I was speaking with a top marketer and high-powered sales professional (yes, the two skills are not mutually exclusive), and the conversation drifted to how he made approaches to prospective clients and how HE liked to be approached. The two were the same, and clearly it’s lead him to experience fantastic success, based upon his story and current situation.
He shared with me that “once I discovered this secret, I quit “selling” and just had a conversation.” He related how he had been approaching clients with qualifying questions, asking them about their business, and subsequently telling them and showing them how his expertise could provide solutions, how they had helped others in similar situations, and here were the reasons why. The is a common approach, one most sales people take to generated leads, warm calls, those they have no real personal relationship with prior to the initial conversation. It’s a frontal assault, based on the ABC (Always Be Closing) school of sales, which works great for high volume, turn-and-burn, broad-based consumer sales. It’s high-pressure, high speed, high-volume approach that will, with some minor tweaks, meet the numbers goal almost every time if enough approaches are made. But it doesn’t usually lead to the most loyal clients, or the most profitable, and certainly not the longest term clients, those who provide life-time value which is 10-20 times higher than the initial transaction value.
For long-term, relationship-based, loyalty-rewarded business-to-business sales, this type of approach is less successful, and can be annoying and offensive to the executive to whom it is directed – it’s disrespectful to think that such an individual is going to make a quick, ill-considered purchasing decision, on his own, without due diligence, without internal consultation, right in front of the salesperson. Not happening.
Sometimes a more subtle, staged approach is more appropriate – and more successful! This is not a style issue, it’s a functional reality. People want to do business with those they trust, and to come straight at someone without knowing anything substantive about them, and put pressure on them to make a purchasing decision, on what usually is a fairly high-ticket spend, does not inspire trust – someone worthy of my trust would know better . . .
Now, for the secret my colleague imparted. His conversations don’t revolve around benefits, features, cost, product production schedules, arcane back-office technology, or even specific results. His conversations center around discovering the nature and often the source of the problem, the pain point the prospect is suffering from. Once that is established, no promises of a solution are made, but a commitment is asked of the prospect to explore a couple of ideas further, and see if the relationship is likely to work. That way they can both see that the steps recommended are sensible and effective, but also that each side has at least an emotional skin in the game, they’ve both committed to give TIME and EFFORT to solving the problem. Cost is not the central focus, indeed it may not even be mentioned.
In a nutshell, the secret is to solve problems that both parties have agreed are problems and have agreed to work together to solve. It’s a common path, not a push-down strategy, and it works to “knock down walls” and reduce resistance, and craft a reasonable, fair and honest business relationship.
Try this with your next solid prospect, and see what the results are. We all have to give to get, and with this simple secret, you get both.