Selling is simple. It requires certain activities and outcomes that allow you to create and win new opportunities. These activities are well known and equally well documented. They are taught and trained and written about and captured on video. Because something is simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, some of the simplest things are difficult in execution. Here is why selling is simple and increasingly difficult.
You start by developing a list of targets, those prospective clients who are most likely to have the very challenges your solutions solve for them. Once you have a list of companies, it’s more challenging to acquire phone numbers and email addresses, even though there have never been more sources available to a salesperson than there is now.
Once you have contact names, you have to pick up the phone and call them to schedule a meeting. You also have to leave voicemail messages and follow up with emails, persisting until you schedule the first meeting. You work your lists, always adding new targets while varying your approach over time.
When you succeed in scheduling a meeting, you do enough research to learn more about what your client does, the challenges in their vertical that you can help explain and resolve, as well as the questions you need to answer and the ones your clients are likely to ask.
The outcome of the first meeting is simple. You need to help your dream client explore change and schedule another meeting to dive deeper into what’s going in their business, why they should change, how they should change, and who is going to be involved in the process from their end.
Acquiring an understanding of where your client is now and helping them make sense of things sets you up nicely to collaborate on a solution they believe will work for them. It also enables you to gain consensus from the people who are going to need to say yes to your proposal. It may take you multiple meetings to accomplish these outcomes. You’ll also have to discuss the investment you are asking your dream client to make, a simple and straightforward conversation.
You can expect your dream clients to have questions and concerns about the solution, the investment, and any number of things that give them pause as it relates to moving forward with you and your solution. From there, you must negotiate an agreement and execute your solution, taking good care of your client.
All of this is simple. None of it is easy.
It’s Increasingly Difficult
Even though you know what companies and people are likely to value your solution and have their contact information, it isn’t easy to obtain a meeting. Your dream clients are time-starved, and they have learned to live with the status quo, even though things are not optimal for them. You make it easier to schedule a meeting when you promise your contacts something worth their time—even if they never buy from you. It’s also easier to get a meeting if you use a modern prospecting approach and cadence.
Research is easy, but developing a compelling theory about why your dream client should change is not. Not only can your theory be incorrect, but you can also overshoot the mark by trying too hard to tie your theory to your client’s public statements or to challenges you’ve seen in their industry. You can also undershoot the mark, knowing too little to be relevant. A functional theory takes work.
A first meeting is easy. You open the call by establishing and gaining agreement on an agenda, and you begin your discovery process. It’s easy to ask your client what’s keeping them up at night. It’s more difficult to tell them what should be keeping them at night—or soon will be. If your outcome is to help compel them to change and improve their results, you have the more difficult task of helping them discover something about themselves. Additionally, you have to develop a better understanding of all the things you’ll need to know to serve them effectively.
I have this post written that I haven’t yet published. It’s about the lack of alignment in organizations and how it increasingly makes consensus difficult—or something next to impossible (right next to impossible). The challenges in getting to the right solution aren’t always easy or straightforward. If it is difficult to get a meeting with one person, get a meeting with all eight of the people on the buying committee is the equivalent of colonizing Mars. The lack of alignment in companies becomes your stalled deal, even when it is necessary and makes perfect sense.
Your price is always going to be a factor in a deal, and so are your terms—or, more likely, your client’s terms. Negotiating is pretty straightforward; preventing your client from underinvesting is challenging. Squaring your indemnification language with your dream client’s language that shifts all risk to your company is more complicated than the triple Lindy.
The Difference Between Simple and Difficult
While the outcomes you need to create are well-known and straightforward, obtaining them is anything but easy. Even though nothing changes much in sales from one year to the next, the requirement that one be truly consultative and create value continues unabated. If you want to succeed in business-to-business sales, you have to get a lot better at getting a lot better.
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