This is the second part of the blog posts on The Sales Approach. In the first part we spoke about why the traditional sales approach is not working any longer. I have asked your input of what a new modern sales approach should look like. Your reactions were all about the need of a different Discovery Framework.
WHAT SHOULD A DISCOVERY FRAMEWORK DO? You need a framework that guides you with your customer conversations, something that connects the dots and helps you deciding on the next best step and action.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT THAN BEFORE? It needs to start from a different place. It should not start from uncovering dissatisfaction. Your discovery phase is not a questioning game where you have your solution already in mind. Instead it needs to help you :
- Creating a situation for a conversation about exploring change
- To get the customer critically reflect on their current situation and explore risks attached to that
- Letting the customer exploring business opportunities they may not have thought about.
Rather than asking questions to identify problems, your discovery is focused on the implications of not changing and how to produce better outcomes.
HELP YOUR CUSTOMER DISCOVER SOMETHING ABOUT THEMSELVES. To survive and prosper every business needs to be on top of the many changes that are happening around them. Consumer demands have changed, technology is changing, and new regularities need to be dealt with. Their competitors also never sit still and unexpected market opportunities are popping up regularly. Running a business is dynamic. Businesses with the ability to react to these changes fast and effective are always more successful. They benefit from these changes rather than have to deal with negative impacts.
In the modern discovery phase, you talk about these changes and you ask questions on how your customer or prospect deals with these changes. In that way, you help your contact discover how well they are prepared in dealing with all the changes around them. You help your customer to discover something about themselves. Questions like:
- What are your plans to be more competitive in the near future?
- What are your focus improvement areas right now? Or in the next six months?
- Where does the needle need to move and by how much?
- What has changed in your industry that drives the need for these improvements?
- What are the risks to your business if you do not adapt to these changes?
HOW GOOD IS THEIR STATUS QUO? In the eyes of prospects, there is no ideal supplier. Everyone has flaws and many prefer to find a workaround to deal with these flaws, rather than changing to something they do not know. As a Trusted Advisor your task is to get prospects to challenge their own status quo. You need to feel comfortable with asking the challenging type of questions. And these questions turn out to get the answers you need to craft a solution your prospect would be really interested in buying. Turn your attention to the real business challenges your prospects face:
- Where and what should our next growth come from?
- How can we increase market share in current markets but also in new developing markets?
- How can we manage our costs better? Have we explored all options?
- What should our optimal B2C business model look like?
- Are there trends from e-commerce trade that are applicable to B2B?
- If so, what do we need to change to take advantage of that?
- Where in the world is our next competitor?
- To survive in this ever changing world what is the next step to stay ahead of the competition?
They may not have the answers to all these questions, but the sales conversation transforms into a business conversation. You are no longer seen as another sales rep but more as someone who can advise on where the company’s challenges intersect with what you sell, and how that would benefit their business.
YOU NEED A NON-LINEAR FRAMEWORK Applying the traditional linear discovery framework to the multi-dimension and non-linear buying process will cause a clash of two worlds. Your contact will soon be disengaged and take control of the meeting, unfortunately not in your favor. The modern discovery framework needs to give you back the control of the process. For that you need a holistic view of the situation and a flexible, dynamic guidance on how to proceed with the next step. It gives you in one overview:
- The recognition that there are more stakeholders involved in the buying process (below illustration shows three stakeholders).
- That their common area is the vision, the strategy, the current state and future state of the company
- They have all a different role (decision-maker, influencer, user) and influence each other
- Each stakeholder looks at their status quo differently, they are in a different buying process stage
- And also have a different willingness to change, (Neutral, Opposer, Allie, Change Champion)
- All stakeholders are monitoring the external and internal changes they are confronted with and what they see coming in the future
- Based on this, they are not only responsible for their function to implement the current strategy
- But have also an opinion on what the company should prioritize next to deal with the changes the company faces. Changing would give your customer a strategic advantage.
TAKING CONTROL OF THE PROCESS. Instead of being kicked around between the stakeholders and their opinions you take control of the process through:
- Having a view, a theory about the problems and challenges your customer or prospect are almost certain to be experiencing.
- Having ideas of why and where they need to change to improve their results.
- facilitate meetings between users, influencers and decision-makers
- influence stakeholder’s buying process stage
- driving consensus between the stakeholders that a change is needed to achieve what they are trying to achieve now and in the future
Who said selling is easy? But this is the real world we are facing now. It is more complex, also for businesses and stakeholders. They need your help to make the right choices. Be confident to be that Trusted Advisor they are looking for.
Share your views in the comments. Will a framework as above help you better than the one you have now? Is there something missing? Or is there too much? Am curious to your opinions. If you are a sales manager, share this post with your team, what do they think?