Discover how leading rather than following in client conversations can revolutionize your B2B sales approach.
Salespeople who believe they should allow their clients to lead the sales conversation are making a mistake, one that is almost certain to cause trouble for both the salesperson and their client. Your client doesn't have nearly as much knowledge as you do to identify the changes necessary to improve their results. Those who believe their contacts know how to succeed underestimate how difficult the buying process can be. If your friend is sick for a couple of weeks, you would probably recommend they go to the doctor. Similarly, if a business is failing to reach the results they need, they should talk to an expert who can offer assistance.
When the client determines the next steps in the sales conversation, they are likely to miss important points of discussion and fail to consider important factors. If the salesperson allows a client to deviate from the right path, they will also fail to make the commitments required for successful conversations. See The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales.
- Expert-Guided Decisions in Sales: Imagine you are a decision-maker. You have a serious problem in your business. You are failing your clients, which is causing some of them to leave. When this happens, it is likely because your clients lost the revenue they needed to reach their goals. Imagine you are a businessperson facing a critical decision. To get it right on the first try, would you be better off consulting someone who has helped dozens of other companies succeed in making this decision, or would you take a guess that might lead to failure?
- Overcoming Knowledge Gaps in Sales: Many people who write about sales believe that their clients know everything they need to make a key decision. When you believe your contacts have all the relevant information, you fail to share your knowledge and expertise, which they need to make the best decision. When people are uncertain and sense gaps in their knowledge, they seek an expert who can provide insights and information based on their experience.
- Navigating the Sales Process: Because the client is making a rare and important decision, they are unlikely to have experience buying what you sell. Since you help your prospective and existing clients navigate this path on a regular basis, you know where the difficult parts are, and how to prevent the client from failing to successfully complete their buyer's journey.
- Balancing Decision Factors in B2B Sales: When your contacts and buyers go through their decision-making process, it is common to encounter internal disagreement about how to weigh certain factors. One department might believe one aspect or feature is most important, while another job function emphasizes something different. A salesperson with a consultative approach will help the client find the right balance, not giving excessive importance to a factor that doesn't deserve it, and not underestimating something that should carry more weight.
- Risk Management in Client Consultations: When collaborating with stakeholders, some contacts may explain how something isn't right for the stakeholders and how the approach will cause problems in execution. A salesperson with experience knows what adjustments they can make to mitigate the risk for stakeholders and decision-makers, ensuring the client can achieve the strategic outcomes for success.
- Identifying Necessary Changes for Success: Many, if not most, salespeople believe that their solution is the only thing their prospective client needs to change. More often than not, the client will need to make changes in how they do certain things to achieve the best results. Without a sales professional who knows what must change and why, the client may fail to make necessary changes outside of the solution. This can prevent them from getting the best outcomes.
- Leading versus Following in B2B Sales: Imagine two salespeople are competing for a client’s business. The first salesperson is nice enough, they are polite and professional. But this salesperson is not consultative, offering no counsel, no advice, and no recommendations. The second salesperson is also polite and professional, but they are consultative, sitting next to their prospective client, ensuring they have a path forward by leading them. Those who don’t believe they should lead the client will sell transactionally, losing to a better sales rep.
- Building Confidence and Certainty in Sales: When decision-makers need to get a decision right, they seek confidence and certainty that they will produce the results and outcomes they need. The eight items listed here will give a salesperson the confidence and ability to help their client achieve success.
It is easy to identify the salespeople who sell enterprise and those who sell something less challenging. Salespeople who use a transactional approach don’t write or talk about the obligations they have to their contacts and their clients. Those who don’t work in complex sales may not be aware of the help buyers need to be able to pursue a change initiative. They may also not have ever experienced a prospective client fail to make the right decision on the first try, causing them to lose time, money, and clients.
You should be careful about the advice and the strategies you find on the social channels. You should never take advice from someone who hasn’t done what you need to do. The idea that the client doesn’t need the help you find above or the idea that you have no obligation to help your clients by using a consultative sales approach is bunk.
Leaving this article, assess your ability to lead your prospective client, preventing them from the mistakes and missteps that will harm their business. If you're missing some of these, see if you can add them into your sales approach.