In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel H. Pink describes selling as “the ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have.” A sales person can help to facilitate that exchange in ways that are based on value and not just on the product he or she sells.
When a client engages me to help their sales staff, I interview their top performers. My purpose is to decode their selling DNA and identify the markers that make them so successful. What do they all have in common? These people help others to meet their objectives by selling business value.
Throughout all of the interviews I’ve conducted, I’ve learned there are three tactics these top sellers typically employ to do this, to achieve at a higher level than their peers. These tactics are:
- Get to the cost of the problem today. Buyers face any number of problems. Great sales people help buyers define in totality all the costs those problems bring. The costs may be non-monetary, like low morale or frustration, and therefore are harder to quantify. But costs that strike at the bottom line are numbers that are understood and even felt by every person involved in making the buying decision. We once worked with a company whose industry was becoming saturated with competitive products, driving down the prices. When yours is the high-priced product in the market place, it seems every buyer asks about prices first. Great sellers can shape and frame conversations around the costs of the buyer’s problems, not on the price of their solution.
- Tell stories. Stories help the buyers discover for themselves the problems they are facing or the solutions that are needed. Great sales people have several stories to draw from, stories that are personal experiences about past clients they’ve helped. The stories they choose to share depend on the situation or desired outcome. Sales people share their stories when the conversation lulls and the buyer is unable to articulate problems. Stories have structure. You begin them by framing who they are about, then you move on to describe their problem, a turning point, and a resolution. We worked with sales people from one company who were unable to clearly articulate the problems they were facing with buyers. Sales people began sharing what other buyers in their industry had problems with. They found that by sharing stories about successes and failures of their buyers’ peers, the buyers themselves found their voice and they were then able to begin sharing. Stories not only help sales people and prospects get to problems; they can also be used to describe how others use and derive business value from your products.
- Summarize the conversation in writing. This is a follow-up that most sales people tell me they do, but few do it well. I sell my services to many companies in different industries. I am constantly referring to the meeting summary emails I’ve written as follow-up after our conversations. These emails summarize the problems they are facing, the costs these problems are causing, the solutions we talked about and value of those solutions, and, of course, the next steps we discussed. This helps both the customer and me to keep the focus on the problems we are trying to solve. Great sales people don’t rely on memory. They summarize the meeting conversation by writing it down, sharing it with the customer, and allowing the customer to give feedback on the summary.
These are three techniques that great sales people use that help them sell on the business value their products will bring. And these techniques can easily be adapted by you and your sales team too.