The idea that follows is going to run counter to a lot of what you read about sales, the sales process, and efficiency. One of the ways you pull your sales results forward in time is by dominating your dream client’s time. It is also how you create an asymmetrical advantage. The idea here is to spend more time with your dream clients over an extended time.
Slower Is Faster
The ideas dominating sales now are technological, like automation, artificial intelligence, and software services as a way to create efficiency in sales. While efficiency is important, anything that speeds the process without generating the necessary outcome must be considered inefficient. For example, it might feel efficient to allow marketing to automate your nurture campaigns, but if it doesn’t produce the same result as a salesperson messaging their dream client and becoming known as a value creator, it isn’t effective.
In another post and a YouTube video, I described something I called the new one-call close. The new one-call close is a single discovery meeting followed by an emailed proposal and pricing. If your business is transactional, this approach might be practical. But if you need to create a preference to work with you over your competitors based on some factor other than price, racing to provide a proposal and pricing is a poor strategy.
While it is true that your dream clients don’t have as much time for salespeople as they once did, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue spending more time with them. It means that you should spend more time with them. It would be best if you spent more time helping them with the meetings they need to have, exploring the ideas they need to explore, and to commit to the process they need to follow. When you try to speed through this process, you slow things down—and you likely make it more challenging to develop a preference to buy from you.
You don’t decide whether what you sell is complex; your client does. If they don’t frequently make the decision you are asking of them, and if that decision is also important, it is a complex sale. Going faster means slowing down and taking more time.
Taking More of Their Time
A few years ago, Brent Adamson of Gartner shared his research with me. He explained that buyers generally spend 18% of their total time in the process with salespeople, mostly split across three different sales organizations. A little division here would mean you get something like 6% of the total time, all things being equal. Your job in sales, however, is to make all things as unequal as possible, creating the highest preference to buy from you and your company.
It would be fair to give you and your two competitors two meetings each, say a discovery meeting and a presentation meeting, providing each contestant two hours of their time. But what if you didn’t want this to be a fair contest? What if instead, you tried to dominate the contest, create greater value for the client, and win the business? One way to go about that would be to take more of their time.
What if your dream client spent four hours with you and two hours with each of your competitors? What if those two additional hours were spent in their collaborating with the stakeholders and helping them build consensus within their team? I would argue that it would increase the preference to buy from you, and it would give you an asymmetrical advantage over your competition, who would very likely accept two meetings they were offered, exercising no control over the process, even if it means they lose.
Because the client believes they can accomplish their goals by having only two meetings with each potential partner doesn’t make it true. A better salesperson would sell their dream client a process that helps them make a better decision—and one that increases their odds of winning.
Meetings Instead of Emails
Because something can be done by email doesn’t make it the right choice of medium. The fact that you can do something faster is no indication that it should be.
I often hear salespeople say, “I asked the client about that.” When I ask what the client said, they confess that they don’t know, as the client “hasn’t emailed” them back. Which leads to the question, “Why did you choose email as the right way to have that conversation?” Because your client prefers or chooses to engage with you in a medium where much context is lost, and a medium where creating a preference is nearly impossible, is no reason to use that medium over others that would better serve both you and your client.
It’s hard to believe any meaningful conversation is better had over email than face-to-face. It’s even more challenging to demonstrate how much you care and how important your dream client’s results are to you by sending an electronic letter to an already overflowing inbox, and one that doesn’t command the same attention.
What you want are meetings. You want to a physical presence at best, a video presence at worst. You want to engage more stakeholders, not fewer. You want a deeper contextual understanding, not a transactional discovery process, one that eliminates developing a preference to work with you.
Making All Things Unequal
If there were a single variable that would make all things unequal, I would suggest to you that it would be value creation, the business acumen, the situational knowledge, the intellectual curiosity, something we might call a truly consultative sales approach. If there were a second variable I could control, that variable would be time. These two together would be a combination that would serve as the foundation of an asymmetrical advantage in sales.
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