Differentiating the Buying Experience and Creating “Wow!”
Not enough executives and salespeople think about the buying experience as an opportunity to Sell Different! Yet, that strategy can be the key to win more deals at the prices you want. This is especially important when you can’t differentiate what you sell. In the absence of differentiation, price is the prevailing decision factor. That’s only good news if you are the low-price provider in your industry.
Here are ten opportunities to differentiate the buying experience.
- Ways you handle prospecting outreach.
- Information you send prior to discovery meetings, so they receive value.
- Your approach to facilitating discovery meetings through questioning and information sharing.
- Materials you provide after discovery meetings to help them make informed buying decisions.
- Your handling of group presentations and demonstrations so they are informative, engaging, and interactive.
- Ways you verbally share solutions with DIs.
- How you design proposals to communicate solutions.
- Your methods of handling pilot/trial programs.
- How you structure contracts.
- Your client onboarding program to transition them into your organization.
Your Toughest Competitor Is Not Who You Think It Is
Here’s the bad news. You aren’t competing against a handful of players in your industry, but against hundreds of salespeople who are calling on this Decision Influencer (DI).
Suppose you call on a CIO to sell application development services. Set aside for a moment the fact that there are a number of players in your industry. Now, think about a CIO’s overall responsibilities. He is inundated with calls and emails from others in your space as well as from the telecom industry, hardware providers, software providers, and on and on. Among the hundreds of salespeople reaching out to him, how many will actually land a meeting? A few, maybe.
Here is a fact you might not know. It’s never happened! No executive is sitting at her desk, staring at her phone, and hoping it will ring with a salesperson on the other end. Let’s face it: we are an interruption in her day. DIs have many responsibilities and they are only going to meet with a select few salespeople.
Here is an important sales dynamic of which to be mindful. If there isn’t a meeting, there isn’t a proposal. If there isn’t a proposal, there is no sale. If there is no sale, there’s no commission check. It’s a very logical, yet scary, dynamic.
Finding More of Your Best Clients
Sales life would be pure bliss if salespeople could take their best clients, place them in a copier, and replicate them. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Just press the copy button and, magically, a new best client is added to the company portfolio. Unfortunately, client replication isn’t an option for sales.
In most cases, your largest clients are not your best clients. Large clients serve an important purpose, perhaps as a foundation for your business. However, you might not want more of them. Some large clients require heavy customization that you don’t want to provide in mass quantities. Others may be low-margin accounts or have other undesirable qualities.
The new accounts you want to pursue should align with your company’s Target Client Profile.
- This can be revenue, employees, units—any quantification that provides focus on the right scope of opportunities to pursue.
- This addresses the geography on which to focus selling efforts.
- Business type. This refers to industry types (NAICS codes) and business structure (public or private) for the type of business you desire.
- This is the list of providers that have inferior/incomplete products and services compared to what you offer.
- Circumstances/goals. This segment of the profile is achieved by completing these expressions. Our target client has issues with _____, a desire to ______, and/or _____ goals.
- Decision drivers. These are the factors that lead to exploration of adding to the current solution or replacing the current provider.
- Corporate attributes. This addresses corporate DNA, including financial health and corporate culture.
- Buying process. This identifies the alignment between how they buy and your opportunity to demonstrate meaningful value.
- Deal breakers. This is the converse of what you want in a target client; it includes aspects such as slow payer, public relations issues, not in geography where you operate, wants kickbacks, or other indicators that you do not want this business.
Use these nine criteria to gain clarity on the right opportunities to pursue all day long. If you haven’t developed this profile yet, you need to do so now!
Making Your Sales Life Easier and More Lucrative
Have you ever thought about why people give referrals? It isn’t just about what was sold to them, but also the experience they had when buying it. If the salesperson pushed and manipulated the DI to buy, it does not matter how good the product is, no referrals are coming his way. Not enough salespeople think about “the why” behind referrals. The experience a buyer has when purchasing has a direct impact on whether or not they will refer others to you.
When is the only time you can ask for referrals? Some salespeople say it is appropriate when the contract is signed. Some say it is when the order is delivered. Others think it is post implementation. These are expected guesses, but they are all incorrect. There is one time, and only one time, in the entire relationship spectrum when it is appropriate to ask for referrals.
The timing of that “earned right” is different in each situation. There are instances when someone may never have spent a penny with you, but you provided tremendous value to them, and thus, earned the right to ask for referrals.
Harnessing the Power of Virtual Selling
Virtual selling, which was seen by most people as new, created a lot of panic in the sales profession. However, it wasn’t entirely new. Virtual selling was just inside sales “on steroids.” The sales and sales management respect for the job inside salespeople performed reached new heights during this time. No longer was this job considered merely a junior-level sales role. Executives came to recognize that effective virtual selling required a specialized skill set and tools to deliver the desired results.
Virtual selling exposed the need for several technology tools that were quickly introduced into the marketplace. Salespeople rushed to use these cool and exciting tools, which caused a big sales effectiveness problem. They rapidly implemented the tools into their virtual selling repertoire, but didn’t invest time to master their use. Floundering with technology during a DI interaction detracts from the meeting and creates a negative impression. DIs don’t blame your technology for not working properly. They blame you! Before you use any technology to sell, make sure you know how to use it properly.
The Critical Person Needed to Win More Deals at the Prices You Want
You’ve probably heard the sales term “internal coach” or “champion,” but those expressions were vague. To qualify as a Mentor, there are two specific criteria: passion about what your company offers and a strong influence in the decision-making process.
Potential Mentors are ranked using two scales. Each scale has a zero to five ranking. The first scale measures Level of Commitment to your solution. This DI is someone who passionately believes what you offer is the right solution for their needs.
The second scale measures Level of Influence in the decision-making process. Scrutiny of influence is also tricky. Some DIs position themselves as the be all, end all in the decision-making process. Others assure you that their boss will “rubber stamp” their approval of the deal.
Level of Influence is a tricky evaluation. You may be dealing with a senior executive who has the authority to award you the deal but won’t do it without the support of her direct reports. Or, you may be working with a DI who needs senior-level approval to award you the deal. In both instances, strategy is needed to advance your deal.
Many salespeople perform the “happy dance” when they feel they have a Mentor who will fight to get the deal done and are later disappointed when the deal falls apart. This disappointment can be avoided by asking a simple question: “I appreciate that ours is the solution you are recommending for your company. May I ask why we are your recommendation?”
The Myth of Closing Problems
Emotion drives DI action, not logic. How many times have you presented a strong business case to a DI, but he never acted on it? We all have had those experiences. The logical case to act was strong and valid, but the deal never moved forward. The missing step was arousing the DI’s emotions to a level that would get him to take action on the proposed solution.
Just about every sales book ever written preaches the importance of salespeople finding pain and challenges that DIs are experiencing during discovery. When salespeople hear about a DI’s challenges, they start licking their chops because they believe the door has opened to their solution. Unfortunately, many of them become disappointed when their deals never advance past the initial conversation.
Vertical Questions are intended to provide a comprehensive analysis of the pain/challenge the DI is experiencing to determine the proper course of action. What’s the reason for these stalled deals? Salespeople haven’t used Vertical Questions to determine if the pain they have uncovered is an “inconvenience” or a “problem” for the DI. Those two words are not synonymous.
- An inconvenience is merely an annoyance.
- DIs take action when they face a problem.
Here’s where many salespeople get stuck. They don’t ask Vertical Questions to determine if the shared challenge is something the DI can either live with or is ready to address. If you don’t definitively know the answer to that question, ask Vertical Questions to understand their perspective.
The Gift Every Salesperson Has Been Given
The difference between top performers and mediocre ones is determined by how those minutes are invested.
How you invest your time, every single day, determines your future success. That means you need to make a conscious decision to use every minute of every day. No one ever wants to look back and say to themselves, “I wish I did . . .” To avoid experiencing that regret, have a plan to manage both time and tasks.
In the sales profession, you can be extremely busy all day long but accomplish little. You go home exhausted after a full day, but as you reflect on it, you realize you did nothing to increase your sales. Since increasing sales is at the core of a salesperson’s responsibilities, it means the day was a total loss.
Hold yourself accountable for completing the tasks that belong only to you. Let others handle the “non-you” tasks. Salespeople who use their resources wisely invest their minutes to boost performance. They are the ones who earn the most money.
Let’s make that person you!