Achieving sales excellence is not a business as usual challenge. Industries are going through transformational changes that are impacting what companies buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.
So how does a salesperson engaged in a complex B2B sale know what they need to know and do what they need to do in this business environment? The first overarching answer is one is unlikely to get there by simply doing a better job doing of what everyone else is doing. If differentiation is the goal, and it should be, you need to do something different rather than something better.
So, what might that look like? In situations such as these, where a different strategy is needed, it’s always a great idea to seek an answer by starting with the notion that you “must get on the customer’s side of the table.”
Today the person on the other side of the table brings a different set of pressures, opportunities, and needs than in times past. They are more concerned about the unknown than the known. They look at the big picture vs. individual snapshots. And, most importantly they are seeking fresh perspectives on problems that matter.
If that is the person with whom you are about to have a business conversation, how do you stand out from everyone else? How do you bring a piece of value others will not? Let’s take a look at what doesn’t work, and then explore what might.
Most people in sales are well schooled in the Discovery Conversation. This conversation starts with the salesperson asking questions about a problem they believe the customer is concerned about. It continues with a further exploration of the problem and then a discussion about how the problem can be solved.
If this is the type of discussion, then successful differentiation is an unlikely. Why?
- It is the same set of questions that have been asked by all the other salespeople.
- More importantly, the time spent vs. the value received doesn’t work out very well. Time is spent on educating the sales person about a problem the customer already understands. This is a good way to have a short meeting and a great approach for not having a second.
What’s the alternative? One option is the Point of View conversation. The Point of View discussion focuses on helping the customer bring a fresh perspective to framing the problem and to consider creative and innovative alternative solutions.
This, of course, is one of those ideas that is easy to say and not so easy to do. It requires hard work and expertise but customers will understand and value the difference because the time is spent with the customer learning something they didn’t know vs. the salesperson learning something the customer already knew.
So what are requirements for getting that right? The fundamental requirement is you must to know the trends and shifting economics of the customer’s industry and have a comprehensive up-to-date picture of the company’s strategic direction and business challenges. Let’s highlight three sweet spots for getting that right.
- Tap into Internal Resources. Sales reps need to make sure they are optimizing the use of the resources provided by internal Marketing and Sales Enablement functions. Although the quantity and quality will vary by company, this is a good place to start when getting the required data and information.
- Leverage External Technology. Here the good news is there are now affordable information sources that can be acquired from external sources. The good ones are available on tablets and smartphones so they can be use as a just-in-time source of information. A best-of-breed example is Sweetspot. Sweetspot is a great tool for sales reps because it provides in-depth, up-to-date information about an extensive variety of industries and the companies within those industries in an easy-to-use format.
- Review with Sales Manager. Particularly if one is calling on a Senior Executive, it makes great sense to spend time with your Sales Manager using the required information to formulate a compelling perspective for your dialogue with the Senior Executive. Senior Executives will clearly appreciate that you spent the time to understand their company and to bring new insights to the discussion versus a well-rehearsed product pitch.
Anytime a transformation change is going on in an industry, a new set of winners and losers emerge. One answer for being among the former is to increase the sales intelligence of your team to enable them to make a difference that matters.