It is sometimes difficult to think of winning a deal as an outcome. It isn’t something that you do; it’s the natural result of everything leading up to your dream client’s decision to buy from you. Much of the time, when we talk about winning deals, we don’t acknowledge the inputs that create the output (a useful concept for thinking about your results, including won deals). So what are the inputs that create the natural output of a won deal? What created a preference to buy from you? Winning a deal is the outcome, not something you do.
Outputs that Lead to a Deal
Certain things tend to be true when you win deals. Very few of them occur late in the sales conversation, and almost none happen when you ask your dream client to sign a contract so you can begin to execute for them. Most of them show up very early in the process and build a preference to work with you.
The Belief You Understand Them
As much as we want people to understand who we are, what we do, and why we do it the way that we do, prospects seem to find more value in making sure we know who they are, what they do, what they want, and why they want it that way. My friend, Charlie Green, wrote a book titled Trust-Based Selling and an accompanying field book, both of which are mandatory reading. Charlie has an equation for trust: Credibility x Reliability x Intimacy / Self-Orientation. He will tell you of all the factors that intimacy is the strongest. It answers the questions, “Do you know me?” and “Do you care?”
The time you spend listening and taking notes might be a good indicator as to whether or not you are generating this outcome. Your ability to share that you understand what they need to be able to make something work in their company is also going to help with this output.
If your actions show that you are not interested in the people with whom you are meeting or what they want, you can be confident that you are not creating the outcomes you need. When you only talk about you, your company, and your solution, you project that you care more about selling your solution than helping them with the better results they need.
The Belief You Are Right
The contacts within your dream client account need to believe that you are right. They need to believe that you are right about the root cause of their problem, the implication of those problems, and your recommendation as to what they need to do about it. They also need to believe that how you are going to solve is not only right but that it is right for them.
If you are not right about the root cause of their problem or challenge (or opportunity), you make it challenging to believe your recommendation. In one of my businesses, I have had clients resist the truth about why they were not getting the results they needed, only accepting my analysis (and my recommendations) after they were harmed by ignoring the facts. The framework you find in Eat Their Lunch was organic, growing out of my need to be a better teacher and educator. You win when your dream client believes you are right about their problems and the solution.
Your recommendation not only has to be believed as being right, but it also has to pass the test of being right for your dream client. If you aren’t collaborating and building consensus with the stakeholders you want to work with you in the future, you make it difficult for them by not including their input, their preferences, and resolving their concerns.
The Belief You Will Execute for Them
No one wants to buy from someone they believe is not going to execute for them. They don’t want to be embarrassed by a bad decision, and they don’t want you to strand them with a solution that doesn’t work, and one where they are not going to get the necessary support.
The output here is the result of you creating the confidence you and your team will execute the solution you sell, that you understand their concerns, and that they can count on you. They need to believe you and your team are going to think they’re important enough to command your time, attention, and help in improving their results.
Any doubt about your willingness or ability to execute reduces the likelihood of you winning their business—even if they believe you understand them and believe you are right.
Inputs Create Outputs
There are inputs here worth some discussion. How do you create the outputs above?
Your overall approach to selling is a factor in creating the outcomes above. If your approach is transactional (a word I am using to describe a set of behaviors, not a type of sale), you won’t likely score well on understanding your dream client. The time you spend trying to leverage your company’s reputation and solutions early prevents you from keeping your understanding of your client.
When your approach precludes your effectively diagnosing your dream client’s challenges because you lack the business acumen, situational knowledge, or a general theory as to why they are struggling with some set of problems, you make it challenging to accept your recommendations as being right, let alone right for them.
The more consultative your approach, the better your chances of creating the outcomes that build a preference to work with you.
How you communicate matters as much as what you communicate (you should join Toastmasters, not because you want to a speaker, but because you want to communicate effectively). It helps to be conversational, and it is of extraordinary value to ask outstanding questions and to listen intently. When you are not taking notes, you are communicating that what your dream client says is of no import to you.
It’s also incredibly crucial that you know your subject matter cold. You don’t need to sound like you know what you are talking about; you have to know what you are talking about (this is the credibility you see in Charlie Green’s equation above).
If there were a single area I would recommend you to spend time improving, it would be your process, more explicitly selling the process to your dream client. If you want to give yourself the best chance at winning, you want to ensure you have the necessary meetings and conversations that lead to that result. (See The Lost Art of Closing)
The more complex the sale (read as “low-frequency decision” with “high significance” for the client), the more important is that you have time to prove you understand your client, that you are right about the root cause of their problems and the solution, and that you are going to execute. Attempts to shorten the time it takes to do this tends to not only reduce your chances of winning but also slows things down.
In every interaction you have with your contacts, you are providing them an experience as to what you and your company are going to be like to work with in the future, should they choose you.
You Win Early and Sign Later
You win deals early in the process. The more you focus on your competency in managing the end-to-end experience of the sales conversation, the better you will do in creating a preference to buy from you. You win early, and you sign later. If you want to win, work on creating the outcomes that allow you to win early.
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Filed under: Sales