There are two methods of starting a sales conversation. The first way to start the conversation occurs when a salesperson calls a prospective client to ask them for a meeting to talk about how their prospect may improve their results. This is called outbound, cold outreach, or prospecting.

The second way to start a sales conversation is that a person initiates the conversation by calling a company, filling out a form on the company's website, or sending an email. This is called inbound, lead generation, or content marketing. Even though it is easier to start a conversation with an inbound approach, most salespeople have too little inbound to ignore outbound.

How prospecting really works is that the salesperson offers a conversation that the contact believes will be valuable for them. If the value proposition doesn't compel the client to accept a meeting, the salesperson will not acquire a meeting or will be presented with an objection.

Don't Just Ask for the Problem As a Way to Provide Your Solution

The first conversation between a salesperson and their prospective client finds the salesperson asking the client a lot of questions as a way to acquire an understanding of the client's situation and their needs. Much of the time, the salesperson asks questions designed to expose a "problem" and the accompanying "pain," as a way to provide the client with their "solution," which is really the product or service the salesperson sells. The idea here is that the client's problem is resolved by the salesperson's solution.

How the first meeting really works is that the client is measuring the salesperson by how much help they provided in understanding why they need the better results they are seeking, what options are available to them, and how best to assess their different choices. The more valuable the conversation is to the prospective client, the more likely the prospect will continue the conversation. Much of what salespeople are trained to do creates anti-value for their contacts, causing them to disengage and move on to another company and a different salesperson.

In B2B sales, there tends to be conversations about how the sales organization and the company are going to meet the client's needs and the new or better results they seek. The prospective client and their team need to know that whatever they do, it is going to need to work for them. They hope to get some sort of bespoke approach that allows them to influence how they pursue the better results they need.

You Are Being Evaluated Too

How late discovery calls work is that the client is looking at fit and fit. Both of the two "fits" are being assessed at the same time. While the salesperson is concerned about their "solution" being the right fit, the prospective client is assessing the salesperson as a potential partner. The product or service has to fit and the sales organization must also be a fit for the prospective client and their company to move forward.

While the salesperson is pursuing their prospective client, without them knowing it, their prospective client is meeting with two other companies that are both equally well positioned to win the company's business, each of the other two being able to meet the client's needs with their own product or service, something all three believing their solution is superior. Each of the three companies and their salespeople believes the value they create is found in their solution.

Your Sales Conversation Is Your Greatest Value Add

How competition really works is that one of the three competitors will win the client's business, and while their product or service is a critical consideration in their decision, the salesperson that is most helpful and creates the greatest value will be the frontrunner in a contest. It is a rare occurrence that the product or service by itself is the dominant factor in who wins and who loses.

There is often a presentation, a proposal, and a pricing conversation. The salesperson and their team try their very best to answer the question, "why us," often going over the same ground they covered in the first meeting, when they used that conversation to make them credible. The client and their team ask questions to help them assess each of the companies and their approach to helping the client get what they need. Many of these questions are asked to determine how you are going to deal with problems and challenges the client's team wants to avoid.

How this stage of the conversation really works is that the company long ago knew who they were going to choose, as it was apparent in the first meeting and confirmed throughout the process. Many salespeople believe their "why us," and "why our solution" conversations are what cause them to win deals, but they don't understand why they lose, mostly because they don't realize they are playing the wrong game, ignoring the fact that the game is a contest as to who creates the greatest value.

Know How to Negotiate

A negotiation begins when the prospective client asks the salesperson to change something, usually the price. In most cases, the salesperson tucks their tail between their legs and limps back to their sales manager to ask them what kind of concession they are allowed to give their prospective client. Because the salesperson didn't defend the investment the client needs to make, the contact is certain they will pay less than they were asked to pay.

How negotiation really works is that the prospective client is trying to do right by their company. The best salespeople have already prepared the client to make the investment by triangulating their competition and teaching the client how to make the best decision and get what they need. They also push back and do everything in their power to help the client avoid taking money out of their initiative.

You can learn triangulation strategy in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative. If you want to improve your sales results, start by working on creating more value in the sales conversation as a way to differentiate yourself and create a preference to buy from you.

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Sales 2022
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 15, 2022
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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