It wasn’t the salesperson’s fault. He was young and unprepared, wearing a ball cap with his tech company’s logo and a pullover, also sporting the company’s logo. Like all true believers, he was certain that his company’s solution was better than any of their competitors, describing it as the “secret sauce,” and referring to their super-smart engineers.
The salesperson asked a lot of questions. Each question was to gain an understanding of the company and how they do things, including the software they used. He also asked about who would use his software and how they would use it.
The meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes, but it went for 75. There were six people on the buyer’s side, including several senior decision-makers and me. Somewhere around the 33-minute mark, one leader, uncertain why she was there, texted her assistant to ask who had scheduled this meeting. A few minutes later, her video disappeared because was unwilling to waste any more of her time with the salesperson.
It was clear the salesperson had no training. He believed his role was to offer a demo of the software, which was very much like his competitors’. At one point, he described his offering as “pricey” compared to the competition without explaining the reason behind its higher price. I expected him to justify the price by explaining how his company’s solution lowers the cost of the outcomes, but no explanation was offered.
After the meeting, I texted two people to complain that I learned nothing that would help improve our results. I am pro-salesperson, so I never give a salesperson a hard time. Selling is difficult enough that I wouldn’t want to discourage the salesperson or cause them to lose their confidence. That said, I learned nothing.
How to Disappoint a Decision Maker
To disappoint buyers and decision-makers, you need only to fail to teach something that would help them understand the nature of their problems or challenges. Buyers, decision-makers, and other stakeholders are trying to acquire information and insights that would allow them to improve their results.
You can also deflate an interested party by reciting basic information about your company and your solutions, which they could read on your website. If a prospective client booked a meeting through your website, it is an especially big turnoff to repeat that information. Salespeople ask questions to learn what we need to know to help our clients, but when a salesperson doesn’t ask questions that help their contact discover or understand something, that’s a missed opportunity.
The reason a salesperson fails to book a second meeting is because they created no value in the first meeting. We often describe a contact who disappears or misses the second meeting as having “ghosted” the salesperson. This isn’t a fair assessment. The reason the contact avoided a second meeting is because the salesperson bombed in the first one.
A Rule for Sales Calls
If you don’t create value for your contacts in the sales call, your prospective client is well within their rights to disengage and refuse to spend any more time with you or your salespeople.
If you have to offer only a pitch about your company and your solution, your contacts will feel you wasted their time, time they could have spent on something more valuable. It’s a mistake to lead with the value proposition, as it feels like a premature pitch, one that finds the salesperson miles in front of their buyers, leaving them far behind.
The Future of Professional Experts
A lot of folks don’t yet understand how much B2B sales has changed over the last decade. In our current environment of accelerating, constant, disruptive change, buyers are not interested in a salesperson who cannot create value on a strategic level. Instead, buyers are looking for an expert, someone that can lead them and ensure they succeed.
For all our talk about empathy in business, few salespeople put themselves in the buyer’s shoes. Your contacts fear making a poor decision that will reflect negatively on them. They also want to avoid making a purchase that makes their existing problem worse. They worry about their position and future should they fail.
No one wants or needs a salesperson that knows less than they do. One way you prove you are the right person to help your prospective clients is by educating them using information disparity, all the things that you know through your experience that you client hasn’t yet learned.
Your Buyer Wants to Discover Something in the Sales Conversation
In the new discovery, you are responsible for helping your contacts learn something they need to change. When you ask questions to acquire information you can easily find yourself, you send the message that you know and care little about the prospect’s company and industry. The longer you take to create value by educating your contacts, the more ground you lose, and the harder your work becomes.
To make this easier to understand, imagine you have 30 minutes to prepare your contact to make an important decision. What would you teach them in that short timeframe that would ensure they could succeed? This is how consultative selling works. If you find this challenging, you should reevaluate your sales approach and what you cover in a first meeting.
The ability to create value in the sales conversation is the main variable in winning or losing deals. When a salesperson cannot help clients discover something important during the sales conversation, they lose deals they would have won. Trust me, there is another salesperson who sells what you do who can provide buyers with a sales experience they want.
We describe this ability to create value as sales effectiveness, the most important factor for sales organizations that want to reach their goals and objectives. A higher win rate will contribute more to sales performance than almost anything else.