Are You in The Muddy Middle or in the Exceptional Elite?

4min Read

If you just sell your company’s products, services, and solutions, you’re entering into the muddy middle. That’s where everyone else plays. Welcome to the mud fight. Your potential customer will treat you and your competing sales reps as commoditized prey. Whatever you do or say, you will be compared on spreadsheets, line by line. The mud will splash everywhere. You will be outplayed with each other so that in the end there be one winner; the one who gives-in on their pricing to get the business. The muddy middle is not a good place to be, you got to get to the Exceptional Elite. This group has multiple and different abilities. Here is how to make that leap to the Best of the Best.

  1. See multiple perspectives. Do not focus only on your sales process. Look more through the lenses of your potential customer. What do they see? Are they staring at skyrocketing growth graphs? Are they leaning back in their chairs with a big smile on their faces? Is their business one of the fastest-growing in their industry? Can they ignore their competitors’ moves because they have a monopoly and nobody can touch them? Or, are they worried and monitoring very closely external changes around them so they can adapt their products, their services, and their supply chains when needed. At the moment, with the COVID-19 situation, many are even considering changing their business model. Seeing business situations and challenges the way they look at these, will stop them from throwing mud at you. But you have to show that you are on their side, through your behavior, and through your questioning. You ask questions relevant to their business challenges with the intention to understand and to help them, not to sell something to them. You come unbiased to meetings as a business person. Then your potential customer sees you as someone different than the rest. Someone who sees their perspective, the buyer’s perspective. You are on your way to becoming a trusted advisor.
  2. Meet with multiple people. You realize from the start that when it comes to change, there is nearly always more than one person involved. And all these stakeholders, they all have an opinion. Even stronger, they nearly never align. They have their own agenda and their own priorities. The Head of Sales wants to sell more, the Head of Operations wants to drive efficiencies, and the Head of Finance focuses on cost. The CEO or company owner has his or her eyes on profit. But in the end, they all want their business to prosper, hitting profit targets, be efficient, and satisfy their customers. They just not always agree on the strategy of how to achieve their objectives. Their buying process is complicated and messy and you are there to help. You have no fear of picking up the phone and talk to multiple persons in various functions. Actually, your questions make them do most of the talking. You don’t fear to have difficult conversations because your intention is right; you want to help improve their business results.
  3. Share multiple Insights. Before you can share insights you need to be insightful about business challenges yourself. Meaning, you have acquired some business acumen and you are becoming better and better in the understanding of where your potential customer’s business challenges intersect with what you sell. This makes you an expert in that particular area. Think about it, your potential customer knows a lot more about their own business but less about what you sell and even less about how your products, services, and solutions have helped other businesses in similar industries. All that they know is their own status quo. They are keen to hear your ideas and what works well for others. Your insights provide your contact with a new view of their business and see something they didn’t even know was there. You show them the financial risks they can be confronted with if nothing is done. You provoke them to do something different that will lead to growth opportunities they thought were not possible.
  4. Sell Multiple Values. The Exceptional Elite is able to sell tactical and strategic value. They are able to provide value to managers on the shop-floor and to those in the boardroom. A warehouse manager would like to make a change to improve pick-up and delivery schedules. A finance manager prefers greater flexibility on invoices and payment terms. But for senior management, these benefits are not enough reasons to take action, upset the status quo, and make changes. They need more. For them, a change needs to lead to strategic value. A new state that drives better business results. The Exceptional Elite can sell the investment needed to achieve the positive delta between the current state and a desired future state.

The muddy middle gets crowded. Time to clean that mud of your face and step into a different level; the world of the Exceptional Elite. Work on these new abilities: Selling with the buyer’s perspective, understand the views of many stakeholders, sharing multiple relevant insights and the skill to provide tactical and strategic value will take you to that unique league. Once you get there, you will see, being there is so much more rewarding.
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