When a client has done something in a certain way over a long time, the fact that it has always worked can cause them to believe it will—or should—still work. While years pass, things change and nature takes her toll. What once was the best practice slowly starts to decay. Because the change is incremental and difficult to perceive, it becomes increasingly difficult to produce outcomes that were once easily obtained.
Those who are sentimental or nostalgic will continue doing what they have always done, happy as can be. All the while, the earth has been turning, and some of us move forward while others fall behind. My experience as a salesperson provided me with an unwanted and undesired education in the aversion to change. In fact, most of my work is about helping clients make change. You will find this theme in each of my four books.
In a recent post, I argued that a problem and pain isn't enough to compel a client to change. If a problem were enough, your phone would be ringing all day, with companies inviting you in for a conversation about helping them improve their results. The reason you aren't getting these calls isn't because your phone is on "do not disturb," but rather because no one is calling. Your prospective clients live with unresolved issues and challenges.
Helping Clients Break from the Past
There are a number of ways B2B salespeople help clients break from their past. The following list identifies ways to help clients recognize the need to change and muster up the courage to take action. It is a useful starting point for causing a paradigm shift that allows them to let go of the past.
- What's Changed
- The Root Cause of Problems
- The Implications of the Status Quo
- What's New and Why It Works
- How to Make a Significant Change
- How to Ensure the Change Occurs
What's Changed: Much of the time, you will find that your prospective clients are so busy running their businesses that they haven't taken the time to look up and notice what has changed. While they are hunkered down working, many of their peers are attending conferences and industry trade shows, learning what's new and continuing to improve their businesses, including the challenges your prospect has left unaddressed.
The B2B salesperson who can teach their prospective clients what has changed is going to have an advantage over a salesperson who believes the product or service they sell will be enough to bring about change.
The Root Cause of Problems: You might meditate on this idea, reflecting on whether or not you can recognize the root cause of the client's problem. In a prior sales role, my clients would often complain that no one had a strong work ethic. The root cause of their poor results was that were not paying enough to acquire the talent they needed. In some cases, the pay rates hadn’t changed since the Dark Ages. Understanding that they were not competitive in the market was enough to help them break from the past.
It's not uncommon to find that the client's view of their challenge is that it is not something they are doing. Changing this belief helps the client to move toward the future.
The Implications of the Status Quo: One of things that makes a person One-Up is their experience. As a B2B salesperson, you see different companies struggle and, eventually, fail. These experiences provide you with a deep understanding of the implications of failing to change. Your prospective clients may already be experiencing them, or will be soon.
If there are no negative consequences, there is no reason to change. It's often true you will know the potential negative implications before your clients, as you are helping clients change every day. Your clients don’t share your experiences.
What's New and Why It Works: Suggesting that your client should change is one thing, but persuading them to leap into the unknown another. A better approach is making the unknown something that is known and understood to be effective. When you can show your client and what’s new and how and why it works, that information transfer makes it easier for them to change and improve their results.
B2B salespeople who can help provide confidence that there is a better, proven way make it much easier for their clients to break from the past.
How to Make a Significant Change: While I would agree that explaining why to change is incredibly important, once you establish the reason, the how becomes equally important. In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, you'll find a chapter about how to lead the client through the sales conversation to the best way to change.
Teaching the client that they need to change isn't the same as helping them make that change. The One-Down salesperson will believe they owe the client nothing more than a new "solution."
How to Ensure the Change Occurs: When you help a client change, you are obligated to do everything in your power to ensure they succeed. You don't want to cause your client to change and fail to produce the results they need. This requires that you help the client make the changes that will ensure the change sticks.