- A modern approach to sales calls for a new sales conversation.
- The outcomes of early conversations have changed, in large part due to our complex environment.
- The end goal is a sense of certainty, something that requires a different set of conversations.
This post may be a bitter pill for those who believe their clients buy from them because they like their company, their products, or both. Even though these things are important, their value can only be recognized (not to mention realized) after the client signs a contract. In reality, it is the value you create and deliver during the sales conversation that causes the client to buy from you—or to choose your competitor. Here are four characteristics of value creation that tip the scales in your direction.
You Make Sense of Their World
Your clients often experience something like dissonance, a lack of harmony that stems from living and working in an increasingly complex environment. What used to work for them is no longer effective, so they struggle to understand why they can’t produce the same results. If you look a level or two deeper than the average salesperson, you might notice that your clients are operating from a set of once-true assumptions that are no longer accurate. These assumptions are now conflicting with a new reality that they have not yet recognized or addressed.
One of the ways you create a preference to buy from you is by helping your client make sense of their world. Giving them an understanding of what has changed and why it is more difficult for to produce the results they need scores points by clarifying their context and their next steps. Legacy conversations about “why us” and “why our solution” are impotent when it comes to helping your client understand where they are and how they got there. Likewise, traditional discovery doesn’t create the same value as sense-making, since it seeks out a problem without explaining why the problem exists in the first place.
It is easy to justify buying from someone who helps you understand a complex world that, before your conversation, didn’t make sense to you.
You Guide the Right Decision
The direct path from discovery to “solution” was once a reliable and rapid path to a won deal. Now, that path has a greater likelihood of generating a “no-decision” than a signed contract. One challenge your clients face in making decisions is that they struggle to commit to a course of action when they fear that failure will just make things worse.
A healthy portion of the value you create in the conversations you have with your clients comes from your ability to help them make the right decisions for their business and their future results. If you help your contacts understand the factors they need to consider, the choices available to them, and how to weigh those factors, your prospective client will justify the decision to buy from you .
You Facilitate Their Buyer’s Journey
The linear representation of the sales process has been slowly and steadily losing its value as a guide to how to win deals. The same linearity limits the buyer’s journey model. What is needed now is an agile approach to the sales conversation, one that assumes nonlinearity and looks elsewhere for guidance. We describe this approach as a facilitated, needs-based buyer’s journey.
There are two necessary competencies here that create a preference to buy from you. First, you must recognize what your client needs to be able to start, move forward, and complete their journey—to move from their current state to the better future state they need. Their needs will almost certainly include making sense of their world. Second, you must facilitate that journey (The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales provides a useful map) by leading your client through it, not just speeding towards a contract.
How could the salesperson who provides the greatest help to their prospective client by making sense of their world, clarifying how to make the best decision, and facilitating the necessary conversations and commitments not rack up points?
You Create Certainty
Many of the factors that prolong your clients’ poor results, including a lack of consensus, stem from a sense of uncertainty. When change seems to be the only constant and your complex environment slings a steady stream of disruptions, it can be difficult to make any choices. This is especially true when software is eating the world, even threatening something as critical as your business model.
Sense-making, guiding good decisions, and facilitating the buyer’s journey all create a sense of certainty that is missing in traditional approaches to the sales conversation. To provide that certainty, you may need to prove that your company and your solution are going to work for your client, but that won’t replace the certainty required for your client to change in the first place, a decision that precedes who they choose as a partner.
Your clients may not recognize why they prefer to buy from you, in large part because they don’t evaluate their needs from the perspective of someone trying to serve them in a meaningful way. Their experience is what drives the preference to buy from you, and that experience is delivered in and through your valuable, thoughtful, and consultative conversations.
Do Good Work:
- What do you need to know to be able to explain your client’s world to them?
- How do you recognize what your contacts need from you to successfully start and complete their buyer’s journey?
- How do create a sense of certainty around the decision to change and how best to achieve it?