Over the past couple of weeks, I have had occasion to watch and listen to salespeople enter the conversation from the Left. They start a conversation with their prospective clients with a story about their company and how their product might help the client. I am always struck by the fact that salespeople still believe people want to buy a drill when the truth is that they want to buy what the drill produces. They want holes. If you want to improve your results, start strategic sales conversations.
If you know people want holes, why wouldn’t you start the conversation there? If you happen to be tasked with winning new business away from your competitors, something we euphemistically call “a competitive displacement,” you know for certain that your prospective client already has a company who looks and sounds a lot like you. Because you decided to enter from the Left, you look and sound like a commodity, something that doesn’t help you compel change.
“But wait,” you say, “I just want to uncover their dissatisfaction so I can help them with a solution.” The approach we have used in B2B sales for the last thirty years is inadequate to today’s challenges, which is why our methods continue to evolve. How can you work in an industry for years—or decades—and not have any theory as to the common, systemic challenges your prospective clients struggle with every day? How is it possible to not know how to help your clients with better results as it pertains to strategic outcomes they want and need—and are likely struggling to obtain?
I believe there is room for all approaches, and deciding on your strategy requires understanding the context that drives your choices. However, when the general setting is that your prospect doesn’t believe they need to change and that you are a commodity (or should be treated like one), there isn’t a good reason to play small.
Enter from the Right
Starting a conversation about the change necessary to obtain the strategic outcomes you sell is a better strategy. While it’s easy to lump your offering in with your competitors, it’s more difficult to minimize the value of the strategic outcomes you can help your dream client improve.
Starting a conversation about something more important, more strategic, and more valuable makes you look and sound very different from your competition. It positions you as something more than a salesperson; it positions you as a business person and a potential partner with a more strategic—and valuable—view of your client’s business.
This Morning’s Challenge
Earlier this morning, a reader accused me of Entering from the Left. The reader suggested that I am guilty of doing precisely the opposite of what I recommend. Fortunately, the reader was incorrect. Here is what it might look like if I entered from the Left:
My name is Anthony Iannarino, and I am an internationally-recognized sales expert. I have written and published three best-selling books on sales. I have spoken to and advised some of the largest sales organizations on Earth. Over 100,000 people subscribe to my daily blog, and many of them read my Sunday newsletter. You should buy my books because they will help you sell better.
You aren’t going to find me writing anything like this on this site or my Sunday newsletter. Instead, I wrote a post that describes the very problem many salespeople and sales organizations struggle with now, namely competitive displacements and being perceived—and treated like—a commodity. I provided an idea about how you start a conversation in a different place than your competitors to increase the likelihood your dream client will agree to meet with you.
In writing this post, I have infected you with the idea that one can enter a sales conversation from the Right or the left, that one is markedly better than the other, and that there is a way to increase your effectiveness by entering from the Right. Rather than trying to rely on my bona fides to convince you, I provided you with an experience that tells you more about me and my ideas than sharing my resume with you.
Every Interaction Matters
Every interaction with your dream client provides them with information about you. Entering from the Left often proves that you believe the value you create is found in your company, your products, and the proof that other companies work with you. You lose a lot of prospective clients in this conversation because it is clear to them that you don’t offer any value yourself when you are the value proposition.
When you start a conversation about improving results in an area that rises to the level of being strategic for your client, the experience of that conversation provides a higher level of proof than leaning on external factors, like how big your company is, how long you’ve been in business, and a fancy list of logos your company serves.
You will find the blueprint for this work in Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition.
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Filed under: Sales