Recently, someone on LinkedIn encouraged me to "keep disrupting the industry." To be clear, I am not a disruptor. There are two forces, however, that have disrupted sales. The first is the collection of changes in our environment over the last two decades. The second results from the first: the way people and companies buy now has changed what they need from salespeople.
Though I am not a disruptor, I am a person who seeks practical and tactical strategies that solve challenges. And I’ve noticed several skills that are not commonly considered as ways to influence sales outcomes. Mastering each of these advanced skill will improve your sales results.
Level 4 Value Creation™
In Level 4 Value Creation (L4VC), the central idea is that the salesperson begins the sales conversation by discussing the strategic outcome. Instead of trying to prove your credibility by talking about your company, clients, and solutions, people using L4VC start a conversation where their credibility is on full display. This may remind you of the saying "begin with the end in mind." That is precisely what L4VC does. By starting with the results your client needs, your conversation is about what they have to change and why. Only later, do you discuss how to make those changes.
Salespeople who recognize that their clients treat them like a commodity rarely understand the reason: Their conversations are so much like their competitors’ that prospective clients can't tell them apart. The only vehicle available to create value for your client is the sales conversation. Better conversations lead to better results. This is one way we solve for relevance and credibility.
When you first meet with your prospective client, they have a set of beliefs based on their experiences and knowledge. These beliefs form your contact's context for the conversation. Most of the time, the contact's beliefs and experiences don’t provide them with an accurate view of their decision. Nor does it provide them with an understanding of what they may need to do to produce better outcomes.
When you start a conversation with an executive briefing, you can erase the contact's context, and replace it with an updated version, ensuring they make a better decision. By locking the context in place, your conversation addresses the current reality, what is true now. You never want your contacts to make a decision based on beliefs that no longer reflect their current situation. Building a decision on outdated information will all but guarantee their failure.
L4VC and context locking support a third critical sales skill, the paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is a "change in the basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science." For our purposes here, we can use less scientific terms. Let's call the paradigm shift "a break from the past" and "a new view of the future.” The sales conversation isn't about buying something. It's about making the changes that improve results. Any conversation that doesn't help the client with a decision to change isn't going to be valuable to you or your client.
In early conversations, you are helping your contacts break from their past and pursue a better future. If you are trying to sell your solution in early calls, that conversation will kill any chance of providing the client with a paradigm shift. While the legacy approach relies on "Why Us?" the modern approach requires the skills that allow you to focus on "Why Change?" and, increasingly, "How to Change?"
Controlling the Process
The sales conversation has become increasingly nonlinear. This is true even if you believe you are following a linear process. Contacts may have the best of intentions in making a good decision. They’ll describe what they believe to be their process, and it will invariably come apart. The old process of the buyer's journey doesn't acknowledge that in sales where a consensus is necessary, there are multiple buyers’ journeys.
Your client and their teams aren't often called to make decisions that are important to their results, so they lack the knowledge and experience of how best to change. Controlling the process isn't a power play. Instead, it's a way to guide the client’s actions and conversations to ensure they succeed.
Controlling the process and facilitating the buyer's journey creates a better outcome and experience for the stakeholders you are helping. It is an advanced sales skill that allows you to help them find their way to the better results they need.
This little-known strategy is included in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative. It is the modern key to differentiating yourself and your company. When legacy salespeople want their contacts to believe they are different, they talk about their company and their solution. And they will struggle to differentiate themselves. When you have the same conversation as every other salesperson, you look like more of the same.
Triangulation strategy is a professional, sophisticated, and effective skill that explains the different models your prospective client is deciding between, including the strengths of each one, followed by its concessions. When done well, this allows the salesperson to eliminate a particular model or models instead of a single competitor. It also prevents the salesperson from having to differentiate their company on factors that contacts don't find compelling.
Modern Strategies for a Modern Sales Approach
I was once asked by a publisher if I would write a book titled Sales for Dummies. I declined. B2B sales is not possible without a certain level of acumen. The advanced sales skills are all built on business acumen and character traits, including being comfortable with the conflict you find in any change initiative.
The changes we are facing in sales have driven an evolution. To succeed in this new environment, we need to adapt by transforming what we do on a foundational level. Salespeople have been adjusting to what their clients need in a conversation. Now, our clients require greater assistance in the way of counsel, advice, and recommendations, so we are reshaping our approach. You will not find these strategies anywhere other than right here on thesalesblog.com.