I’ve referred previously to Forrester’s findings that only 7% of all sales calls are regarded by senior prospect executives as being valuable, and worthy of a continued conversation. I’ve become convinced that a big part of the problem is that many sales people are simply not sharing any relevant new insights with their prospects. They are doing little to set themselves apart. They are failing to make the prospect want to learn more. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest 5 ways in which your sales people can increase the impact of their sales conversations.
Before I do, I’d like to give credit to a book from my Top 10 B2B Sales and Marketing Reading List that has helped to shape my thinking: Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, by Peterson and Riesterer.
I’ve reframed and merged their ideas in the light of client experience, but many of the foundational insights are theirs. If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to read the book.
With due credit shared, I’d like to suggest 5 ways in which your sales people can deepen the impact of their sales conversations:
1: Tell the prospect something they don’t already know
One of the key reasons why so few sales conversations are regarded as valuable by the potential prospect is simple: they fail to bring any new information or insights. If your prospect is already aware of or agrees with all of the points you are making, if you fail to challenge their thinking or confront them an important new fact, all you are doing is reinforcing their existing perceptions.
The conversation may appear at face value to be agreeable, but you will probably have done nothing meaningful to differentiate your company or your offering in their mind. But if you tell them something relevant that they didn’t already know, if you help them to think differently, if you arouse their curiosity and intrigue them with your insights, the chances are that they will want to learn more.
2: Confront them with the consequences
Even if you’ve persuaded them to look at things from a different light, you’ve then got to follow up by elevating the consequences of not addressing the issue. Before you pitch in with your solution, pause to explore and develop the potential impact - and get them to help you identify who else might be affected elsewhere across their organisation.
3: Intensify the need for change
The key here is to start to steer them away from the undeniable comfort of sticking with the status quo. You’ve got to help them recognise that addressing the issue is going to be less risky - and ultimately less uncomfortable - than hoping that the problem will go away. You’ve got to sell the need for a solution before you can sell your solution.
4: Offer them a new approach
Before you jump in and claim to have a “better” solution, you’re always better off establishing just how and why your approach is different - and how your superior insights into the problem you have helped them identify have resulted in a different and ultimately superior solution. And make sure you describe what you do in a way that cannot easily be copied by your competition.
5: Contrast the here and after
Finally, the conversation should result in a positive affirmation of the difference you can help them make between their situation as it stands to day and the outcome that - by working together, and drawing upon all your experience and expertise - you are going to enable them to achieve.
Start with the end in mind
I’m not suggesting that all of this can be accomplished in a single conversation. But each interaction with your prospect should result in them gaining some valuable insights, and in reinforcing their motivation to want to continue the journey with you.
You always need to start the stream of conversation with an ultimate end in mind. Your goal should always be to direct the prospect towards the recognition of issues that your organisation is uniquely well qualified to help them address - or if you can’t, to politely qualify out and move on.
Every question your sales people ask, and every insight they share, must have an intentional objective.
I strongly recommend that you read “Conversations That Win the Complex Sale”, and reflect on the implications for your organisation. Then consider whether you are systematically equipping your sales people to have the sort of conversations I’ve outlined above.
And if not, can you really afford all the wasted effort, or all the missed opportunities that you are undoubtedly suffering as a consequence? Using these principles, we have helped clients to develop a fresh approach to the sales conversation - one that I think you might find valuable. One that might change your perspective about what is possible. Please drop me a line if you’re curious enough to want to learn more...