Every company wants its sales force to be successful, creating and winning new opportunities, and generating net new revenue. The company's leaders determine how the sales force pursues those goals by providing processes, methodologies, frameworks, and other tools they believe will improve their results.
Many sales leaders choose to provide their sales force with the processes and methodologies they used when they were in sales without paying attention to the changes that have created a need for new approaches. These newer approaches differentiate the salesperson and provide greater value for prospective clients, increasing the sales force's effectiveness.
Salespeople complain that the approaches that their companies mandate make it difficult to engage with their contacts when they start the conversation with a legacy approach, the kind that starts with a slide deck that provides an overly long overview of the company and its bona fides. Unsure that the company is positioned well enough, the salesperson is required to show the client a set of their client's logos, making it impossible not to recognize the salesperson's company is a safe choice. When the marketing team has added all the many slides they believe the salesperson needs, the product leaders add additional content to position the product or service, something they inflate, describing it as a "solution."
Most clients are too polite to object to the salesperson stealing fifteen minutes of their lives, hoping that at some point their nightmare ends and the salesperson engages them in a conversation. All marketers and product leaders who create these slide decks should be required to present them to no less than ten prospective clients to feel the full force of the lack of engagement the salesperson experiences using this approach.
What To Do When Your Company Makes You Use a Legacy Approach
When you ask your client for their time, you are obligated to ensure you use that time well, creating value for them by helping them understand why they need change and how best to improve their results. Any conversation that doesn't serve the client is a one that is not necessary, it is one that creates anti-value, and wastes their time.
Instead of positioning yourself as an authority at the start of the conversation, the client wonders why you are trying to position your company and your product or service before you have had a conversation. This approach is transactional, as it is essentially a pitch before engaging in a conversation with the client. This is a One-Down approach in a world where clients need a One-Up approach, one where the salesperson creates value inside the sales conversation.
If it is possible for you to avoid using a legacy approach, you should start a conversation with something the client finds valuable, like an executive briefing with data that updates the client's assumptions, providing them the context they need to understand why they have trouble producing the results they need, and helping them recognize the root cause.
If you must use the legacy approach to a first meeting to be compliant, make a hard pivot at the end of your "why us," "more about us," "don't you think we're great," slides. The longer it takes for you to engage the client in a conversation they find valuable, the more difficult it is going to be for you to gain a second meeting.
Recognizing What and Why Your Client Buys
A salesperson walks into a client's office by themselves. There is rarely anyone else from the company joining them on a first meeting. With few exceptions, it's rare to have the product or the service in the room with the client during an early conversation, and if it was available, it would feel like a pitch.
As far as the client is concerned, the salesperson is the company, and the best example of the value the company and their products and service create. If the salesperson creates value for the client, that value accrues to the company and their "solution." When a salesperson creates no value or the anti-value that is measured in time wasted, that is the client's perception of the company and their ability to be a good potential partner.
A Theory of Value Creation in the Sales Conversation
The salesperson who provides the client with insights, information, and a perspective on their business, creates value for the client, as the conversation helps them to make a good decision about their future results. Having created that value in a first meeting makes it certain the salesperson can progress to a second conversation. But the opposite is also true.
A salesperson who doesn't create enough value for their contacts in a first meeting will find it next to impossible to acquire another meeting, having already proven they will waste the client's time and leave them no better than where they found them.
Your company is the best in the business, just like your competitors. Your product and service are also the best, just like your competitors. Your logos are an amazing testament to how safe it is to choose your company and your "solution," exactly like your competitors. You are differentiating in the exact same way your competitor is differentiating, making both of you look like a commodity. When you act like a commodity, you are certain to be treated like one.
The contest is one of value creation, with the one creating the most value winning and the time wasters getting a call that their prospective client decided to go another direction, that direction is away from a sales organization that doesn't understand what the client needs from the sales organizations.