When I was talking to Bram van Aken last week in the second podcast of the Sales Transformation Made Easy, I recognized again that, in theory, Selling with the Buyer’s Perspective is inspiring, motivational and the logical thing to do, but in practice, it is not so straightforward to implement during a customer meeting.
While you, as the Salesperson, may have all the proper intentions of how you want the meeting to flow, the reality is that customers find, on many occasions, ways to distract and steer the conversation in a different direction. You began your meeting with a plan, but you left the meeting disillusioned, none the wiser, with no confirmation on any next steps. Do you recognize this? Although Bram mentioned in the podcast super practical tips on handling this better, staying in control of the meeting can be challenging. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a sales process framework to follow so you stay more in control of your meetings?
The fundamental starting point of such a framework is a mindset shift that may surprise some of you: What is the surprise? Well, for decades, we have been through our questions, discovering and hoping to find dissatisfaction by the customer with their current situation. Because once you found a pain point, it was easy to verify this with the customer, asking for the impact of not solving that pain point and then magically laying your solution on the table. We know already that doesn’t work that well any longer.
The shift is that it is not you who is doing the discovery, but instead, it is the customer who is making the discovery. With your help, they are learning something about themselves and their situation, something they had not been thinking about. Something they were not aware of or they were but didn’t think of the importance. And you control that discovery right from the start until the close of the meeting.
Help your customer with building confidence in themselves in each of the buying phasesBrent Adamson
For a deeper understanding, I refer to the following YouTube clip of Brent Adamson, formerly Distinguished Vice President of Gartner, where he talks about customer non-confidence blockers like Decision Uncertainty, Information Overload and Implementation Uncertainty. You need to help your stakeholders discover new information so they can overcome these blockers and feel more confident to move forward in the buying process.
Show, Verify, and Ask
What does this framework look like? How will you lead the meeting so the customer’s discovery can begin? We should not overthink this. Your framework should stick and be easy to remember. The ground rule is that you got to be prepared. You have done your homework and understand as much as possible the Customer’s Situation and their Challenges (Situational Knowledge). This is allowing you to:
- Show what you know
- Verify your understanding
- Ask a relevant question.
By doing this, you gain credibility and create, right at the beginning of the meeting, a conversation not about you or your solutions but about them, the customer, their situation and their challenges.
What would be your next step? Well, you want to collaborate. Meaning you don’t have all the answers, and neither does your customer. But your added value to the conversation is that you want the customer to discover something they may not be aware of: hence, it’s time to…
Share, Impact and Enable
- Share an insight.
- Check the impact
- Enable your stakeholder to share the insight with others.
What insight you share depends on where your stakeholder is in their buying process.
In Why Change? you share an opportunity or a risk related to their strategic business goals. Remember what your stakeholder is struggling with? Information Overload. So your insights should provide guidance, not more confusion. Come with your idea and opinion of what makes sense to focus on. Or, even stronger, share with your stakeholder what other similar Customers found and what – growth opportunity, new revenue vertical etc – decided to focus on
In Change to What? you share your observation that their current solution fails to deliver the business strategy as identified in Why Change? They need to start thinking about what solution criteria are needed to deliver their desired results.
Once your stakeholder recognizes the impact of your shared information and you discuss the quantifiable value, ensure you give your stakeholder access to your insight, enabling him or her to share this with the bigger buying room.
Close the meeting by gaining a commitment to the next steps. E.g. to involve more stakeholders or a next meeting, or even better, that your stakeholder commits to influence other stakeholders and become your Change Champion. I can guarantee you that preparing your meetings by using this simple framework not only enables you to sell with the buyer’s perspective but, more importantly, you are helping your customer to move their buying process forward with new information. Start taking control of your meetings because, ultimately, this will lead to you winning more opportunities.