The Gist:

  • It is critically important to guide your clients through the conversations necessary to improving their results.
  • It’s also important that you have the right conversations at the right time.
  • Time each conversation based on its ability to create value for decision-makers and your other contacts.

There are some conversations that create greater value for your clients earlier in the conversation. Other conversations are more valuable later. In part, your clients perceive that value based on the timing and the context of the conversation. You want to match your conversations to the client’s needs, even if it means placing them “out of order” from how you were trained.

Mismatched Early Conversations

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Mismatched Early Conversations

Several conversations are not effective in creating value for the decision-makers and decision-shapers early in the sales process. They’re not necessarily bad topics to cover, but they are out of sequence—they don’t give your contacts what they need at the beginning of their journey.

Why Us: You may have been taught and trained to share your company’s story as a way to establish your credibility. This approach is out of sync with modern clients’ needs for two reasons. First, your company’s history or reputation creates no value for them as it pertains to the decision they are making (although it may do so later). Second, until you discuss what your client needs and what they need to do, any attempt to pitch your company as the right choice is premature.

Why Our Solution: The earlier you mention your solution, the more difficulty you will have making the conversation valuable for your contacts. Much like the “why us” conversation, mentioning your solution early pressures your client to make a choice before they understand why they should prefer your solution over alternatives.

Personal Rapport Building: In general, trying too hard to develop personal rapport early can cause your client to believe that you are wasting their time—especially if you promised an agenda that your client would find helpful independent of a sale. That said, in some industries or territories, clients may expect some personal rapport building before getting down to business. In other contexts, that same rapport building may cost you the opportunity.

Mismatched Late Conversations

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Mismatched Late Conversations

Along the same lines, there are some conversations that you are better off having earlier. The longer you wait to discuss important factors and decisions, the more trouble you will have successfully navigating the rest of the deal. Moving these conversations up improves the value you create for your contacts and improves your ability to win their business.

Why Change: In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, the commitment to change comes third in my nonlinear model of the sales conversation. The commitment to explore change is relatively easy to acquire because it doesn’t require actual change. But going through a number of conversations without a firm commitment to invest in necessary change often results in a “no-decision.” This conversation is more valuable earlier than later.

Consensus: The worst possible time to help your client recognize the need to build organizational consensus is after you have already covered the need to change, what the right initiative looks like, and how best to go about delivering better results. Moving the consensus conversation earlier provides a much better approach to planning the initiative and ensuring that both parties can execute it.

The Investment: Don’t let your formal presentation and proposal be the first time your client learns about your pricing options. The delay can put your contacts in an awkward position: they’ve already invested time and effort in the conversations with you, only to find out that the financial investment you are asking them to make is far greater than they expected. You provide your contacts with a better experience and a greater chance of getting the outcomes they need when you discuss money earlier in the conversation, even if your only provide a price range.

What Your Client Must Do: One reason sales organizations fail to execute for and with their clients is that they don’t explain what changes their client is going to need to make in order to produce the better results. But if you are truly consultative, your client will change their behavior and beliefs based on your trusted counsel. That change may also let you displace a competitor and provide your client with a new approach.

A Time for Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn!)

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A Time for Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn!)

The very best time to have the “why us” conversation is when the information you provide is directly related to your ability to produce the results your client needs. Likewise, the best time to explain “why our solution” is when it allows your client to recognize how your differentiation benefits them. Hopefully, your sales conversations have been different and created more value than any of your competitors’ conversations, positioning you to win the deal.

If you’ve been losing deals due to the order of your conversations, be proactive in avoiding those patterns of problems. For example, if your clients experience a form of sticker shock when you share the investment you require, it’s better to position your higher price earlier in the conversation, then use the subsequent conversations to justify your higher prices and explain how your approach leads to lower costs. Similarly, if you win your client’s business only to fail them during execution because they didn’t make the necessary changes to make your approach work, bring up that change earlier next time through the sales conversation.

Increasingly, how you sell is the primary variable to your success. The higher your overall effectiveness in creating the appropriate value at the appropriate time, the greater your chances of creating and winning deals, especially big deals. Plan and structure your conversations based on what your client needs, and be prepared to justify moving a conversation earlier or later in the sequence.

Do Good Work:

  • Recognize when a conversation seems to be most valuable to your client and the sales process.
  • When you notice that delaying certain conversations causes you and your prospect problems, move those conversations forward.
  • Work to improve the prospective client experience for your prospects and your existing clients.
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Sales 2021
Post by Anthony Iannarino on July 5, 2021
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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