Salespeople are from Saturn; Prospects are from Pluto.


This Story is About Sally

a Sales Executive on her way to a prospect. She followed up on a lead and shared with me that the opportunity looked promising. I asked her: what is your plan? How will you start the Discovery Conversation? What are your objectives? Sally answered that she did her research regarding what the customer does as a business, and once she could figure out what pain points or dissatisfaction the customer is facing, she would link these to solutions that could solve these issues. The meeting started with a bit of chit-chat, but after a few questions from Sally, the customer switched off and came up with an excuse to cut the meeting short. The dialogue came to a dead end, followed by this eery silence, and there was no other option but for us to find the exit and leave the building. What went wrong? We found ourselves in a typical situation that I call:

Salespeople are from Saturn; Prospects are from Pluto.

Ton Verleg

Sally was following an old way of selling approach. Through her questions, she wanted to discover customer needs she could solve. But unfortunately for her, the prospect was not very forthcoming in revealing any needs. He answered that he didn’t have any issues or pain points and that he was quite satisfied with the performance of their current supplier. That was something Sally didn’t expect. She tried to wave her magic wand, but also to this, the prospect was not very responsive, and Sally was none the wiser. Then that eery silence filled the room.

A Different Approach

Sally should have prepared the meeting with the buyer’s perspective. What does that really mean? Well, for a start, she should show the customer that she is on the same planet. If her customer is on Pluto, that’s where she should be.

Customers who have a Service in Place are on the right-hand side of the Buying clock. They are in a world where they have their preferred suppliers, and business, according to them, is doing well. But they are always wondering if it could be better. That’s a typical mission of middle and senior Management. Some may look at efficiency gains or time management improvements. Others are looking for top-line growth or profit margin increments. They are Googling for ideas and research for best practices. This, at least, steers them in the right direction.

Stakeholders, like in Sally’s example, are happy where they are but curious if the grass is greener on the other side, They are in the Why (should I) Change? or in Change to What? phase. Some are willing to explore a change if you tell them something they didn’t know and is relevant to their challenges. There are also opposers to change in these two buying clock phases.

Put Yourself In the Shoes of the Prospect

that Sally met. What did he expect to get out of the meeting? Well, most likely clarity on something he read or heard. According to Gartner studies, buyers suffer from information overload, which is most likely why your prospect agreed to meet with you. B2B buying is really complex. What throws more oil on the complexity fire is that, in addition to actively researching for information, buyers are reactively influenced by social media, daily news, fake or not fake, and economic pressures. They wonder if you have, with your experience, any ideas or an opinion on how you can help them with achieving their objectives in this ever-changing world.

Unfortunately, Sally was already at the left-hand side of the Buying clock. She was on Saturn while the prospect was on Pluto. Her objective was to get the prospect as fast as possible to her side so she could sell her solutions (Change to Who?). The prospect did not want to collaborate because she was on a different planet.

After Coaching

Sally understood that for the next meeting, she should not prepare from the Seller’s perspective but prepare and sell from the buyer’s perspective.

What is the moral of this story? Well, be aware that the worst thing you can do when meeting with prospects is bombarding them with questions to which you should have known the answers to. Fishing for pain points and leading with your solutions will only demonstrate your ignorance of what is moving and shaking in the customer’s world. Instead, show you understand their situation and contribute valuable knowledge relevant to their business challenges. Keep them as long as possible on the right-hand side of the Buying clock. Then you are on their planet and increase the change to influence their buying process.

If you are still on Saturn, it’s time for a trip to Pluto.

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53870cookie-checkSalespeople are from Saturn; Prospects are from Pluto.