In a workshop with an excellent sales force, we played a game from Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative. In this game, there are five rules, and breaking one disqualifies you.
Here is the scenario: You have secured a 25-minute meeting with a reclusive decision-maker. He has provided you with a list of rules you must obey. If you succeed, you will be invited to have a longer meeting and are likely to win their business.
Here are the five rules:
- You may not mention who you work for or what your company does.
- You must not mention any of your clients or your results.
- You are prohibited from mentioning your products or services.
- You are not allowed to create rapport.
- You can ask no questions to elicit the client’s dissatisfaction, problem, or hot button.
Most of the time, salespeople break one of the rules. The most common violation is Rule 2, with the salesperson suggesting how they can help the client with the better results they can provide. The second most frequent disqualification is Rule 5, having been trained to identify the client’s problem, and what they believe is necessary to insert their solution.
No matter what rule they break, I ask the player to tell me what I learned from them as the business owner and how it will help me make a critically important business decision. This is a harder question to answer because nothing they said created any value for me.
After playing this game, I do what many salespeople do in a first meeting, talking about my company, my clients and their results, and my services before asking about problems and pain points. Then I ask them to tell me what they learned that would help them make an important decision.
The Logic of The Five Rules
Most of the five rules comprise the information on your company’s website. This information is never more than a couple of clicks away. Your prospective client is almost certain to look at your website before your meeting. But even if they didn’t, none of the content in the first three rules is likely to create value for your client.
Rule 4 is here because busy people don’t spend time with people that don’t create value for them. You have a better chance of getting a second meeting by building rapport after you have proven you are a value creator instead of a time waster.
Rule 5 exists because having to ask the client about their problem and their pain points can cause the client to believe you are not an expert and an authority. You should already know what problems your clients have that you can solve and how it harms their business unless it is your third day on the job. In today’s environment, buyers and decision-makers, want to buy from someone that knows what they don’t know.
The way to win this game is to use information disparity to prove that you belong in the room where a decision is being considered. Information disparity means you know things your client doesn’t know that will enable them to confidently decide. The ability to provide a sales conversation built on helping the client know what they need to know will cause your prospect to have the sales experience that will cause them to buy from you.
With few exceptions, a salesperson is likely to be onboarded with the content of the first three rules and taught to use them to create credibility, trust, and relevance. A contact trying to acquire information that will help them to move their business forward will not find this conversation valuable.
You need to create a first meeting that immediately creates value for your clients by helping them understand the current environment, what has changed, and what forces and factors will affect their future results.
How to Win This Game
Here is another game that is worth playing. Imagine you quit your job and become a consultant. The only thing you sell is your advice and your counsel. You have no company, no clients, and no product or service. You only have your expertise and your advice, something your client will pay for should they choose you.
The way you win this game is by having knowledge and experience and transferring what you know to your client, so they can decide. Getting this right means you are making the client for your client, as your advice and counsel shaped the client’s decision.
To do this successfully, pretend you are responsible for deciding for your client and then list things they need to know to make a change that produces the better result the client needs.
What Did Your Client Learn?
In every sales conversation, you must measure your success by what your client learned that can help them. An inability to help enable your client’s decision is almost certain to cause your contacts to search for someone who can provide a better sales experience.
Most of the “opportunities” in pipelines with no second meeting is strong evidence your sales approach isn’t valuable for the client. How you sell is now a significant factor your clients are considering. The older sales methodologies are no longer as effective as they once were. Those who cling to the past because it was how they sold in the past will lose to salespeople with methodologies based on value creation strategies.
By focusing on creating value in the sales conversation by educating your clients you position yourself as the person your contact can count on to provide them with what they need to know to improve their results.