One common mistake in B2B sales is believing that you need your dream client to buy your solution. Winning a deal, especially winning a big deal, is an important outcome, but it’s not the only one—in fact, focusing only on the purchase makes selling more difficult! An attachment to winning can cause you to miss the outcome that begins the process of buying, including buying from you: being compelled to change.
Prioritizing the need to change is even more critical when you are in a competitive displacement business, one that requires you to eject your competitor from their warm, comfortable position as your dream client’s partner. They may have earned that spot years ago, but now they’re complacent, entitled, and neglectful, guilty of waiting so long to create new value that no one can remember the last time they offered a new idea to improve their client’s results. (To be fair, your competitor might accuse you of the same high crimes and misdemeanors when they’re trying to steal your clients!) You create new opportunities by helping your client find reasons to change when they aren’t already motivated.
You Don’t Need Them to Buy
The reason you don’t need your client to buy is because that outcome happens automatically, provided you fulfill your responsibility to help your client through the sales conversation. Once you provide them with a consultative conversation, one that starts with a conversation about change, a sale is a natural result.
In The Lost Art of Closing, you will find ten commitments that drive sales, starting with the commitment of time, i.e., gaining a meeting, and moving from there to the commitment to explore. In Eat Their Lunch, you’ll learn to develop a set of insights that provides your contacts with the trends, factors, and obstacles that can constrain or even harm their results—especially valuable information when your client’s decision-makers and decision-shapers don’t know what they don’t know.
Combining these two approaches lets you start the sales conversation with reasons why your client needs to change now or in the near future. Before your client can believe that they need to buy what you sell, they first have to understand why they need to change and what they’d get for their trouble. There is no better conversation to have with decision-makers, especially the ones that are perched on the higher branches of the hierarchy, since they often care the most about better results.
There is no reason to buy anything if there is no reason to buy anything. You need to provide those reasons, especially when your prospective client doesn’t know what should be compelling them to change.
How Not to Win Deals
You win (and lose) most deals early in the process, even if you don’t find out until days or weeks later. One way to make it harder on yourself is by believing and behaving as if your prospective clients are already compelled to change.
Don’t start the conversation by trying to list all the reasons your prospective client should buy from your company specifically. You may think that move establishes your credibility, but it usually has the opposite effect: it takes you and your client out of alignment since they haven’t yet decided that they should change. Another unhelpful approach is to tell your contacts all the ways you have helped your existing clients. As captivating as those stories must be, the only results that your prospective client cares about are their own.
Think Like a Client
The ability to take on another person’s perspective is a critical competency for salespeople (and pretty much any functional adult). Imagine that you are buying something big, something you don’t do often, and that there’s a risk if you get the decision wrong. How would you want a salesperson to help you? How would you respond to a salesperson who wants you to buy something that you don’t believe you need?
As a pointed Facebook meme reminds us, a lot more people want change than want to change themselves. Would you want someone to help you understand why you should change? Would you find it valuable for them to explain your choices and some of the things you need to consider to get the decision right? What might you need to talk about before you can start looking at what the right solution might be?
Rushing past the conversation your prospective client needs to have makes you less likely to win their business. When you slow down and help them understand why they might change, how to think about the decision, and what choices they have, you allow the value you create to create a preference to work with you.
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