you asking questions about what they are trying to do, and how they are measuring success.
Instead of trying to: Persuade, Convince, Drive, Overcome, Close…maybe you should: Question.
Then – when you know enough about their business, their challenges…suggest to them you have a solution that might help them get to where they need to be. Do you think they’ll be interested in what you have? Of course they will. But you still aren’t selling. You are advising them on a course of action…and they will ask you for more information. There are no objections to overcome. What happens next is an open dialogue on how they use your solution to address their needs. The procurement process is all that needs to be worked out.
Look – maybe the above is an oversimplification – but it illustrates a point. Why work harder to overcome never-ending objections and dealing with the stress of SELLING when you could be ADVISING and ACCEPTING orders?
Shift your view.
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