Your marketing department provides you with a slide deck outlining what is changing in your client’s world as a way to start a conversation with your dream client. They intend to help you pass “the relevance test,” proving you belong in the room with your contacts. You hope—and your contacts hope—you are a peer, someone who knows enough to provide sound advice and counsel. But the depth of your knowledge cannot be limited to a slide deck you took no part in creating. If you want to improve your results in B2B sales, you need to understand the importance of developing your perspective to a consultative selling approach.
A young salesperson challenged a friend of mine. The sales rep delivered a deck with insights, explaining that my friend was running his business wrong. When my friend challenged the salesperson to explain why he believed he was making mistakes, the salesperson suggested that their marketing team told them during training that if their prospective client was not doing what they would eventually recommend, they were wrong and making a mistake. My friend asked the salesperson what he knew about his business and his industry, ending the conversation before it ever really started.
The deck was deeper than the salesperson. He was literally in over his head in this conversation, one for which he was unprepared.
Why Do It Yourself
As a consultative salesperson, there is some work you must do yourself. It isn’t enough to be armed with a slide deck you understand conceptually without having any greater depth to back it up. The slide deck design might be exceptional, with well-developed arguments as to why your dream client should change. But your responsibility doesn’t end when you download the deck to your laptop. Instead, your responsibility is just beginning.
Your marketing team’s depth of knowledge, experience, and business acumen cannot exceed yours. No matter how good they are, no one from marketing, or sales enablement, or sales operations is sitting in front of your prospective client, shaping their thinking, asking them questions, and providing answers to their challenges. Instead, you are there, and in most cases, you are all alone. You have to have depth, gravitas.
Do It Yourself
The trends your marketing team researched and developed provide you with a starting point for your research. You start by reading the content they sourced for you. When you finish reading and understanding the themes, you follow the thread if there are hyperlinks or search for information about those themes yourself. You need to develop a perspective.
Let’s assume you are preparing to call into the healthcare sector. You found a thread about the increasing government spending as the Baby Boomers retire. By researching the increase in spending, you augment what your marketing team provided with your research—and your insights. Your company may already have clients in that sector, which means you can ask your peers what challenges caused their clients to change, making your company’s insights your own, and improving your ability to serve your clients.
For every insight, find and read four or five additional sources. Find sources that support the factor you believe should compel your client to change, and read anything you discover that suggests the factor may not be as important as some people think. Making a good argument means understanding the other side of the case and accepting the valid points that conflict with your point of view.
To stay on top of the things that are going to impact your clients and prospects requires that you continue to pay attention and continue to educate yourself and improve your perspective.
Implications and Application
In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, there is a section about becoming a fifty-two percent subject matter expert, someone with the knowledge and experience to answer second and third-order questions. You need to be a subject matter expert on the reasons your dream client should change, and that means doing your homework.
The trends that should be causing your dream client to change are useless if you don’t know how to apply them to your dream client’s business. You have to develop a theory about why they should change, which requires something more from you.
The application of your theory has to include the implications of doing nothing, maintaining the status quo, or waiting for a future that is sure to punish your prospective client for moving too slow. You cannot be a trusted advisor by waiting for your client to suffer or fail before you decide to help them; you must be proactive. Successfully helping your prospective client change requires you to link the trends to implications. If there is no link between the trends and the consequences, your insights are worthless.
When you engage with your dream clients to help them make sense of their world and understand why they are experiencing dissonance, you can expect questions. Your prospective client expects you to be able to provide additional context.
The Now is Value Creation
There was a time when what you needed for B2B Sales was knowledge of your company and your products and services. No one would have expected you to have business acumen or situational knowledge, nor would you have been expected to have a perspective on why and how your client should change. They would expect you know how to elicit your client’s pain points and offer your solution as the answer, an approach that is now inadequate, especially in more substantial and more complex sales.
The direction B2B sales has been traveling for the last three decades is towards greater value creation. That trend seems to be accelerating as people and companies struggle to make sense of their world and find their way forward in a competitive environment. If you want to sell successfully now, you have to do the work to develop your business acumen and your perspective, becoming a subject matter expert at the intersection of your company and your dream clients.
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Filed under: Sales