5 Things Every Salesperson Should Know About Their Prospects, According to Advantexe Learning Solutions' CEO

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Robert Brodo
Robert Brodo


Over the years, many organizations have invested in a new selling methodology that has evolved the sales approach from strategic selling to "challenging" prospects. But the organizations that adopt this strategy often run into one particular hangup — their sales professionals lack the business acumen skills needed to ask challenging questions and understand the answers they prompt.

salesperson knowing five things they should know about prospects

There is nothing worse in the world of selling than asking an executive a great question and then not knowing what to do with the answer. In many cases, a salesperson in that position panics and starts spewing out product features that don’t match the need and are inappropriate in that conversation.

Based on years of research and working directly with over 20,000 sales professionals around the world from companies in many industries, here are five business insights that can help you — as a sales professional — think differently about your prospects and engage in more business-oriented dialogues.

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5 Business Insights That Take Sales Conversations to the Next Level

1. Business Strategy and Value Proposition

Research and asking the right questions to determine a prospect‘s business strategy are central to your ability to effectively prepare for a sale. Business strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all — not every prospect has the same one. That means not all customers need or want your products in the way you might want to sell them.

In general, there are three different types of business strategies:

  1. A low cost product or service approach
  2. A customer-focused product or service approach
  3. An innovative, state-of-the-art product or service approach

The very first thing you need to do is determine which one of those strategies your prospect is leveraging. From there, you can build out the questions and tactics that align with their value proposition and how they operate. Good questioning — built around your prospect's strategy — will provide invaluable insight into their needs, challenges, and opportunities.

2. The "Value Dashboard"

After understanding your prospect's strategy, you need to get a handle on the "value dashboard" their company offers its customers. A "value dashboard" represents the gauges by which a customer makes a decision, including price, level of service, quality, financial terms, supply security, and others. Your sales team needs to determine the reasons your prospect's customers buy, and then prioritize and quantify them.

For example, knowing that your prospect’s customers’ number one reason for buying is supply security — and the financial implications of that driver — provides you with a unique sales insight.

All of a sudden, you‘re not selling a product — you’re selling the capability of making sure the product is delivered on time so your prospect can deliver on time.

3. Financial Goals and Objectives

Like any business organization, your prospects have specific financial goals and objectives. You don't just need to know them — you need to know how to integrate those elements into your selling approach.

Is your prospect's goal to increase revenue? Increase profit? Reduce costs? Grow market share? Grow revenue from new products? There are dozens of financial goals and objectives your customer might be trying to execute on — your job is to sell the offering that will help achieve these goals and objectives.

4. Drivers of the Cost System

As with any business, your prospect's company is bound to be concerned about costs, expenses, and driving profitability.

You need to determine the critical drivers of your prospect‘s cost system. Is it cost of goods sold? Raw materials? Labor? Marketing? All of the above? By determining the critical components of your prospect’s cost drivers, you can better plan your approach and questions — allowing you to demonstrate how your product or service will help the prospect improve efficiency and management of those costs.

For example, if your product or service is a critical component in the production of an end product to consumers, what is the cost structure of that product? What do the end user consumers value? And how can your products impact the efficiency of production or the perception of quality received by those consumers?

Knowing these elements helps you engage in a differentiated dialogue.

5. Drivers of shareholder value

Above all else, you need to know the drivers of your prospect's shareholder value.

Every organization is in business to provide value to its customers and create value for its shareholders. You need to know these drivers so you can position the value of your product or service in a way that lets your prospect understand how your organization helps them to create value.

Drivers of shareholder value vary by industry and company. Typical drivers of shareholder value include free cash flow, revenue growth, margin growth, expense reductions, new products launched, product pipeline, and future capacity.

The best salespeople in the world conduct research and ask questions about shareholder value and, consequently, are able to position their product or service to help their prospects ultimately drive value.

Does Your Sales Team Have the Right Customer Insights?

In today’s complex business environment, sales professionals need to leverage their strategic selling skills and tools by putting customer business challenges and opportunities at the center of the dialogue.

Sales professionals need to understand their customers at a deeper level by building the skills and confidence to engage in executive business dialogues and more effectively position the value of their solution.

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