From Good to Great in Sales

There is a path from good to great in sales. It isn’t always an easy journey, since it requires that you grow and improve over time, but it is a rewarding one. Here are some milestones to watch for.

From Talking to Inviting a Conversation

Early in sales, you will be excited just to sit down with your prospective client, especially when that person is a decision-maker or a decision-shaper. In your excitement, you will want to talk about yourself, your company, and your solution, mostly driven by your desire to help your prospect with better results. Unfortunately, you might also get hyped up and dominate the conversation, leaving too little room for your prospective client to share with you.

As you spend more time selling, you will find it easier and more natural to make room for your client, allowing them to spend more of the time talking. You will invite the client into a conversation. As your skills grow, your questions will likewise become more powerful, and your client will reveal things that are more valuable for helping them change and improve their business.

From Too Little Value to Strategic Partner

It takes time to become a professional salesperson. The craft is much more difficult to master than most people recognize, as it is a complex, dynamic communication that occurs over days, weeks, or even months. Early in your development, you will want to focus on your product and “solving” your client’s presenting problem. You can create value with those solutions but not nearly as much value as you will be able to create later.

As you progress in your development, your conversations will move past the “presenting problem” as you help your client recognize and address the root cause of their challenge, even when it is something they’d rather not think about. The value you create will focus on helping your client with a strategic outcome, something they will perceive as being valuable enough to buy from you, allowing you to easily vanquish your competition.

 

From Price Sensitivity to Commanding an Investment

In sales, you ask people for money. Sometimes, you have to ask your client for a lot of money, because that is what you need to help them produce the result they need. If you sell something that requires a higher investment than your competitors, it can feel as if what you’re offering is superior to your competitors. But asking for a large investment, even a worthwhile one, can be challenging. Being sensitive about the price makes it more difficult to ask your client for what you need, at least until professional experience matures your view.

As you spend more time selling, you will start to recognize that much of the time, the prospects you lose often end up unhappy with your lower-priced competitors—and their decision to hire them. When you start to pay attention to the challenges your prospective clients face, you often learn that they gave something up to acquire the lower-priced solution. As you go from good to great in sales, you will command a higher investment, ensuring that your client gets the results they need while preventing them from making concessions that harm them.

From Single-Threaded to Building Consensus

When you are excited by a prospective client who is deeply engaged in the sales conversation, especially one with an impressive job title, it’s easy to believe that they are the sole “decision-maker” for your deal. In simple deals, you may only need to engage one person, but as your deals get better and more complex, you’ll recognize the need to bring in more decision-makers and decision-shapers. Rely too much on a single contact and you’ll lose deals that you thought were in the bag, simply because the client “decided to go another way.”

The larger the deal, the more people you will have to manage. Once you realize that there are going to be a lot of people who need to evaluate your solution and your partnership, you will start inviting those people into conversations sooner, ensuring that you have your main contact’s support and helping them manage the process.

From Being Led to Leading Your Client

When you are relatively new in sales, you might feel as if you have to do whatever your client asks of you, to the point that you’re a little scared to recommend any alternatives—even alternatives that would serve them better. When they ask you to do something for them, you will be Johnny-on-the-spot or Jenny-on-the-spot, rushing to please them, hoping that it causes them to choose you over any of your competitors.

Later, you will work to be diplomatic and effective in helping your contacts do the things they need to do and have the conversations that will best serve them, based on your insight into their needs and their business. Instead of being led, you will lead your client, controlling the process, and ensuring that they make the best decision for their business and their future.

From Learning to Teaching

There is every reason to spend time learning—from your peers, through training and development, and especially from your clients. You might start by believing that your primary responsibility is to learn from your clients so you can win more deals, a belief that is often helpful. But as you move past good and towards great, you will need to learn from and teach your clients.

It’s natural to believe your client knows more than you do, and that is true as it pertains to their business—but not for the intersection of your business and the outcomes they need. As you grow professionally, you will find that you know more than your client in some areas. More to the point, to address their root problems you must provide them with new information and new insights, based partly on your experience. The gaps that you fill for them will be valuable to their decision-making, transforming you from “just a salesperson” to someone they look to for advice.

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