You might use a lot of different insights to help your clients and your prospects make better decisions about their business and their future. Some of your insights are more valuable for producing the outcomes you need to create, while others don’t produce nearly as much value because they are not strong enough. Let’s call the strongest ones “weapons-grade insights,” because they are powerful enough to compel change.
What They Say About Assumptions
When you first begin the sales conversation with decision-makers, decision-shapers, or some other stakeholders, you will find that they already operate from certain assumptions. Their assumptions have been developed over some time, often from their own experience, but sometimes also influenced by your brothers and sisters in sales. In a lot of cases, your contact’s assumptions are incorrect, inaccurate, outdated, or something closer to a wish, one that would allow them to get what they want without having to change.
Helping your clients improve their results requires helping them develop a higher-resolution lens through which to see their business: the starting point to making a better decision, one that acknowledges what’s true now. For something to be considered a “weapons-grade” insight, it needs to be able to remove and replace your contact’s assumptions. Achieving this outcome requires that you prove that their assumptions are no longer true and that they are now facing a new reality, one where their past approach is no longer effective or useful to them.
Challenges and Problems
Another reason your prospective clients struggle to produce the results they need is that have not yet recognized which factors generate their problems and challenges. Because they lack some information, they make mistakes in identifying the root cause behind their presenting problem, so they buy solutions that don’t resolve their challenges or improve their results.
Here is an example from our world. A CEO called me to tell me that her sales force was terrible at presenting and negotiating, providing the evidence that they lost almost every deal for which they competed. In short order, I learned that her team only responded to RFPs and never developed any of their own opportunities. They never met a prospect until they presented to them, and even then they provided only a slide deck and a monologue.
For your insights to rise to the level of weapons-grade, they are going to need to help your client understand the true nature of their problem, the root cause that evades them due to their lack of subject-matter expertise. Recognizing that cause opens up the possibility of providing them with the right solution. In discovery, you are always learning, but you must also be educating.
Mistakes and Missteps
Your prospective clients will make mistakes, by executing decisions that don’t produce the outcomes they needed. Much of the time, these mistakes and missteps arise because they lack the kind of information and experience that would have provided them with a better decision—and a more effective solution.
Thankfully, as professional salespeople we have gotten past the trick of selling our clients something that isn’t right for them, since we recognize that no sale is worth violating our client’s trust. Snake-oil sales don’t work for long in a profession that trades in trust. There are, however, some in sales who sell their clients things that they (the salespeople) believe should benefit them, but that end up failing. A good bit of the time, their solution fails because the salesperson lacks strong enough insights, especially the situational knowledge that would allow them to recognize what the right solution would be for the client to succeed.
Longtime readers here will recognize this idea. Weapons-grade insights are often acquired through the experience of watching clients choose a solution that fails them—even though it works perfectly for another company. That experience will help you inform your client that, because of some specific factor or circumstance, one solution is better for them than another. Often, that takes the form of explaining are why your client can’t do what someone else told them they needed to do to produce a certain result, and why they failed the last time they tried.
Why Changing Suppliers Fails
Some clients continue to change suppliers without ever getting the outcome they hoped for. When you see that pattern, it’s a safe bet that your prospective client doesn’t understand how to achieve the result they need and that your competitors have continually failed them due to a lack of insight.
Your competitors are mostly good people working for good companies, and they are trying to do good work. But when they lack a modern sales approach, one that demands something more than traditional discovery and what they believe to be a good solution, they are unable to help their prospects understand the changes they must make to improve things. As a result, they put their faith in their solution—even if it doesn’t address the root cause of the client’s challenges.
The remedy for the client is not simply changing suppliers, but selecting one with an approach that helps them see something that is invisible to them now—one who can deepen their understanding of what they need to do and how they should go about it. That means going well beyond the marketing-approved talking points about your company, your clients, and your solutions.
If you really want to be a consultative salesperson and a trusted advisor to your clients, the cost of admission is developing the insights that will allow you to confidently and correctly offer them the advice they need to improve their results.
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