One of your primary responsibilities as a consultative salesperson is the use of a modern sales approach, one that provides your client with a higher resolution lens through which to view their business, their results, and their decisions. You help shape your client’s better future by replacing their lower resolution lens, one that doesn’t provide enough clarity to allow for effective decision-making. Clarity comes from sense-making or context, business acumen, and situational knowledge.
Here is how you might think about providing a higher resolution lens.
Seeing What Is Invisible
We tend to believe that our clients know what we know, even though this is rarely true. Just like your contacts know their business better than you, you know your business better than they do. Your contacts have the experience of working in their industry and their business, and it would difficult for you to match their years of experience. The same is true in the other direction, with you having more knowledge and experience in your industry, something your clients can’t match.
We often think of discovery in a way that is too limiting. It’s something more than your contact sharing with you their pain points and their existing dissatisfaction. Your competitors have already explored their dissatisfaction with them. If that was enough to produce the results they needed, they’d already be producing those results.
One of the primary reasons your prospective client may not be able to produce the outcomes they need is because they don’t have information and insights that would allow them to do better. This is why some organizations started to refer to consultative selling as “commercial teaching.”
One of your responsibilities in B2B sales is to be able to provide the contacts you work with the information, insights, and situational knowledge to help them see what was invisible to them, providing a higher resolution than their existing lens allowed.
In Eat Their Lunch, I described the state in which we find many of our clients as “dissonance,” the idea that something isn’t working that your contacts struggle to understand. They’re suffering from missing context and information. All of us struggle from “unknown unknowns,” the things we don’t know that we don’t know. It’s challenging to make the right decisions when you lack information, something made worse when you can’t tell you lack information.
Helping your contacts and clients improve their results means teaching them what they don’t know, especially what they don’t know they don’t know. By doing so, you are providing them with a higher resolution lens through which to view their world.
When you recognize your contacts are making poor decisions, you help them by assessing what they know and what they don’t know, either of which may be the root cause of their problem. You can have clients who believe what they know is true when it isn’t, and some who lack the information to understand what they should do altogether, the latter being a lot easier to help.
Conversations and Context
I gained this insight working in a highly commoditized industry, one in which differentiation was incredibly difficult to achieve, mostly requiring a better and more effective sales approach. At some point, I recognized that I was having conversations with my contacts who were making decisions out of context. Because the lacked context, they were looking through low-resolution lenses, missing a large part of the picture. Out of necessity, I started to provide the context and a better lens.
When you speak with a decision-maker, you often find that the decisions they make share two things. First, they are often based on their constraints, not the ability to break free of the limitations. Second, they lack an awareness of other factors that might change their decision and their results.
For example, my clients at the time would base their decision on what to pay an employee based on what they deemed to be fair, some number in line with how much they believed the job should pay. In doing so, they ignored the context in which they were making those decisions, like the average pay rate of the position in other companies around them, the number of different jobs available to the candidate, how little slack there was in the market, and their overall value proposition.
Much of the time, spending more money produced a lower cost, something that conflicted with their belief about what was their real constraint. Providing context allowed my clients to see their decision through a new lens, one that spoke to their competitiveness and their ability to acquire the talent they needed.
By focusing on solving their problems by providing them with the missing context, the conversation shifted from the typical, tired conversation about their dissatisfaction to the root cause of the challenge and how to solve it, creating differentiation.
The Lens You Provide
Your company, your product, your service, or your solution does not provide a higher resolution lens. Only you, armed with a modern approach to B2B sales, one that is built on insights and providing sound counsel offers greater clarity, the kind that allows your clients to create breakthroughs that will enable you to help them produce better results.
If you aspire to be a trusted advisor in consultative sales, spend more time acquiring the ability to provide the advice.
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Filed under: Sales