Forrester Research recently concluded that only 1 in 8 B2B sales meetings create any useful value for the prospect. The remainder are simply an unproductive way of passing their time - and it’s hard to bore your prospects into buying. So here’s my question: what mindset are your sales people taking into these meetings - are they collecting, collating or creating?
It’s probably worth explaining what I mean by these three styles:
When you go into a sales meeting with a collecting mindset, it’s like playing a one-way game of 20 questions with your prospect. You ask a series of questions, they give you a series of answers. You bring few insights to the conversation, they learn little of any value.
You emerge with some of the information you were hoping for, and they wonder what’s in it for them, and why they should bother to continue the conversation on another occasion. If your sale has any momentum at all, it’s because it’s going rapidly downhill.
This is a little better. When you go into a sales meeting with a collating mindset, you’re trying to organise information into a logical sequence or pattern. Your questions seem less random, and to have some sort of logical purpose. You probably share what you’ve learned in similar situations.
At least the prospect feels that they may learn something of value. But you’re still unlikely to generate a great deal of excitement, or to fire the prospect’s imagination. You’re probably dealing more with practicalities than you are with possibilities. You’ve got a better chance of continuing the conversation, but in the absence of excitement, the opportunity is likely to peter out into a “decision to do nothing” at some future date.
When you go into a sales meeting with a creator mindset, you’re trying to open you prospect’s eyes to the possibilities of a better future situation. You only do as much collecting and collating as you need to provide the foundation of a relevant future vision for the prospect.
Most importantly, it’s not your vision: it’s theirs. A vision which you have co-created and helped to steer, but it’s a vision they feel a strong connection with. A vision they own, and a vision that you are best equipped to help them achieve. A vision that makes them want to continue the conversation at the earliest possible opportunity. A vision with momentum. A vision that is likely to lead to a decision to do something.
The Problem with “Solution Selling”
Sales organisations have invested millions in “solution selling” initiatives in all their various forms. Many have been disappointed with the lack of measurable impact on sales performance. Deals are still taking too long, absorbing too much effort, and resulting in “no decisions” too often.
One of the underlying problems is with “20 questions” type implementations of the solution selling. Just asking questions - however well thought out - and collecting the answers isn’t enough. Just collating the information and playing it back to the prospect isn’t enough.
If your sales people are to generate real value for their prospects, if they are to be creators, rather than merely collectors or collators, they need to help shape their prospect’s vision of a more productive future.
They need to challenge, and to constructively provoke their prospects. They need to develop distinctive points of view that set them apart from all the other sales people calling upon the prospect.
They need to co-create value for their prospects, and to help their prospects conclude that there is a better way, and that your organisation can help them get there. If we could all do a better job in that regard, maybe more sales meetings would be more productive.
Making Sales Meetings More Productve
How? I've seen a number of effective techniques. First, creating conversation planners that help ensure that sales people give a series of valuable insights back in response to their prospect's answers.
Next, using anecdotes as effective ways of sharing information and experiences with the prospect. Your best sales people have always been good storytellers - and you can teach the rest to be better.
Then, throw away the PowerPoints. Teach your sales people to use more interactive ways of communicating. Coach them to co-create a future vision with their prospects.
Last - and by no means least - develop some constructively provocative points of view. Present insights and information in a way that encourages the prospect to challenge their status quo and acknowledge the need for change.
Collectors, Collators or Creators
Are your sales people behaving like collectors, collators or creators? And are you doing all that you could to equip them to create greater value for their prospects?