The reason you talk about your company and your solution during a sales conversation is that you don’t have anything better to talk about. But once you find that alternative, you can start producing valuable, meaningful conversations with your clients—and get much better results.
In B2B sales, the conversation should be less about your company and your solutions and more about exploring change, exchanging insights and ideas, and compelling change. Far too few B2B salespeople utilize a modern, consultative approach, leaving themselves wide open for a competitor to eat their lunch. Here’s what you need to know about making your conversations genuinely valuable.
Getting Over Yourself
You finally got the meeting you wanted, and now you are sitting in front of the contact you have been pursuing for weeks. There is an enormous temptation to begin the conversation by introducing yourself and your company. Your marketing department wants you to tell your story, so they have provided you with a certified, approved version of the slide deck, chock-full of images designed to convince your prospect that both you and your company are more than competent enough to help them get better results.
Though your contact may nod politely through your history lesson, inside they are just nodding off. You’ll never have them stop you and tell you that they have heard enough, that your company’s story is so compelling that no questions remain, and that they cannot wait to join the parade of recognizable logos on slide seven.
The mistake here is believing that only the external evidence in your slide deck proves that you belong in the room. But really, the only way to convince your dream client that they made a good decision allowing you to have some part of their morning is to create value for them, something you do through a meaningful conversation.
Using What You Already Know
Let’s start with first principles here. You are sitting across from your contact because you called them, left voicemails, sent emails, connected with them on LinkedIn (without straight pitching them three seconds later), and persisted long enough to earn a meeting. You would not—or should not— have put forth this effort if you did not believe that your prospective client had just the right kind of problem for you to solve.
At one time, I would have claimed that you need a theory about why they should change, but that idea is no longer accurate when it comes to professional B2B sales or a truly consultative approach. Helping your clients change their results means helping them change the primary assumptions from which they operate. So by the time you sit down with a decision-maker or a decision-shaper, you already need to know the assumptions they have made and how those beliefs conflict with reality.
That prior knowledge enables a strategic conversation, one in which you can help your client see with a higher-resolution lens. Your discussion should also help you sharpen your own lens—by adding another contact’s perspective, considering their experience, and learning how things work in their company or their industry.
Being unprepared to have a bigger, better conversation leaves you with the need to fill time from some sort of outdated discovery script, working hard to make your prospect confess some sort of problem so you can move on to talking about your solution.
Measuring the Value of Your Conversation
Imagine you are your client. You have agreed to a meeting with a salesperson who asked you, repeatedly, for some of your time. You are expecting to have a conversation about your business, your challenges, the potential solutions they might recommend, and how they might help you improve your results. After trying a little bit too hard to build rapport, the salesperson opens their laptop lid and start talking about their company. Or maybe they ask what challenges you are facing now, sounding for all the world like an overworked HMO who just wants you to tell him where it hurts.
Seven minutes later, you suspect, you’ll have a prescription for Zithromax and be on your way home. Sure, the pills might help you feel better—and the salesperson’s solution might improve your results—but you can’t help thinking, “I am no better off now than I was before this conversation.”
Now imagine a different kind of client experience. A salesperson sits down across from you and starts by sharing with you some of the systemic challenges that are impacting your business and how they are manifesting in your industry. After giving you some insight into the forces that cause those problems, the salesperson asks you several thoughtful, strategic questions to help you get your bearings on how these challenges arise.
The combination of sharing insights and asking questions not only gets you closer to a diagnosis, but it allows you to understand the nature of your challenges. In short, you have learned something valuable: how to recognize, predict, and potentially counteract your challenges.
The Most Valuable Conversation Wins
It’s important to remember that selling is a competition: you are competing to create the greatest value for your clients. The more value you create through the sales conversation, the greater your chances of winning your dream client’s business. But the opposite is also true: if your contact is left no better after having met with you, you didn’t create the kind of value that would cause them to prefer you over your whip-smart, supremely likable competitor.
When your prospective client is generous enough to give you the gift of their time, show your gratitude by using it wisely and by having the best, most strategic, conversation possible. Make their life better by having had a conversation with you—even if they never buy from you. By creating this level of value, you make it increasingly likely that they will buy from you.
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