In the last chapter we looked at the three most common ways to fail at sales. Those three methodologies have been repeated and perfected through the years, and are very effective at making sure the client doesn’t get what he or she wants while turning you into ineffective salesperson. As you have probably guessed, there is a better way.
Let’s work with a simple example. Do you have a friend who is a gadget freak? Someone who drools over technical specs, compares all the different models, and camps out overnight at the Apple store every time a new product is released? If you were in the market for a new cell phone, you might seek guidance from this person, discussing the pros and cons of different models and operating systems, all the while interacting as equals. Perhaps at the end of your discussion, you might trust his judgement in this purchase more than you would your own. This friend has little or nothing to gain in advising you, and you would probably take the advice given as trusted, impartial, and based on your true needs, resulting in your purchase of a perfect new cell phone.
It is this kind of dynamic that we are trying to create with a client-centric sale.
In the real world of sales, this isn’t always easy. Most prospects have been trained over the years to expect salespeople telling them what they need (usually based on selling what they have) without really understanding their business. As the saying goes, “If all you sell are hammers, after a while everything starts to look like a nail.” If not that, prospects are used to telling salespeople what they want, eschewing any kind of value-add dialog from the salesperson that might benefit the prospect’s company. If it is a large, complex, or technical sale, it is very likely that there will be a great deal of guessing by both the salesperson and the prospect. These dysfunctional selling practices were covered in greater detail in Chapter 5.
A better way is to focus on a collaborative and consultative sale, acting as if you were not on commission, but instead were hired to help your client complete a successful project. Just as a hired consultant would do research with the client in able to unearth useful data, you will need to do the same with your prospect. During this question asking process, it is very likely that your client will not have all of the answers you require to create an optimum solution. This is good news, not bad. I have learned over the years that in the end, the salesman with the best answers does not win the sale. My experience has shown the opposite: the salesman with the best questions wins.
It is here that Client-Centric Sales takes a sharp turn away from the well known traditional consultative sales techniques that have been taught for decades. At first, things might appear very similar to what you are used to. But as we get deeper into the salesperson-prospect relationship, you will see that success comes from asking questions that your contact won’t be able to answer. This opens up the opportunity for both you and your prospect to engage others within the organization. Besides creating a greater sense of corporate buy-in, you may learn, for example, that you have been talking to the wrong person, that the project doesn’t have firm funding, that the European division wants the same solution, or that the president has squashed the project several times in the past. The right questions will help you continually qualify your prospect.
Client-Centric Sales is based on this methodology. The chapters that follow will help you learn how to ask tough questions, obtain relevant data, meet key people within the organization, verify funding, cooperatively build a business case, jointly present it, and reach a definitive decision.
So roll up your sleeves. We’re about to get our hands dirty.