As salespeople we work hard to understand the dissatisfaction that is our dream client’s motivation and rationale for change. This understanding helps us to build the solutions that allow us to compete for and win their business.
But to be truly effective in sales, our understanding must go quite a bit deeper. We need to understand our dream client’s business, their dissatisfaction, and their vision of what their desired state looks like well enough to succeed for them once we have won.
More Effort Understanding, Less Effort Correct Mistakes
The more work you do as a salesperson (and as a sales organization) to understand your dream client’s business early in the sales process, the less work you will have to do later correcting mistakes in execution. This is now critical; your time is limited, and correcting avoidable mistakes takes far longer than getting things right the first time.
Because your dream client expects you to own and manage the outcome you sold, you are going to own and manage any problems or challenges in the implementation and execution. The ownership is crucial to success, but it steals your time—time that you could be selling.
Understanding Root Causes, Constraints, and the Ground Truth
It isn’t enough to simply understand your dream client’s dissatisfaction well enough to win. You have to spend time understanding the root causes of that dissatisfaction, asking “why” enough times to gain the understanding that will inform your solution and ensure that it works.
You also need to understand the constraints to making your solution work. For most of us, we have solutions that work well for one set of clients but that would fail miserably if implemented and executed in a different set of clients. You need to work to know what works.
This understanding is often found two or three levels deep within your dream client company. We like to work with decision-makers and influencers, and our sales process requires that we check the box that we have those relationships. That’s all fine and good, but the real understanding is found deep in the guts of the machine where the stakeholders who are ultimately going to use your products or services are found.
An Informed Implementation and a Professional Execution
It is likely that you are going to run into problems as you implement and execute your solution. The more complex the solution, the more problems you are likely to encounter.
As a salesperson, your time is better spent on the front end of the sale building an understanding that eliminates as many avoidable mistakes and missteps as possible. Spending your time here not only helps you to develop the relationships and the solutions that you need to win, it means you spend less time later cleaning up mistakes when the train comes off the tracks.
Getting the big pieces right also improves your dream client’s results. It gives you some breathing room for the less serious problems that accompany any serious change initiative.
More work up front, smoothing sailing later. Less work up front, and you spend your time on damage control. You choose.
Think about the last few clients that you won. Make a list of the problems you had after winning that client. Were those problems avoidable?
What are the common problems that you manage in the implementation and execution of your solution? What can you do early in the sales process to reduce the number—and severity—of the problems later?
How much time could you gain later by spending more time developing a real understanding earlier in the sales process?
What part of your sales process needs to be changed to accommodate developing a real understanding of what a successful delivery will require?
How much of your time and psychic energy is wasted working on problems that might have easily been prevented by your application of greater effort earlier?