I was reading one of my favorite blogs this morning. Meghan Keaney at HubSpot was sharing how much she enjoys the AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” commercials. She points out that good marketing shouldn’t feel like marketing.
Her thoughts reminded me of an important point I make when conducting sales training: if you feel like you’re selling, you’re doing something wrong.
In B2B sales, coffee isn’t for closers anymore, it’s for those professionals with the ability to lead conversations, facilitate discoveries, and challenge their customer’s thinking. I’ve heard many people say recently that successful selling is no longer about the ABC’s (Always Be Closing), and instead is now about ABH (Always Be Helping).
There are three high value areas where you can always be helping, and by doing so have far more impact and success than you would “selling.” An additional bonus is that you’ll feel better about yourself because you’ll be able to toss out the silly manipulative approaches taught in solution selling, and business (and growth) will become far more predictable and sustainable.
Today, I’m going to focus on the first area:
Understanding The Problem
It’s a tough concept to fully grasp, but it’s critical to the success you’re looking for. Your customers and prospects do not understand their problem(s). And your problem is that they cannot understand the value of what you do or how you are different until they fully understand their problem.
For those that are stuck or disagreeing with my previous statement, ask yourself, “If my customer/prospect really understood their problem, what would they have done?” Exactly. They would have already solved it and wouldn’t need your premium solution.
There are three vital decisions that need to happen before you gain any predictability about a sale. You and your customer/prospect must mutually:
- Recognize there is a problem,
- Agree on what the problem is, and
- Conclude that the status quo is no longer viable.
Missing An Opportunity
The error that the vast majority of people make in B2B sales is they assume the second and third points. Once a problem has been recognized they go into solution mode.
It’s not their fault. The dominant sales methodologies teach that this is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Years ago this was a viable strategy, but the very way that companies buy has undergone a transformation that dooms this strategy.
It leaves too much to the interpretation of the multitude of complex relationships and agendas that exist within your customer’s business. The mistake is that the problem the customer/prospect is most likely aware of is really just a symptom of the real problem.
For Example …
Company X has acknowledged the following problem: “Our sales efforts are no longer working and as a result our growth rate is beginning to stall.”
First, that problem is really the symptom of an underlying problem. We need to trace it to the cause to identify the real problem.
Second, what’s the real problem? I can quickly think of at least 50 potential causes to the problem, and only about ½ are even connected directly to the sales or marketing function.
Yet, if your solution is tied to one of those potential causes, how much time do you really spend before you’re jumping into the feature and benefits of your product/service?
Create Value Early In The Process & Eliminate Competition
A businessperson-who-sells understands that this is their time to shine. They realize this is the beginning of their discovery/diagnosis – not the end. They ask level 3 questions that have impact. They educate the customer on the potential causes (yes, even those that may not benefit the seller), and help the customers identify the cause of the problem.
Further, they use sales tools that allow the customer to define the cost of the problem and they confirm that that cost is significant enough to mandate change.
Because they’ve spent the time early with the customer, they save far more in not having to chase the customer down or overcome objections after delivering their proposal.
Because they’ve educated the customer about the customer’s business, they’ve earned the trust and authority to command the sales process. They avoid the inability to access key decision makers or to learn about the budget.
Finally, because the approach is so customer-centered, they’re no longer selling. As a result, the competitive pressures are virtually eliminated; and even when there is competition they’ve earned such an advantage in the process that their competitors merely highlight the added value that is created by the seller.
Next Wednesday I’ll share insights into the other two areas.