Exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog about ” Have you moved on from Solution Selling“, one of the most popular blogs on thesalesadvice.com. When you are still going into meetings with a pre-determined mindset to sell a solution, you may “fish behind the net”. This is because your stakeholder may not find your approach engaging; The content of your meeting is all about you and your company and not about the stakeholder and their company. You are not selling with the Buyer’s Perspective.
Fast forward to today, I was thrilled to see at a sales training last week that many sales executives are now selling with the buyer’s perspective and applying the new selling skills as well as they can. Then, however, one unexpected phenomenon popped up: To move a customer out of Why Change? phase, some used the little brother of Solution Selling:
Assumption Selling: Assuming that a competitor’s weakness is also seen by your stakeholder as a risk of not changing.Ton Verleg
While you have all the right intentions by sharing the risks of not changing with your stakeholder, using competitors’ weaknesses is a fragile approach that may go sideways. Why? Because your stakeholder may have a very close relationship with your competitor and perceive your argument as incorrect or too assertive.
To give this some context, if you are following the Worldcup football, you have noticed how biased we perceive what we see on television. For example, a record of 18 yellow cards was given at the game Netherlands vs Argentina. Yet, both sides found probably the majority of these as unfair. Why? Because we have strong emotional ties to our countries. So, you may bark upon the wrong tree when your customer has strong emotional ties to the incumbent competitor. You may find your arguments logic, but your stakeholder firmly disagrees.
How can you move a stakeholder out of Why Change? phase differently, without mentioning the competitor? For that, I also refer back to previous blogs about Overcoming Hidden competitors. But let’s put the two selling approaches next to each other:
|Why Change? Phase||Assumption Selling||Hidden Competitor Selling||Example|
|What you want the stakeholder to discover||Stronger, better, faster service will benefit you and your customers||Something is changing in your industry / market / economy / consumer behavior||That at 2.9 out of 5, your customer satisfaction rating on your website, may not be good enough to attract more consumers|
|Risk of not changing||Your current supplier is not strong, good, fast enough||This impacts your business. Missing out is an opportunity loss||The current score of 2.9 may even go lower and potential new consumers will go elsewhere (your competitors)..|
|Opportunity when changing||We are much stronger, better, faster||When adapting to these changes in a different way, you can capture $xxx,xxx||Bringing up the customer satisfaction rating to 4 or more, may bring in $xxx,xxx additional business|
|Insights||The difference between the current supplier and us in a PowerPoint presentation||Article as the source of what is changing in your industry / market / economy / consumer behavior||Here is an article showing how social media and word-of-mouth marketing are influencing the customer satisfaction rating on your website|
The more effective way of influencing a Hidden Competitor – or a stakeholder with strong ties to your competitor, is to bring business reasons for change to the table. Wearing a business hat and showing your business acumen will get you a lot further in the new way of selling. In the end, businesspeople make business decisions although their emotional logic says differently.
Ask yourself, have you moved on from Assumption Selling? What do you need to change to improve? What should you focus on when preparing for your next meetings?
Feel free to share with your colleagues and teams.