For a very long time, salespeople have been taught to start sales presentations with their company’s story as a way to gain credibility with their prospective clients. Most of the slide decks provided by marketing departments and sales enablement start the conversation with information about the company, believing the contacts have to decide what company they are going to select as a partner. This approach has the opposite of the intended outcome, making the salesperson irrelevant by starting a conversation around something that should come much later in the conversation.
Your contacts and clients are trying to solve the problem. Your relevance early in the process is determined by the conversation you choose while you have your dream client’s time and attention.
Your Company Story: It’s nice that your company has a wonderful story and that it has been in business for a long time. It’s terrific that you are stable, that you have weathered all the economic storms and market disruptions over time. Your national or global footprint might be relevant for some members of your client’s buying committee. Still, it does nothing to make you, the salesperson, relevant when it comes to helping them produce better results.
Your Investors and Investments: Your list of investors is a who’s who list of everybody who matters. Some of the largest and well-recognized companies have given your company money to get started or expand. It’s impossible not to be impressed by the money people who believe in your company, and there are sure to be some small segment of people who are dazzled by this list. No part of this conversation makes you relevant to your client’s current challenges or opportunities.
Your Leadership Team: Of all the things you might show your contacts during a meeting that will make you irrelevant, it might be your organizational chart. An org chart that starts with the CEO and works down to the management level might be just about the most boring and useless content you could share with your now catatonic client who would have preferred a root canal to visiting with you.
Your Existing Clients: One of the ways you might try to gain traction with your contacts is social proof. Showing them all the big companies with logos you might find in every house in the country where you live doesn’t increase their desire to spend time working on their problems with you, the salesperson who is supposed to be helping them.
Your Products: Your products, services, and solutions are the best in the world. You believe your contacts need to know about what you sell. They need to think that you are the best choice, which means you have to tell them everything about what makes your solutions so great. Even with this true, early in the process, it is irrelevant.
What then might make you relevant?
Your Sales Approach: A modern, consultative sales approach designed to serve the contacts in understanding their world and helping to facilitate a conversation and process that helps them make the right decision for their business and the outcomes they need makes you relevant.
Your Point of View: Passing the relevancy test is made easier when you have a point of view about your client’s business and their choices. Possessing a point of view requires that you have the business acumen to accompany your sales acumen, both being necessary for you to be worth your client’s consideration. It also means having the situational knowledge that informs the advice you offer your contacts and the people on their buying team.
Your Understanding of Their Challenges: Of all the possible ways you might create a preference to work with you, your company, and your solution, proving that you have a deep understanding of your client’s challenges, opportunities, and constraints are what makes you pertinent to any buying decision.
Your Experience Solving Similar Challenges: It’s comfortable to rely on the low relevance topics like your company’s history and your leadership team. Still, you become crucial to a decision when you speak from your own experience and your company’s experience about how to solve the challenges your contacts are dealing with now.
Your Vision of their Future State: Can you help your clients see their future, one in which they are producing the better results they need? Can you show them how they are going to get from their current state to the better future state, maybe one better than they could imagine before giving you their time? If you want to command your client’s time and their decision, you have to help them see this future clearly, while believing you are the right person to help them get there.
Your Ability to Execute: In big deals, in complex B2B sales, and in sales where what you sell is strategic, your ability to execute is a variable to your client’s success. If what you sell is essential to your client’s success, then you must be able to execute and ensure they achieve the outcomes you are promising.
Your Solution: You can have the exact solution your client needs, but failing to pass the relevancy test by failing at the rest of the points above will likely cause you to lose big deals to someone who scores better on all these factors. That said, your solution has to be right for your client, making how you solve their problem part of what makes them want to buy from you.
One of the biggest challenges for salespeople now is passing the relevance test. Failing that test means having the first meeting, only to have your contacts go dark, leaving you to chase them as you try to follow up. You improve your chances win your dream client by continuing the sales conversation when you—and the conversations you engage in—are essential and useful to your dream clients.
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Filed under: Sales