One challenge in employing a modern sales approach based on providing insight is that your contacts often harbor beliefs that are false, outdated, or both. Attempting to argue with a decision maker to get them to forfeit their beliefs is a fool’s errand.
A more effective and professional strategy is to furnish your contacts with updated beliefs, ones that will enhance their results and solve their problems. This strategy is called context locking. In context locking, you provide your client with information designed to shatter their false beliefs and assumptions, replacing them with new information. This locks in the context to help the client see what has changed and what actions may be necessary to achieve their desired results. Execution of this strategy in the first meeting is crucial, as its effectiveness diminishes later in the conversation.
The First Meeting and the Executive Briefing
One way we enable a modern sales approach is by providing an executive briefing at the very beginning of the first meeting. There are several reasons to use this approach.
- When you provide an executive briefing, your client feels that you are creating value for them by sharing insights. You are already getting points for not wasting their time.
- You present yourself as an expert and an authority in your industry. Because you know things no one else has shared with the contact, you differentiate yourself and your approach, scoring more points.
- Your executive briefing has started with a conversation about change. Many salespeople wait to try to compel their clients to change at the end of the sales process, instead of where it belongs, right at the beginning of the sales conversation.
- When done well, your executive briefing will lock in the context of the sales conversation your client needs to recognize that things have changed.
- You will have an easier time confirming a second meeting because of your approach, one that decision makers prefer.
Breaking False Assumptions
To build and execute an executive briefing that will replace the client’s outdated assumptions, you will need to know what assumptions you need to remove and replace. Because you spend time with clients every day, you can pick up on their beliefs. When you notice a belief is no longer true, or maybe one that was never true, you want to add it to a list you will use to ensure your executive briefing is built to provide new information and insights.
It’s easier to break false assumptions indirectly. The executive briefing does a lot of work for you. You are sharing an insight that comes with a citation from a reputable source. You didn’t say your contact’s beliefs are wrong. The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal printed it, making it a fact. This approach prevents you from trying to argue your contact out of a long-held belief. Providing hard evidence to back up your insights gives you credibility, which can encourage your contact to question their assumptions.
Done well, you can remove the false beliefs and replace them with new ones that will help the client make the best decision for their company and their strategic outcomes. An executive briefing helps you do this without alienating your contact and their teams.
A Real-Life Scenario
A sales leader believed nothing in sales has changed in the 21st century, a misconception that will harm his results, if it hasn’t already. He believed that the way he sold in the past was the way salespeople will always sell. Because he was clinging to his outdated beliefs, he was unmoved.
This sales leader’s peer at the same company had an executive briefing that provided the context that could update her contacts’ knowledge using a set of insights designed to produce this outcome.
These two sales leaders could not agree on what they should do because they were working from different contexts. The leader relying on old ways of doing things could not understand that his colleague had a higher-resolution lens, one that allowed her to see what had changed.
Had the first leader been properly briefed about what had changed, he might have accepted the new context he would need to make the best decision for his company and their results.
What You Need to Know
You need to be One-Up. That means you need to have the knowledge, information, and insights your clients are missing. When one person rarely faces a particular decision, they may lack the knowledge they need to understand the best way forward. The world has likely changed since they last made a similar decision, so their beliefs and assumptions are likely to be outdated. Because you help your clients every day, you have information that isn’t available to your contacts.
You can learn how to improve your status with your clients and prospects by reading and practicing the strategies in Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative.
The Value of Context Locking
The value of context locking is that it provides you with a way to provide your contacts with new information, which they need to make good decisions. What your client doesn’t know can harm them, and this is something they worry about. No one wants to get a rare and important decision wrong, especially when getting it wrong comes with real consequences.
You don’t want to try to argue about the context of the decision, so it is best to establish it at the beginning of the sales conversation. The longer you go without providing the context, the more difficult it will be to provide the new context they need to understand how best to make change.
In a contest between you and your competitors, the one who creates the most value for the client will win. When your competitor has no concept or strategy to update the client’s beliefs, they will have a difficult time winning a deal over an approach that includes a strategy for providing context and the insights the contact and their company need to generate the strategic outcomes they are pursuing.
Leaving this article, list false beliefs your clients have and the insights to provide new context. If you need help, go here.