Creating new opportunities in B2B sales means capturing mindshare, shaping the way clients view their business, their challenges, their opportunities. Mindshare also means consulting and providing advice around the decisions where your business and industry intersect with your prospective client’s industry. While it’s helpful to have your marketing department provide you with insights you can share with your prospects and clients, your responsibilities as someone who provides counsel are to develop and share your insights and ideas.
The following ideas will provide you with some guidance on how to develop and use your insights to help your dream clients produce better results, allowing you to stand out in your market and contributing to their preference to work with you.
Identify Factors that Indicate a Change
You only need two things to be a trusted advisor. The first is trust, and the second is advice. Someone who aspires to have their clients treat them as such must work to develop their advice, which means “knowing things worth knowing.” A lot of what you need to know is about what is—or soon will be—challenging your prospective clients and why.
You start by looking for the factors that indicate your prospect needs to change. You must provide the context around the advice you offer and explain where your client is in space, making sense of their world, their challenges, and their opportunities. Go to a search engine and type in “Top 10 trends in…, completing that search term with an industry vertical you serve. Look for patterns and data on a majority of lists and read as much as you can.
When you have finished acquiring an understanding of the vertical, search again, this time searching for “Top 10 trends impacting Chief Marketing Officers,” or something like it. Find the crossover in half a dozen lists and capture all the cited data—as well as CMOs commentary. In both cases, you want third-party data. While your opinion is essential, you need to support it with data in insight selling.
Determine the Implications for Your Client
A trusted advisor doesn’t wait for their client to suffer harm before offering their help. The reason you pay attention to what’s going on in your client’s world is so you can provide advice and counsel while they have time to avoid negative consequences.
Your insights and ideas need to address the implications of the trends that you captured while doing your research. The value of the work you do here is that it allows you to compel change when your client or prospect feels no compulsion. If there are no implications for maintaining the status quo (something next to impossible in a time of accelerating, disruptive change), your insights aren’t going to help you move your clients or prospects to a better future.
The question you need to answer is, “What is the negative outcome your client will experience if they don’t adjust what they are doing to match their current reality?”
Look to Successes and Mistakes
Research is essential, but there is another type of insight you need to leverage and share with your clients. Let’s call these insights your “situational knowledge,” all the things you know to be true from your experience helping clients, why this is better than that, and why this trade-off serves the client better than some other choice they might make.
Looking back over what you have seen your clients do to address challenges is a way to organize what decisions and actions produced success, as well as what decisions and actions (or, more likely, inaction) caused them to suffer harm. Your advice is not found in research alone but through information and data combined with experience—and the background of your company.
Here is how you might organize your ideas. Start by making a list of, say, nine mistakes your clients and prospects are making and why what they are doing is harming their results. What do they believe that conflicts with reality and the decisions they should be taking now? What information, data, and experience can you share with to help them see things differently?
Executive leaders want to know and understand the threats and risks to their business and their plans. One of the ways you might think about developing and sharing your insights is that you are providing an executive briefing (an idea you will find in Eat Their Lunch) designed to keep your contacts informed, preventing them from failing to make decisions due to a lack of understanding of the risks, threats, and opportunities.
Mindshare means shaping the lens through which your contacts view their world. You want the most significant, sharpest lens possible, one that will provide your clients with clarity. It is easier to offer advice after you have shaped the client’s view, helping them see and make sense of their reality before you provide your input.
Context matters. Your advice devoid of context isn’t going to be nearly as effective as it might be were you to start with deepening your client’s understanding.
Respect That Your Client is Intelligent
A cautionary word here. If you are afraid of insulting your contacts by teaching them something they already know, then start your conversation by asking to share your executive briefing. Ask your contact to share their experience and views and ask them to help inform your opinions.
Consultative sales is mostly a form of problem-solving, and while you must be smart and well-informed, know that the executives of the business you are pursuing are intelligent and are working from a base of their own experience.
Discovery used to mean learning how your client was dissatisfied. You are just as likely to have to teach them why they should be unhappy with the status quo. But it also means allowing your client to educate you, improving your view, and providing you with additional context and situational knowledge.
A modern approach to sales means having the insights, ideas, and situational knowledge to offer your clients advice and counsel.
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