In recent posts here, I have suggested that success in sales is going to require professional expertise. As the uncertainty in our environment increases, buyers and decision-makers are hesitant to make changes that would improve their results, worrying they might make things worse.
Your contacts are looking for someone who can help them understand the source of their problems and challenges, why they are experiencing poor results, and how best to think about the changes they need to make. With large, enterprise-level clients and in complex sales, your discovery process should be equal parts educating and learning.
More than a decade after The Challenger Sale was published in 2011, most sales organizations haven’t moved on from the outdated legacy approaches to sales. The reason these sales organizations lose deals is because they do too little to educate their clients. This approach prevents salespeople from being One-Up, proving they are an authority and an expert in the results their clients need.
For more on the concept of One-Up, see Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
Sales and Marketing: A Comparison
The difference between sales communication and marketing communication is that sales is based on one-to-one conversations, while marketing is one-to-many communication. Most marketing organizations focus their messaging on the company and its offerings, with few helping salespeople to educate their prospective customers. Fewer still provide any help capturing mindshare.
When you hear that the disciplines of sales and marketing are merging, it means that sales reps are using a modern sales approach to market themselves and their experience to capture the attention of their strategic prospects.
I have no idea who launched the idea that answering the questions “Why change?” “Why now?” and “Why us?” is the best formula to follow in the sales conversation, but we owe them our gratitude. One way to begin capturing mindshare is by communicating to clients why they need to change and why they must do so now.
What Salespeople Are Taught
Look at any onboarding for salespeople and you find that most of the time is spent on the history of their company and the details of their offerings. When these salespeople write emails, they tend to parrot that information. They also mention a few big clients in hopes of gaining credibility. All their words are wasted because no contact is interested in information about the salesperson’s company. None of this does anything to capture mindshare.
What Buyers Want from Salespeople Now
One thing decision-makers want from B2B salespeople is an understanding of what is going on outside their windows, what’s working, what’s not, and why they are struggling to produce the better results they need. To gain your contact’s attention and begin capturing mindshare, you can provide them with an experienced perspective by explaining what’s changed or is changing.
To capture mindshare, you need to study the trends that create headwinds that cause companies to struggle or fail. You must use data to explain these challenges and their implications for the client’s business. Without data, you are sharing your opinion. With data, you are offering proof of your perspective.
Your emails and your sales pitch for a first meeting need to include insights that help your contact recognize things have changed or are changing.
Why Sales Reps Fail to Secure a Second Meeting
Sales reps who have a tough time booking a second meeting encounter problems because they don’t provide their contacts with any proof they are an expert and authority in the first meeting. Let’s leave the legacy approach out of this and look at what these One-Down salespeople prioritize in the sales conversation, namely questions.
Like their competitors, One-Down salespeople ask their contacts about the problem they are facing. They ask about the client’s pain points, following the well-worn path that other salespeople have plodded along. This proves that the salesperson cannot capture mindshare because they lack a deeper understanding of the contacts’ problems than the contacts themselves. They also have no ability to facilitate sales enablement. After this becomes clear in the first meeting, the contact moves on in their search for someone who can help them improve their results.
You should be asking questions, but not the questions that you should be able to answer yourself. You can use questions to help your contacts learn something about their problems and why they are having a tough time producing results.
The Rise of Consultative Selling and the End of Commoditized Discovery
Some sales organizations believe that the way they will reach their goals is by creating far more opportunities than they need to reach their targets. However, if a salesforce is unable to capture mindshare by using insights and their experience, they will lose to salespeople that can capture their mindshare. This is true regardless of how many opportunities a person has in their pipeline.
Complex sales require a consultative approach, one that allows the salesperson to lead their clients by providing counsel, advice, and recommendations. With mindshare, you position your advice and recommendations, making it easy for your client to recognize the context that surrounds your advice. This is especially true when understanding and facilitating the buyer’s journey.
How to Capture Mindshare
Much of my current writing is about the evolving sales challenges and what salespeople need to do to succeed now. You will never win all the clients you want, but you will win all the clients that want you.
The salesperson who owns most of the client’s mindshare is the one most likely to win their business. The salesperson with the business acumen and insights to shape their client’s view of their environment has an advantage over salespeople who believe that their company and their offerings are the variables to winning deals.
Your expertise, authority, and the sales experience have a greater impact on your success or failure in sales. All these strategies build trust and sales credibility with buyers and decision-makers and influencers.
Using stories in sales is often self-oriented and self-serving. The story you tell prospects about your big-name client does nothing to help you capture mindshare or prove that you can help someone else. You’re better off using business acumen and your experience to provide your prospective clients with a story about their current challenges and the trends that make things difficult, tailoring your information to their specific situation.
Leaving this article, assess your expertise and your authority when capturing mindshare. If you need help pursuing this path, look for sales training that provides the strategies that speed your development.