There’s the old story about 4 Blind Men, one on each side of an elephant, each is asked to feel the elephant in front of them and describe what they “see.” You know the story, each describes the elephant differently because they each had a different perspective.
I think this is a good description of selling. I think of 4 of us around the “elephant.” The sales person, two competitors and the customer. I bet you thought the elephant represented the customer, but that’s really not the case. The “elephant” represents the customer needs, requirements, and opportunities. Everyone has a different perspective of what the needs are, and no one has the complete perspective—even the customer. Typically, sales people explore the customer needs and requirements and add that to their own interpretation or “read” of the requirements (sometimes called wishful thinking). But the sales person doesn’t have a complete view of the “elephant.”
Great sales professionals get the customer to see the entire elephant–not just their piece. Sales people that don’t take the time to adequately probe and understand the customer and to look more broadly are disadvantaged. They can only describe and react to the part of the elephant that’s in front of them–but they aren’t understanding the entire opportunity.
Sales deals are won and lost in the discovery phase of the sales process. The quality of the discovery is critical, not only does the sales professional have to understand the entire elephant, but also great sales professionals help their customers “see” and describe the same elephant. An amazing thing happens, the customer and the sales professional are aligned in their view of the issues. They are also looking at the “big picture,” enabling the sales professional to propose the most comprehensive solution to meet the customer needs (I’m tempted to say, they aren’t talking about peanuts……) The competition is disadvantaged, because they only see what’s in front of them, but have no view of the entire picture.
Think of the deals you are invovled in. Think of how your own perspective may be limited. Think also of how the customer’s perspective may be limited. Lead the customer in the discovery process to get a total view of all the issues, to see the complete elephant. You’ll set yourself apart and position yourself to win! Finally, helping the customer “see” the elephant, you will be creating real value in building their business.