Imagine you’ve applied for a job and you're called in for an interview. In the meeting, the interviewer gives you the choice of first hearing about the job or talking about your background and experience.
I hope you’d agree the interview would go better if you heard about the position and requirements the company felt were necessary before explaining your qualifications. It would allow you to tailor or position your knowledge and experience in a way that better aligns with their requirements.
Sadly, in the context of sales, many salespeople begin by talking about their offerings first. Without having any context of what buyers need, unfortunate outcomes occur:
Few executives find product pitches interesting.
After the product is mentioned, buyers can drag sellers into premature pricing discussions.
Features that aren’t relevant to buyers are likely to be presented.
In my last blog post, I talked about the importance for sellers to be business experts, not product experts. It's only by becoming an expert on your prospects' businesses that you earn the right to discuss your product or service. Here’s how you can start down that path.
Let the Buyers Do the Talking
Similar to the job interview scenario, it’s important for sellers to let buyers talk about their situations and challenges before launching into a pitch. In fact, viewing sales calls as job interviews might put you in the right mindset. Your ultimate objective is to have them “hire” your offering.
Put Your CSI Hat On
An initial step to a closed deal is uncovering a goal or problem an executive would be willing to spend money to achieve or address. This will be easier if you go into the call with a menu of title-specific high probability goals. Keep in mind most executives will want to determine that sellers are sincere and competent before sharing business issues.
Enlighten Your Buyer
Once a goal is shared, resist the temptation to blindly dive into product. Instead ask why the goal can’t be achieved today, and then follow up with diagnostic questions (prepared in advance) designed to uncover reasons that can be addressed by specific features or capabilities of your offering. If the buyer knew how to address these barriers, they wouldn’t bother talking with a seller. Helping buyers discover how their current approach is “broken” allows sellers to establish credibility.
Diagnose and Prescribe
Doing full diagnoses allows sellers to focus discussions on only the relevant parts of a given offering. Engaging executives in this manner makes the buyer-seller relationship more like a patient-doctor relationship. Complete diagnoses (examinations) result in recommendations (prescriptions) buyers are more ready to accept.
The key takeaway here is that once sellers understand their buyer’s environment, they aren’t selling offerings, they’re empowering buyers to achieve desired business outcomes. And that's better for both buyers and sellers.
Originally published Dec 17, 2014 10:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017