There are a number of sales beliefs that are so well known they are accepted as a matter of faith. Expressing a different belief, or suggesting that one of these long-accepted tenets might not always be true, makes you a heretic.
Devotees of such rigid sales beliefs observe axioms like, "You have to ask the client about their problem" and "You have to ask the client to explain their pain." They believe that problems and pain are the keys to creating and winning opportunities. But neither problem nor pain is always enough to cause the client to change. Instead, the impetus for change comes from something else, or better stated, someone with a different belief system.
Why Hasn't Your Prospective Client Changed?
Every leader has a number of problems or areas where they need better results than they are currently generating. Some of the problems are larger than others, and a few of the more difficult problems are complicated enough that they aren't easily resolved. The leader and their team recognizes the problem and has experienced the pain for more than, say, 10 months.
If a problem and pain were enough to compel change, they would not be closing in on their first birthday. When you ask some clients how long they've been dealing with this problem, they disclose they've been struggling for months or years. An honest decision maker will tell you that there is no internal agreement about approaching the problem; different parties have different ideas about the change they need to make. They may also share with you that they are too busy taking care of their clients or customers to deal with the problem. Because they found a workaround, they prefer to keep things as they are, as the devil they know is better than introducing a new one, one that may bring new problems.
Leaders in their teams are executing for the clients and customers, and they are solving the problems they can with the limited time, energy, and money available to them. As you read this post, you might recognize your organization has a long list of problems and pain. Yet, they go unaddressed and unresolved.
- The idea that clients change when they have a problem and pain is partially true. Some small segment of these clients will reach out to a company to ask them to help solve the problem that prevents the results they need.
- Other clients (I write without any data to back up my assertion) live with some problems much longer than they should, harming their business, their employees, and their clients and customers.
- Unless you have had to hire a contact center to handle all the incoming calls from other companies asking you to help solve the problem at hand, you are probably going to need a different catalyst to change.
- There are multiple problems vying for attention and resolution, and only a few will be addressed, with easier problems being prioritized over more difficult ones.
- It's difficult to solve problems when you don't understand how best to resolve them.
Being One-Up and Compelling Change
For a great many companies, the catalyst for change is not their problem or its painful implications. Instead, the catalyst for change is often a One-Up salesperson who calls the client to ask for a meeting to discuss the change they need to make.
The reason the One-Up salesperson doesn't need to ask the client about their problem and their pain is because they solve a very small, finite number of problems, many systemic and universal enough that the salesperson is confident they can improve the client's results. The first meeting is often enough to achieve a couple of outcomes that allow the client to move forward:
- Addressing the Problem:The first meeting with a client is often enough to cause them to recognize the need to begin to address their problem. By exploring that change, the leader and their team start to recognize they can effectively address their problem and improve their results—and the quality of their work lives.
- Explaining the Problem: You have been instructed to ask your client to explain their problem, but a One-Up salesperson will explain the forces and trends that are the root causes of the client's problem. The better understanding helps the client's team understand their problem.
- Prioritizing the Problem: In Eat Their Lunch, my book about displacing your competitors and stealing their dream clients, I wasn't able to address the significance of time, energy, and resources. It's often enough that the salesperson shows up and starts the conversation for the client to start taking action. This comes from the certainty of continued—or increasing—negative consequences, should the client fail to act.
- How to Improve Results: The salesperson who provides the counsel, advice, and recommendations does much to help the client find the confidence to move forward toward the better results they need. The guidance the One-Up salesperson provides increases the confidence and willingness to make the changes that improve the client's results.
You Compel Change
The client’s problem and the accompanying pain may or may not compel them to change. The client may have been avoiding the problem for so long that they and their team have given up on trying to do anything about it, allowing workarounds to become the status quo.
The idea that one needs to ask a contact to disclose the problem and the implications often projects that they don't already understand the nature of the client's problems and how it is impacting their results. Being One-Up requires you to know more than your prospective client about the nature of their problem and what the status quo is costing them.
Much of the time, the conversation with a salesperson is what compels the client to change. You are the value proposition when it comes to the sales conversation.