Becoming a sales detective


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There is little doubt that salespeople in the B2B market are finding their buyers’ journeys more complex and more subject to change than ever before.  These added complications are due to factors from the disruptive trends of the time to the simple fact that more people are engaged in the buying process.

If buyers change how they buy, then sellers need to change how they sell.  Assumptions once held to be universally true need to be reassessed.  Sales skills need to be updated and realigned to meet the new journey and expectations.

One aspect of meeting this challenge is the recognition that more unknowns will exist.  Some of unknowns will be ease to identify.  As a matter of fact, the customer themselves may surface the new problems or objections that must be addressed.

The more problematic unknowns are those lurking underneath the surface.  The ones that negatively impact your probability of winning the business yet are never discovered or discovered too late.  Let’s call these high impact unknowns Consequence Issues.

So as our detective friend Sherlock Holmes might note – “the game is a foot.”  How do we detect these Consequence Issues?  What are the clues that something lurks just beneath the surface?  Let’s explore those questions by examining some research from my old colleague Neil Rackham related to conditions that tend to increase the probability of the existence of a Consequence Issue and some early warning signals of actions by the customer that all is not well.

Early warning conditions.   Four conditions that increase the probability of a Consequence Issue occurring are as follows:  

  • Large decisions
  • High visibility decisions
  • Competitor’s association with the customer
  • Unfamiliar technology or methodology for the customer

Customer actions.  What might customers do that are signs a Consequence Issue is likely to impact their decision process? Here are 6 behavioral signs.

  • Resurfacing of previously resolved issues
  • Unrealistic concerns about price or performance
  • Unjustified postponements
  • Unwillingness to meet
  • Withholding information
  • Unnecessary worries about implementation

Summary.  The major challenge related to Consequence Issues is usually not their resolution; it’s surfacing them in the first place.  In that regard as our fabled detective would share “it’s elementary” – just follow the clues.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Ruff
For more than 30 years Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Dick has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Dick is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, and the Sales Training Connection.


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