One challenge many salespeople face in adopting a modern sales approach is the fear of insulting their contacts by sharing their insights and their perspective. Some feel that they will be perceived as “arrogant” for believing that they know better than their client about achieving the outcomes the client is pursuing, a belief that prevents the salesperson from being consultative and relegates them to taking orders or selling commodities.
Others are afraid they will harm their relationship with their contacts by assuming the client already knows everything the salesperson knows, the type of information parity that makes one party irrelevant. After all, why should the client pay for your help if they already know everything they need to know? There is no question that the great game of sales has dramatically changed, and those who refuse to evolve and keep pace are going to fall off the back of the Bell curve.
Why Salespeople Fear Briefing Executives
There are a number of reasons salespeople fear briefing their prospective clients, B2B buyers, and other stakeholders. Their first fear is the belief that their contacts know more than they do, something that is rarely true. While there is little chance that you know more about your client’s business than they do, there is an equally low probability that your client knows more about your business—and the results you create—than you do. While they have a greater breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding in their world, you have the edge when it comes to what you sell.
Specifically, your contact buys what you sell for one company, while you provide better outcomes for hundreds or even thousands of companies. That depth and breadth of experience is, in part, why you know more than your client, with few exceptions. They cannot have the same expertise as someone who has had greater experience solving different problems across different industries, since that situational knowledge can only be obtained by doing the work.
A second common fear is the belief that the executive you are supposed to brief already knows everything you know. An experienced stakeholder will likely know a lot of what you might share with them, but they will not have your perspective. First, you will be surprised by what your client doesn’t know or all the things they are simply not aware of because they don’t study your industry. Second, executive leaders are generally interested in information that can help them better run their business, which includes information and perspectives that will help them prevent mistakes and improve outcomes.
Much of the time, we fear the wrong danger. While you might be afraid that you are going to ruin a relationship by sharing your insights and ideas, what you should fear is being irrelevant—because without those ideas, you have no perspective to offer and are unable to create value for your contacts.
What You Should Know About Your Contact
Let’s start piecing together the mindset you need to fearlessly deliver your insights and provide a provocative perspective.
The starting point for establishing a consultative mindset is recognizing that your contacts are smart, experienced, and that they got that way by pursuing information and insights. They weren’t born knowing what they know about their business, and at least as it pertains to your industry and the outcomes you sell, their beliefs and understanding were almost certainly shaped by the salespeople and the companies with whom they partnered in the past.
You should also know and believe that your contacts already know some of what you might share with them. It’s nice to be able to provide novelty, but not everything has to be a surprise. Your perspective on the things they already know and believe is also valuable to your clients, especially when your take helps them make sense of the dissonance they experience when what they have always done no longer works for them.
Decision-makers and decision-shapers are interested in new perspectives, especially the kind that open up their aperture and allow them make new distinctions about their business and the actions they will need to take to improve future outcomes. When you realize that your clients seek new perspectives, you will start to recognize the value you create as a consultative salesperson.
How to Fearlessly Deliver Your Insights
You can start by asking permission to share your insights, a question that invariably earns a yes. Your insights will provide context for the ideas you want to share, especially the ones you intend to reshape your client’s assumptions.
As you go, acknowledge that you don’t know everything by asking your contact to share their perspective about how the things you are sharing show up in their world and what they have learned. One of the most important changes in professional B2B sales is that discovery now means helping your client discover something about themselves, while simultaneously discovering perspectives that improve your own.
Your approach isn’t a monologue, and you shouldn’t treat it as such. Instead, you want to ask questions that help your contact recognize the value of the insights you just shared. These questions should encourage your client to see the implications of your new information—and more importantly, how you can help them use that information to develop a new approach or solution. This is especially true when the insight has implications that should compel your client to change.
Finally, you can improve your ability to help your clients when each and every client conversation informs your future conversations. So, incorporate what you learn into future conversations, making them more valuable for your contacts, your clients, and your dream clients.
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Filed under: Sales