What you communicate to your clients says a lot about what kind of salesperson you are. The things you believe your prospective client is going to be interested in, and what you think they’ll find compelling is a window into what they can expect from you—as well as how likely you are to win their business. All sales conversations are not created equal, some being extremely valuable to your client, while others are missing the mark completely.
What you choose to communicate also provides some idea of your development as a consultative salesperson. It’s something like Eleanor Roosevelt’s “Small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events, and great minds talk about ideas.”
Too many salespeople communicate as if their clients were purchasing agents, not decision-makers. The purchasing agent might be interested in a conversation that sounds like the questions on a request for proposal. They might want to know about your company’s history, financial stability, clients you already serve, and learning about your products, services, and solutions. They are merely trying to buy what they need, and to a purchasing agent, the product is the product, and a vendor is a vendor.
Decision-makers in complex B2B sales don’t find these conversations compelling, nor do they find them valuable. They generally see the conversation above to be a waste of their time. While they will be polite and listen, the choice to talk about these things isn’t likely to result in another meeting.
There are several reasons you might start a conversation around your company and your solution. You may have been taught and trained that this is the best way to establish your credibility with the client, leaning on your company to prove you belong in the room, something that would have been the right choice in the 1980s. You could also start this way because the PowerPoint deck your company provided you starts with eight slides about your company, followed by your product offering and your unique selling proposition. This is another model that is decades old and has lost much of its value.
But sales success is individual. Most salespeople start low-value creation conversations because they don’t possess the business acumen and situational knowledge or the confidence to start the conversation that their client would find more valuable. Nor do they have a model or the B2B sales training and development necessary to succeed.
There is a specific type of salesperson who walks into their client’s office with a legal pad and a pen, or maybe an iPad. They may or may not have a business card, and if they have a slide deck, the content will have almost nothing to do with their company, with the exception of their logo. Their credibility will not be generated by anything external; it will all be internal. The conversation will not only provide credibility but also position them as a peer, as consultative, and as an advisor.
Instead of talking about their company, they’ll talk about their prospective client’s company. Instead of sharing what makes their company special, they’ll share a view that provides their client with context, doing the work of sense-maker, helping their contacts understand their world, and exploring what changes might be necessary to their future results. Instead of asking questions designed to cause the client to expose a gap in their performance, their dissatisfaction, the questions they ask will help the client learn something they were unaware of before meeting with the salesperson.
Decision-makers are interested in pursuing their strategic objectives, and they find conversations about outcomes more interesting than company histories, board members, investors, or products. They want to understand what they might do to improve their outcomes, why they might look at something different, and how they can generate better results.
The reason you talk about these things is that you know that this is what is necessary to win big deals because you know it is what makes you consultative. You also have the insights and experience, or you have been well-trained and developed in a modern sales approach, one that doesn’t rely on external factors for credibility or an outdated approach to professional selling.
The Value of the Sales Conversation
You might recognize that low-value conversations are designed to be valuable to the salesperson, first by allowing them to feel credible, and second by allowing them to talk about what makes their company and their solutions special. It is self-oriented because it is designed to serve the salesperson and their company, even though this approach works against their desired outcomes.
The higher value conversation serves the client by helping them pursue their goals and objectives by providing the context and information that creates possibility or potential, something greater than fishing around to find a problem and offering to solve it with your solution. There is no reason to meet with a client if you aren’t already aware of the problems they’ll already be struggling with and ideas about how to help them with a better way to think about their business. This is an other-oriented conversation.
No one starts their sales career with higher value conversations, although many now start somewhere further along this path when they are given the development opportunities and coaching to enable the skills and the approach. But if you find yourself in low-value conversations, you should do everything you can to acquire a modern approach, and work to grow into the kind of salesperson that provides greater value through the sales conversation.
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