Many who aspire to increase the top line (revenues) of a business know that sales can seemingly cure a multitude of other problems. With enough money to spread around for paying bills and employees, plus some for marketing, customer service or maintenance, your company can improve morale and your ability to retain top talent as well as existing customers. However, in an effort to develop new business, our sales teams often do a very poor job. Conversion rates are low, so more leads are needed than would otherwise be necessary. In turn, more time is required, more overhead expenses thereby generated, and profits eroded. If we were able to improve the way we secure new clients, our organizations would be vastly more successful!
The biggest challenge a sales (interchangeable with “business development” or “client development” in settings wherein the word is anathema) professional faces is the distrust of the person on the other side of the table. Buyers are often afraid that something is being done to them, and dig in their heels or tune out their minds. Against this type of resistance, it can be extremely difficult to secure new accounts. The conversation must, therefore, disarm the buyer (in a genuine, sincere way) so that the perception changes to one of feeling like the salesperson is doing (well) for the buyer or her organization.
With the combination of easily accessible information via the Internet and increased competition via globalization, it is incumbent on sales teams to keep their products and services from becoming commodities whereby the only means of competition is price. This objective can best be accomplished through consultative conversations. One of the leading minds on the topic of consultative selling is Mahan Khalsa, author of Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play (aka Helping Clients Succeed.) Helping (prospective) clients succeed should be the goal of every sales effort, but rarely is. In fact, hard line sales methods don’t seem to to take the client success into consideration as all, so long as the selling organization’s goals are met.
Khalsa writes often about two key concepts: “getting real,” and developing an “exact solution.” To be real is to be authentic, truthful, expressing clear intent, and speaking from values. It is a paradigm wherein the seller doesn’t accept the first response without asking clarifying questions–the purpose is to break down false pretenses, move past fears, and to get to core issues as comfortably as possible for all parties concerned. While no solution is perfect unto itself, the goal of creating an exact one is to have a strong urge to leave few stones unturned in order to reduce ambiguity and partner on both identifying problems and the methods of resolving them.
With the right mindset, a salesperson can overcome the following (* taken from Let’s Get Real, chapter entitled “We Both Want the Same Thing”) inhibitors of client success:
- we don’t listen
- we make assumptions
- we have preconceived solutions
- we need to make the sale
- it takes too much time
- we don’t understand their business
- we know what they need better than they do, and
- we don’t talk to the right people.
- they don’t know what they need
- the can’t articulate what they need
- they don’t agree on what they need
- they won’t give us good information
- they don’t let us talk to the right people
- they are unrealistic about time, money, and people needed
- politics count more than business sense
- they procrastinate, and
- they can’t make decisions.
Taking time up front to either determine (jointly with client) that a solution does not exist or create a solid business case is critical for better sales success. When we match client expectations to those of our organization with regards to the people, time, and money needed to achieve success with regards to a given opportunity, we demonstrate shared interests and feasibility. Knowing how decisions are made, by whom, and the timetable removes guesswork and allows us to offer a solution that exactly meets the client’s needs.