Customers who have a ” Service in Place” rarely spend time actively looking for alternative suppliers. Why should they? Because they may have been working hard to get to that situation. In their mind, finally, they have peace of mind. Everything is in place as they wanted. Their process, product or supply chains are finally working as clockwork. And if something derails a bit, they prefer a fix over a change. Customers in this stage of the Buying clock are the most difficult to get your full attention. Before meeting with them, you need crucial Situational Knowledge and Insights to build a strong business Case for Change.
What self-coaching questions would help you to build that knowledge? Here are my top eight:
- What is the customer looking to achieve as a business?
- Think about this as if you are a fly on the wall listening to what is discussed at their top management meetings. What is currently a top priority for the company? Is their top-line revenue growth under pressure? Or should there be a company-wide focus on cost reduction? Do they have a program to improve their customer experience as a new differentiator? Are there new products launched? Or is marketing suggesting expanding to new markets? Knowing the top management focus will help you understand how you can help. This makes your conversation super relevant and will get your contact’s attention.
- What initiatives are driving their strategy to achieve nr 1?
- Do they have a strong initiative in place? Will that do the job, or do you have another idea of how you can help? Ask your contact if their current initiative gets them the business results they need. If there is any doubt, then you will have their interest.
- What are their business challenges?
- In particular, smaller companies and SMEs are good at answering nr 1 on this list, but not so much nr 2 and nr 3. They may not be aware of what’s coming, what’s potentially impacting their business in the next 12 months to 2 years. They all have been preparing for external drivers like Brexit, pandemic and the rise of inflation. What’s coming next? Are there any industry disruptors emerging? If you know something they do not know, you will get their interest.
- What ideas, insights and stories will bring a different perspective on their challenges?
- This can be articles, white papers, or news clippings; foremost, customers are looking for your experience. What stories can you share? Do you have stories of other customers you have helped? You are an expert in your field; you know what works well and what is not. That will get your contact’s interest.
- What risk of not changing do you see for the customer?
- If you can answer this question and validate this in a monetary expression, your contact will immediately ask you to share more of your ideas. In particular on what of their current solution needs to change.
- What opportunities do you see for the customer when making a change?
- This is not so much about your solution vs the incumbent competitor but more about using your Business Acumen. Business owners are always interested in salespeople with ideas of pushing profitable growth their teams have not considered. Do not go straight to the top, though. Instead, get their teams involved as if it was their idea.
- Who or what are potential Hidden Competitors?
- Often you will find stakeholders who oppose change later in the buying process. The earlier you know them, the better you can prepare to overcome their resistance. The best way is via the influence of other Stakeholders. Avoid the FAB and we vs them (incumbent competitor) discussion. Instead, focus on how you can help their business grow more profitably. No stakeholder is opposing to that.
- Who else has an interest in this discussion?
- Unfortunately this is a question not many salespeople ask. The thing is, you need more stakeholders involved listening to your ideas. It is also an excellent question to understand who the Hidden Competitors may be.
If you are a front-line salesperson, challenge yourself by answering these questions in your preparation for calls and meetings. Again, selling is helping; in this case: helping the customer to see that their current situation and set-up will not deliver the results they are looking for.
Sales managers: enable your teams to be optimally prepared for building a business case for change through these coaching questions.
Feel free to share with your colleagues and teams.