Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sales Tip: Partnering vs. Challenging

When you have an opportunity to make a sales pitch, there is a reason you have been invited. The prospect wants some help.
But the situation is not a blank slate. Prospects and customers are already equipped with ideas that they think are great. They know what their problem is, and they have decided what they think they need. At the point in time that you are making your initial sales pitch, they don’t really want your ideas. They want to know if you are the person who can help them with their ideas.
You only have a few minutes to convince someone that you would be a good “partner” in solving their problem. You must demonstrate that you can be trusted. Every prospect is consciously or unconsciously asking, “Do I want to work with this person?” If you forget this fact and initially try to impress your audience with your ideas and your solution, you are likely to fail . You may prove that you are capable and smart, but who cares? Your three minutes are up.
To make a successful sales pitch, you must be prepared to focus on their outcome and their solution, even if you see problems and pitfalls. Forgive the sports metaphor, but sometimes you must be willing to play their game plan, not yours. If you want to demonstrate how smart you are or challenge the prospect in order to “enlighten” or consult, you are going to be in trouble.
Not being the smartest person in the room can be tough for some sellers, because sales professionals are typically knowledge experts. They often think they know the customer's problems better than the customer. They have great ideas, and in a sales presentation, it is temping to jump right into sharing those great ideas. They want to TELL their ideas instead of SELL themselves. It becomes a critical cart/horse scenario. The horse must be in front. And in terms of time, it is a very short race. Sell yourself quickly or you are out of the race.
“Selling” means partnering. You can’t just deliver a great box. It has to fit the space.
Work with the customer to improve service to the customer’s client, help the customer be more successful, cut the customer’s costs, reduce manufacturing delays, or whatever the customer’s issue may be. And frequently, selling means compromising. What you wanted to sell when you walked into the room may not be what the customer wants. The sale will go to the person with the most flexibility.
We often hear about the writer who stuck to her (or his) guns and finally wrote the best-seller she always wanted to write, even though hundreds of publishers turned her down. (For instance, Agatha Christie or J.K. Rowling, to name just a couple.) What you don’t hear about are the thousands of books that were rejected and never published or even completed when the author refused to make some compromises. And you also rarely hear about the books that were published and were better than the original draft due to incorporating some editor’s suggestions.
Stubborn is not smart. It is just stubborn.
If you want to sell something, be prepared to fit your idea into the buyer’s frame. Don’t compete. Be the person who helps the customer get something accomplished that was not possible without your help. And sometimes, you may discover the end product is better than if you had done it exclusively your way.
As a sales professional, be prepared to say, “If that is what you want, let us look at how I can help make that happen for you.” Flexibility is needed. Help find a way to achieve their outcome and incorporate their thinking. You must be prepared to fit into a solution that the prospect already is seeing in his/her mind.
If someone asks me for a team-development workshop, something I am resistant to do, I am likely to help clarify the real desired outcome, talk about the benefits of the proposed approach, some different ways to look at how such a workshop might be implemented in their organization, and I may be able to influence the thinking of the customer to consider different (non-workshop) ways to help the team. But only after I have sold me. Only after they have decided they want to work with me to solve their problem. Only after they trust me. And a workshop will always be an option, because it is the solution they initially wanted. The difference is how we define it and how we implement it. It is still THEIR solution but my refinements as we work together. We. Not me. And if I can’t sell me as someone they can trust, there will be no we to work on ideas together.
Customers want solutions, and they already have some in mind. Listen to those ideas. Look for ways to incorporate your ideas and use your expertise, but remember: Customers already have a solution and are trying to decide if you are the person who can help them achieve their goal. Don’t compete. Don’t quiz about “pain.” Don’t challenge. Don’t think you know best. Be flexible and be helpful. Sell yourself as a good “partner” and you will be invited to help them solve their problem.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sellers: Stop looking for pain

For decades, sales trainers have told us about the need to find a prospect’s “pain.” What is hurting? What is it costing? What is the cost of ignoring that pain? Who do we see is hurting the most? What is it worth to find a solution to that pain? Follow the long path to “pain”, and you will be successful, they have said.

They are wrong.

It’s time to stop wasting the customer’s time. Stop looking for “pain.” Look for ways to help instead.

Today, people do not have time to invite you to make a presentation and endure a series of “pain” questions. When you get an invitation to sell to a prospect, you should know how the prospect sees the problem before you show up. You don’t need to probe to find what’s causing the pain or whose pain it is or whether it is a financial pain or a personal pain. Clarify the issues and know the desired outcome before you go to the meeting. Learn what you need to know without seeking out “pain.” Stop wasting everyone’s time. Prospects want to focus on their idea and how to solve their problem. And they don’t want the meeting to last very long.

I occasionally get invited to propose a “team-building” workshop. I generally don’t do team-building workshops any more. When someone asks for one because his or her team is not working well, I often shoot myself in the foot by stating that, in my experience, most requests for such action are due to one person being a problem. I ask, “Any chance that might be the case here? If so, why don’t we look at how to help that person and not waste the time of the whole team?” In nearly every case, the prospect appreciates the insight. I hear a response such as, “That’s a really intriguing idea. I think you might be right. Let me think about it for a bit.” And that is the end of it. There is no more discussion with me about team building. Or about coaching the problem person. I didn’t fit THEIR solution. Shame on me.

Prospects are not interested in being “challenged”or probed about their “pain.”

In most cases, prospects have a good idea as to what they want. They are not interested in being “challenged” or probed about their “pain.” They simply don’t have the time or the patience. They are interested, instead, in learning if they feel they can work with you and get their desired outcome. They want to see if you are a good fit and can work with them.

Sell YOU as someone who can help implement their solution

This leads to a major adjustment in how sellers must sell. First, remember you have been invited to allow the prospects to decide if they want to work with you. Can there be a relationship? In short, the presentation must sell YOU as someone with whom they can partner and help implement a solution, a solution that is may or may not be well defined. If you try to sell YOUR solution before you sell YOU, you will fail. Connect on both a conscious and unconscious level. Become someone the prospect will trust before you even talk about what you want to sell. (If you don’t know how to do this, read “The Unfair Advantage: Sell with NLP!”)

Can you avoid focusing on your solution and focus, instead, on theirs? How quickly can you stop presenting and actually engage your prospect? If you did your homework, you will know what the prospect is trying to accomplish. Get him/her to talk about that. Listen for what is wanted and look for how you can help. Talk about outcomes rather than pain.

Duane Lakin, Ph.D., is the author of “The Unfair Advantage: Sell with NLP!” and a new book, “Ten Ways Top Sales Reps are Different.”