In case you didn’t notice the new selling environment or missed reading about it in hundreds of articles, blog posts, and research reports, selling has changed:
- Customers Self-inform, and many make simple buying decisions over the Internet.
- Even customers making more complex decision “complete the majority of the sales process” before they talk to salespeople.
- Complex buying decisions involve more people, and they take longer than before.
- Buying processes are more formalized than ever.
Does this mean that selling is more commoditized than it used to be? Should you just hire a bunch of order-takers – or get rid of them entirely? Is your solution to increase your “trinkets and trash” or your “whiskey and tickets” budgets?
Do you think your sellers need to become trusted advisors?
And if so, how do you do that? The answer: Add value at every stage of their buying process. I’ll be even more emphatic: If you don’t know what value you’re going to add to a prospect’s decision process, delay the call/meeting until you do. You have lots of value to add, and building trust means that customers trust you to add value to their buying processes.
Customers want sellers to add different kinds of value. They self inform, but don’t know which information is outdated, inaccurate, or irrelevant to their situation. Prospects complete more of the buying process before engaging salespeople, but they may have a misguided or oversimplified process…or don’t envision all of the pitfalls to an implementation. Finally, they know they have blind spots and want advisors who can help them uncover them – that person could be you and your sales people.
It starts at the beginning
What if a seller’s first attempt to get an appointment sounds – or even feels — like “I want to sell you on my company’s products/services”? Did the journey to “trusted advisor” status just get shorter or longer? A sales person commoditizes themself when they try to get a first appointment using:
- Any initial pitch which offers to provide a prospect with information already available on the web.
- Any pitch which sounds like they don’t know the customer’s business at all.
In contrast, adding value at the initial call requires that sellers:
- Become knowledgeable about the customer and their likely challenges/opportunities before formulating an approach.
- Quickly showing how your expertise can be applied to their specific business.
…And Builds From There
Become a trusted advisor by understanding the customer before proposing anything. Build trust by understanding more than every competitor’s salesperson. Ask thought-provoking questions, and then follow up with even more, deeper ones. Discuss the customer’s business outcomes and how this contemplated solution helps change them. Help the customer internalize the value of those outcomes by dollarizing them.
When proposing, connect your solution point-by-point, to their problems or opportunities. Customers seldom do this very well without your help.
The New Face of Customer Education
The salesperson who educates customers on simple features and benefits was valuable years ago; today, they’re just annoying. Educate on value created, on outcomes changed, and be able to prove it. Coach the customer through how their situation is different from what they may have thought during their self-informing process, and be able to back it up. Alert them to likely implementation challenges, and how you can help mitigate them effectively.
Demonstrations should not show how your product works. Make demos showcases for how your product solves the customer’s most important problems.
There’s a Word That Describes the Modern Approach to Selling
Today’s sellers create value via insight into the customer’s world and a perceptive approach to the customer situation: they sell with perspective.
Perspective Selling Incorporates:
- Best practices from within a customer’s industry, and the outcomes those best practices drive.
- Best practices from other industries (and outcomes achieved) combined with the expertise to apply them reliably.
- Customized application, or personalization of solutions to their specific situation:
- Experience or research from a third party.
Most Important: Perspective isn’t just you telling. It’s really about them telling themselves.
Your perspective doesn’t become the prospect’s viewpoint – much less their conviction to act — until they internalize it into “first person” value — that is, value in the customer’s mind. What you’ve done, even for their identical twin, means nothing until they see – and believe – what you can do for them.
It’s a rare customer indeed who looks at your case study and builds an internal business case unguided. Prospects need to monetize any new solution in their own world, and in their own environment. They need to be able to believe any projected outcomes. I know of no better way than having them quantify value in their own situation, using their own assumptions, in comparison to the next-most-preferred option (including status quo).
Customers need trust that you will stand behind those outcomes. If you walked them through an exercise monetizing value in their own terms, you simultaneously set concrete expectations. Your status as a trusted advisor hangs on ability to delver, even if that means you both need to adjust “the how” on the fly.
Perspective requires having the integrity to do all of these things with the customer’s best interest at heart.
Please share your thoughts below. I’d also love to talk with you directly to see if I can act as a sounding board for any questions or issues you are currently working. If you’d like share perspectives directly, feel free to contact me directly.
To your success!