When it is time to define and not to shine

Joe looked at the calendar. Q3 was already halfway, and October was on the doorstep. His sales performance wasn’t excellent, but neither were his sales colleagues. Plus, the economic dip wasn’t working in anyone’s favour.

He picked up the phone again, reaching another customer who had an outstanding offer on the table. “Sorry, Joe,” he heard his contact replying, “we like your proposal, but it is not the right time now.” That wasn’t the first time he heard that excuse. Obviously, his sales approach didn’t work any longer. And that while he was working for one of the greatest companies in the world. He really had something great to sell…

What was going wrong?

Modern selling comes with challenges. And one of these is to know when it is time to define and not to shine.

Before selling your socks off, there is a process that needs to take place. When customers are in Why (should I) Change? , you have to define what you want your contacts to discover that may change their perspective about their current situation, their challenges, and their business model. Without this insight, your stakeholders will remain in their status quo. You’ve got to kick-start the buying process.

And this requires work. This needs effort. You can no longer show up to customer meetings half-prepared. You cannot wing your meetings, no matter how long and how experienced you are in sales.

So, what do you need to define? Look at this challenge from the Buyer’s Perspective. What does your contact actually expect from a meeting with you? First of all, you are expected to understand the fundamentals of their company: what they do and how they make money. Showing this Situational Knowledge will give you, at the start of the meeting, credibility to move on to the next step: understanding their growth plans and the associated strategies to achieve these plans. This may be more challenging to find out before your meeting starts. But you have to do your best. If you don’t know, it’s better to wait to meet senior management. Try to obtain this information from middle management.

Their current situation is now your starting point. How can you help your customer with different ideas that will generate additional revenue income? What information will change their perspective?

You may think that this is too difficult. Should you become an expert in every industry and be more knowledgeable than your customer? The answer is no. Trust your experience and how you have helped similar customers. You know what works and what doesn’t.

By the way, a lot of insightful information is available on the internet; you just have to find the most relevant one for your customer. Use Google and even use ChatGPT to give you ideas and inspiration.

For example, you notice that your customer has only a 3 1/2 star rating in terms of customer satisfaction. How can you help to improve this to four stars? I just asked Google to show me customer experience as a growth strategy. You can do this yourself. I found research reports and ideas like:

You can search for similar information regarding driving customer loyalty, top 10 growth trends for SMEs, and growth through different business models. The list goes on.

See yourself as a person who is part of their senior management team and

  • Define what industry trend they should capitalise on.
  • Define what risk they should be aware of.
  • Define how you can improve their consumer experience.
  • Define what customers say about their service and how you can help to improve that.
  • Define what market is most likely the next to move into.

Potentially, these will all kick-start the buying process. But you got to do the hard work for your customers. Read, Learn and Share.

Defining what you want your stakeholders to discover and helping them to do that is the new process in modern selling that needs to happen before you can move on to explaining: Why us?

Define before you shine!

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