Setting the Table
When you and your prospective client sit down at a literal table they bring a lot of figuratively tasty appetizers, including their openness to exploring change, their desire to improve their outcomes, and their willingness to obtain help from a person and a company that can improve their outcomes. But they also bring their false assumptions and misconceptions, their past mistakes, and a long list of concerns about making a change—including the hidden commitments they have to their position within their company, their fear of failing, how others will perceive them and their decisions. Even though change is necessary to improve their outcomes, every prospect will perform a risk assessment, balancing their openness and their need to change with the risks that come with any significant change.
Some salespeople bring too little to the table, decreasing the client's openness and their willingness to explore change and increasing their concerns about making a significant change and even greater concern about buying from the salesperson. The legacy approach that relies on a conversation about their company, their clients, and their products and services is inadequate, even if it was once effective.
Assertions 1–4: How You Win Deals
Assertion 1: You win a competitive deal because you create a preference to buy from you instead of from any of your competitors.
Assertion 2: The way you create that preference is by differentiating yourself and the way you deliver your outcomes from the rest of the field.
Assertion 3: You create meaningful differentiation when you create greater value than your competition.
Assertion 4: You create value by providing your prospective client with an experience and a conversation they find to be the most valuable to them as they consider change.
Accepting these assertions as true means recognizing that you lose deals because your client did not to prefer to buy from you—not because of your price or your product, but because you didn't differentiate yourself by creating greater value during your conversations.
Assertions 5–8: The Goals of Discovery
Assertion 5: Decision-makers make decisions. Because this is true, decision-makers need help deciding how to improve their company and their future results.
Assertion 6: Your prospective client doesn't find value in early conversations designed to create certainty that your company is the right choice, as that doesn’t contribute anything to their decision-making.
Assertion 7: Your contact already knows their problem. Asking them to tell you about it will create too little value—and cause them to doubt whether you are the right person to help them improve their results.
Assertion 8: When a prospective client doesn't agree to have another meeting with you, it is because they didn’t find you or your insights valuable enough to continue the conversation. You must bring so much to the table that your contact not only accepts your request for a second meeting but genuinely looks forward to it.
Assertions 9–14: Showing Your Value
Assertion 9: The salesperson who can best explain the client's current state, showing both the external forces and the internal conflicts, has created a level of value greater than their competitors. They can make sense of uncertainty and complexity, providing the client with a clear view of their real challenges.
Assertion 10: The salesperson who can effectively replace the client's false assumptions and misconceptions creates value that enables the client to better understand how to make a good decision—and almost certainly who to buy from. Providing a client with a new, higher resolution lens allows them to discover something about themselves.
Assertion 11: The salesperson who creates the greatest value explains how to determine what factors the client needs to consider and how best to weigh their choices. Those who try to differentiate on their product and service lose to salespeople who differentiate on their model.
Assertion 12: People buy from people they trust to make a decision they don't trust themselves to make (hat tip: Chris Beall).
Assertion 13: The commitment to continue the conversation is proof that your client finds your conversation more valuable than your competition.
Assertion 14: From this point forward, assume that at least one or two of your competitors know how to bring more to the table than the rest of the field.
Assertions 15–18: Breaking the Legacy
Eat Their Lunch begins with the idea that you are the value proposition every time you sell, making you responsible for creating the greatest value for your client within the sales conversation. This was true when I wrote it in 2018, and it's only become more important since then. Unfortunately, most B2B salespeople and quite a few B2B buyers still use legacy models of buying and selling. Breaking that legacy means bringing a completely new dish to the table.
Assertion 15: If you want your client to change how they buy, you have to provide them with an experience that causes them to do something different. Leadership always means setting an example.
Assertion 16: Those who create a preference, differentiate themselves and their model, and create greater value do so by leading their clients through the sales conversation.
Assertion 17: The reason so many deals wither on the vine (or in a pipeline full of other dead deals) is because the legacy approach isn't adequate for the client to move forward.
Assertion 18: Many salespeople don't reach their quota because their approach doesn't allow them to create or win enough deals to hit their targets.
Do Better Work
My fourth book on modern sales, Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, will be released on February 23, 2022. It provides 10 major strategies that will speed your ability to pursue a modern, “one-up” sales process. I’m still deciding on the cover art, but meanwhile you can preorder it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
The series started with The Only Sales Guide, a competency model for the modern sales approach. The Lost Art of Closing shows you how to facilitate your client's buyer's journey in a world of non-linear sales processes. Eat Their Lunch outlines how to create greater value and win competitive deals. All four books will help you develop these assertions into a full-blown sales strategy.