The major mistake sales organizations make is believing their product or service is their primary competitive advantage. This belief motivates them to position their salespeople as an order-taker and their product or service as a commodity. Instead of creating a competitive advantage, these approaches eliminate any chance of differentiating their people or creating a preference to buy from their company. To escape from that results-killing belief, you have to rework your legacy discovery call into a competitive advantage.
Revising Your Discover Call
When everyone uses the same old, tired, worn-out, and completely commoditized discovery call, itself a function of the equally exhausted linear sales process, there is no real opportunity to develop the greater value you need to create a competitive advantage. Linear and repeatable methods might have been useful when the B2B environment was more stable, and they certainly promised straightforward success, but they simply don’t work anymore.
The legacy approach solved the sales organization’s problems by making it easier for the salesperson to sell. It was not designed to help buyers improve their ability to make the decisions that would improve their results. Even now, as more sales organizations reconsider the buyer's journey, their view is narrowly focused on making it easier to sell, with little attention to helping the client and their company change.
Help Your Buyers Through Decision-Enablement
To create a preference to buy from you, you have to create meaningful differentiation in the few conversations allotted to you. Reaching that goal has little to do with your company, your product or service, or your existing client base. Instead, it depends on your ability to create value for your prospective client. If you believe that decision-makers decide, then you must recognize that value comes from helping them make good decisions—ones that produce the better results they need.
One reason that selling is so difficult is because buyers aren't very good at buying. As more and more B2B initiatives fail to meet their goals, more and more clients suffer from buyer’s remorse and hesitate to change anything. Part of their problem with buying stems from their unwillingness to spend more time with salespeople, choosing instead to spend more time doing research on the internet. Yes, that’s the same internet with hundreds of videos about why the earth is flat.
In a world that doles out new heights of complexity and uncertainty almost daily, the advantage goes to the salesperson who can best help their prospective client understand the forces that will affect their business. That value creates a differentiated experience for their prospective client, one that helps them understand why and how they need to address the forces of a complexity that feels more like chaos. When you can explain how those forces work, your client will not just buy from you but turn to you deepen their understanding.
Because both buying and selling are difficult, part of your task is facilitating a needs-based buyer's journey, negotiating the process with your client to ensure that they can make a good decision. This includes planning and scheduling the sales conversations that you need to have with your main contacts and other internal stakeholders at the client’s company. You can better control this process by helping the client understand why the conversations are necessary, earning more of your client’s time and helping contribute to better decisions and more positive outcomes. That time also helps your client determine fit, a key factor in differentiating yourself from your competitors.
While a conversation about products and services (call them “solutions” if you must) can be informative, it does little to differentiate you and your company. What works better is teaching the client how to evaluate the different delivery models available to them. As an expert, you know that the different delivery models that companies choose often play a large part in the buyer's success or their failure, mostly because they perceive them as interchangeable commodities (even though the client will tell you how and why their company is different from all their competitors).
Start Thinking About Sales as Change Management
B2B sales is not just about selling products but about managing change. Both buyers and sellers underestimate the difficulty of organizational change. After all, it’s hard enough for a single individual to change, and it gets exponentially more difficult when dealing with multiple people’s hidden commitments, incentives not to change, conflicts over the results that need the most attention, and confusion over how best to address them. If you don't know why you keep buying a venti Frappuccino on your way to work each morning, even though you know you shouldn't, imagine trying to figure out why the fifteen people on the task force you are selling to are doing things that make no sense.
When a contact or a group of stakeholders are uncertain, they often do nothing, even if their inaction is the problem. When failure is likely, it's easier to stick with the status quo, regardless of the harm. People adjust to their problems instead of resolving them when they are unsure of the future outcome. Yet, most salespeople try to convince clients early on that they absolutely should buy from their company, ignoring the fact that the client is still uncertain about whether to change in the first place. That gets the order of a change initiative backward—not to mention increasing the client’s concerns later. You are better off addressing the concerns you find all along the sales conversation, creating a compelling reason to change and following it with a strong approach to create the certainty of positive outcomes that will follow.
The sale doesn't end when your client signs a contract, but when you help them secure the better results they need. When your work and advice ensures your buyer succeeds, you get to capture the next opportunity without having to compete at all.