Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition contains a chapter about Capturing Mindshare or, put another way, shaping the lens through which your dream client views their business, their challenges, and their opportunities. The framework in that chapter is designed to allow you to identify and leverage the trends that are already impacting your dream client’s results—or soon will be. It’s also designed to provide you with the implications of maintaining the status quo in the face of what are almost always systemic challenges.
After the concept of Level 4 Value Creation (strategic value), the chapter on Capturing Mindshare is responsible for the second most responses over email and social channels. The responses can generally be divided into two very different categories.
Capturing Mindshare Works
The first category of emails share success stories on how creating a context for a conversation works better than a lot of other approaches for creating new opportunities. The salespeople who send me these emails have used their insights to provide a strategic view of the client’s business as it pertains to what they sell. They are also using the idea of an executive briefing and the talk tracks in Eat Their Lunch to schedule more meetings.
The second category of emails that find their way to one of my inboxes might best be described as concerns about sharing trends, analysis, views and values, insights, and recommendations. Many of these notes are concerned about insulting the client, believing the client knows more than they do about the trends that impact their business. Others suggest they shouldn’t share their analysis or their views and values, that being too bold an approach. When the case being made is about changing something more strategic than swapping out their competitor’s product to buy theirs, they worry about having the right to make those recommendations.
Here is how you might think about overcoming your fear of sharing your insights, ideas, views and values, and recommendations.
What Do You Know
When you study the trends that create challenges and opportunities for your dream clients, you are undoubtedly going to find your clients are tracking some of those same trends, which is why the framework contains implications and views and values. You don’t need to have an executive briefing built exclusively on novelties. While there is value in novelties when you can find them, the trends and factors that would cause your client to change don’t need to be a surprise.
Part of what you are doing by providing a sort of executive briefing is demonstrating that you are tracking these trends—and that you understand the implication for your client’s business. If you do this well, you will have established infinitely more credibility with your client than the salesperson that begins the conversation with eight slides about their company. You are demonstrating you belong in the room and that you know enough to have ideas worth exploring.
You can very easily open the conversation by saying, “I am certain you are tracking some of these trends, and I’ll be interested to hear how these things show up in your world.” There is no reason to assume your dream client knows nothing, and you can learn much from your clients as you do this work, strengthening your approach.
New World Approach vs. Old World
There are old approaches to sales that have outlived their usefulness, which is not to say that they may not be useful again sometime in the future. One of those approaches is to avoid answering a client’s question by asking questions about their question. The idea here is not to lock yourself into something with which the client might disagree. When you are trying to compel change, you need a better approach.
There is an enormous misunderstanding of what “consultative selling” means. While it includes the avoiding of hard sell and high pressure tactics, that is not enough by itself to make one consultative. A consultative approach also includes good questions, something else that contributes to the approach, but is also inadequate without something more. The word “consultative” means to give recommendations and advice, requiring you to share your views, your values, and your recommendations.
If you have not done the work to develop your view of your client’s world, their systemic challenges, the implications of doing nothing, it will be difficult for you to be consultative. If you don’t have views on what the right response would be and the changes the clients would make—even if they don’t choose you—you make it difficult to be perceived as consultative. If you don’t have values that suggest that you have good reason to prefer this choice over that one, it is difficult to provide advice.
A Word for Young Salespeople
If you are a young salesperson, I want to offer you two ideas here. First, you may not yet have the business acumen and situational knowledge necessary to do this work that you will after you have worked in your role for awhile (I hope you have the intellectual curiosity to learn about your business and your client’s business). That said, you need to know a couple things.
Even though you may not know something, inside the four walls of your company, there are salespeople and leaders who do. They have the experience, and they have the views and values and recommendations. Ask to spend time with them, join them on sales calls, and ask questions about what they say and do to accelerate your acquisition of business acumen and situational knowledge.
Also, do the work to read, study, and compile your own briefing (see Chapter 2 of Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition). The time you spend thinking about your client’s challenges and the trends that are impacting their businesses, the faster you will be consultative. Know that nothing is beyond your capabilities if you are willing to give it your time and energy.
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