Imagine you are struggling to produce some result in your life or your business. You recognize that you need help from someone who creates the outcome you need, a professional with the experience and knowledge that you lack, so you start identifying people who seem qualified to help you acquire the exact result you need. After looking at half a dozen potential candidates and their companies, you invite three of them to meet with you for a conversation.
All of the candidates look good on paper (or at least on your screen), but the result is important enough that you need to make a good decision, including choosing the right company—and the right person. Because you are going to be working with this person and their company, "fit" is also crucial to your choice.
1. Salesperson A
Salesperson A is dressed nicely, and he is cordial enough without trying too hard to create the phony rapport that you find revolting. This salesperson sets an agenda for your meeting, then asks for your consent to proceed. After you nod, he shares no less than eight slides about his company, including the CEOs story, a timeline of the company’s history, a picture of their board of directors, lists of their investors and worldwide branches, far too many photos of their corporate headquarters in Denmark, a list of the awards the company has won, and a set of logos belonging to their largest clients. The presentation is impressive, but you don't feel like you’ve learned what you need to know to make a good decision.
The salesperson then asks you directly to share the result you need and what seems to be the problem. As you start to explain your challenges, Salesperson A, recognizing your "pain," immediately provides you with a "solution," a fancy way of describing their product or their service. As he continues to talk, you recognize that you are no better prepared to make a good decision. When he finally pauses for breath you thank him for his time, promise to “let him know,” and desperately pray that the next meeting will be better.
2. Salesperson B
Salesperson B is also visually impressive and very professional. After just the right amount of rapport-building and pleasantries, she thanks you for your time, promising not to waste it, and does not mention her company at all. Instead, B goes directly to "discovery," asking you to describe the problem you are having, its negative impact, and how important it is for you to be able to produce the result you need. The conversation feels "salesy," like ever question is designed to lead you to buying, but at least she’s focusing more on your company than hers.
B starts to share the tremendous results her team has produced for other people just like you by installing their "solution." She smiles and promises that they can have you up in running in no time. Yet, you are still uncertain about the decision, even though you are pretty sure that you aren't comfortable working with either A or B. Frustrated, you shuffle off to the meeting with Salesperson C, hoping for a better experience.
3. Salesperson C
Salesperson C is polite and professional. After greeting you, C asks if it would be helpful to understand why people struggle to produce the result that you need, and you agree, allowing him to share something about the nature of your challenge. As C explains why people struggle to produce the result you need, you start to recognize the forces and factors that have prevented you from producing the outcome you need. The conversation doesn't feel like C is selling; it's more like talking to someone who can offer you good counsel.
C continues by asking you a number of questions about your past approach. Some of the questions cause you to recognize why what you are doing isn't working, often because you assumed the wrong thing about your model or market. Without saying much, you realize you have learned what you need to do to improve your results, so you brace yourself for a pitch. But Salesperson C doesn't seem to be in any hurry to share information about his "solution." Instead, he starts to ask you about your willingness to make a number of changes and whether or not you are going to be able bring your team along into what will amount to change initiative. Finally, Salesperson C shares the process necessary to produce your target result. Even though it seems like a lot of work, you recognize the value of following a process that will provide you with the outcomes you need.
Evolutionary Changes in Sales
Salesperson A is using a legacy approach to sales, one that believes the best starting point for the conversation is to point to the strength of their company, believing that your largest concern is choosing the right company.
Salesperson B, having recognized that the legacy slide deck doesn’t seem to move anyone, jumps right to the "problem-pain-solution" pattern salespeople have used for decades, not recognizing how little value it now creates for any prospective client—including you.
Salesperson C is executing a modern sales approach. Instead of asking you about your problem, they explained why you have that problem. Their questions helped you recognize the changes you need to make. They were more concerned about what you have to do to succeed than about pitching you their product or service. Salesperson C created more value for you by working to help you make a good decision, providing you an education, and advice and recommendations that went beyond their solution. Their other-orientated approach to selling, when combined with a modern approach, made your choice an easy one.