Category Archives: Consultative Selling
Competing against an incumbent provider is one of the more challenging sales situations that we encounter. The existing account holder likely has a stronger relationship with the client, first-hand knowledge of the client’s business, and enjoys the benefit of being a known entity. Remarkably, even with mediocre performance, an incumbent can be difficult to unseat, and a lot of the reason why is attributed to psychology. There are a few neuroscience concepts that give us some insights as to why customers hold on so tightly and how a challenger might loosen the grip.
Loss aversion is the simple idea that the fear of losing something is much stronger than the joy of gaining something — in fact, it is about twice as strong, according to research. In a competitive sales environment, that means that the value proposition of a challenger needs to be significantly stronger than that of the incumbent if the challenger hopes to win the business. Loss aversion is how even relatively weak providers maintain accounts. So why is our fear of loss so strong?
It is human nature to overvalue what we already own; this is called the endowment effect. It is evident when people are reluctant to part with something they own for its cash equivalent, or if the amount that people are willing to pay for something is lower than what people are willing to accept when selling it (Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, » Continue Reading.
In sales, we hear them all the time — objections from our customers that just don’t make a lot of rational sense… not to us, anyway. We don’t say it out loud, but we’re thinking, “What? Where did that objection come from?”
The irrational objection is one of the tougher challenges in Sales because we know that there is something deeper that the customer is not comfortable sharing. Also, the customer may not be fully aware of some of his/her deeper drivers. Since the sale will not progress until we resolve the objection, we need to discover what is causing the objection — but how?
Our brains — ergo, our customers’ brains — are wired with biases that cause errors in judgment. Because we may not be aware of these cognitive biases, even skilled questioning may not reveal them. During the sales dialogue, we need to identify and understand biases and get good at using “debiasing” techniques to move the conversation forward.
The Status Quo Bias
The status quo bias is at the root of many irrational objections. It’s really simple to understand — our brains don’t like change. Essentially, we have a preference for things to remain the same until the status quo becomes too uncomfortable to accept. This bias is a powerful and normal reaction for us in response to anything new and » Continue Reading.
Your Client Network May Not be as Strong as You Think
Proficiency in sales is a desired objective for individuals interested in building their professional selling skills. It denotes competence, expertise, know-how, and mastery. Yet, certain proficiencies can lead sales professionals into traps that sabotage relationships with clients. In this series of posts, I will share four proficiency traps and how to avoid them. The first was The Technical Trap; the second, The Execution Trap; and this third involves networking within the client organization.
Your Professional Selling Skills Can Be Improved by Focusing on Constant Networking
Sales professionals are usually quite good at building a network of relationships within client organizations. The trap they fall into, however, is taking these networks for granted. They fail to track how the structure, politics, or budget priorities change over time, and they overlook relationships that should be cultivated with other influential stakeholders.
Some buyer-seller relationships have been so longstanding that sales professionals begin to feel a little too secure. They may have earned trusted advisor status with key stakeholders and built a large network of contacts at different levels. This is all good — until it isn’t.
Few, if any, client organizations are static. Change can be fast or slow; come in spurts or be ongoing. In an increasingly challenging sales environment, change is to be expected and anticipated. » Continue Reading.
When you are thinking about developing your selling skills you might focus on your ability to demonstrate execution proficiency. This sales proficiency is a desired objective for anyone who wants to improve their ability to build client relationships. The ability to execute against client requests denotes competence, expertise, know-how, and mastery. Yet, providing an immediate “yes” to all client requests can sometimes lead sales professionals into a trap that winds up sabotaging relationships with clients. In this post I explore the sales trap that involves excellent execution. To learn more about other common sales traps, check out this article on The Technical Trap.
Your Selling Skills Should Be Built on more than Execution
Sales professionals who build client relationships based on responding to their requests with outstanding performance can find themselves in an execution trap.
Consider this scenario:
You have a legacy program or solution in place, and because you have such a solid relationship with the client, he/she asks you to do something else. You are such a known entity that he/she feels comfortable making this request, and you respond by doing what is asked. What could possibly be the problem here?
The trap is that your strong client relationship gets diluted every time you immediately say yes. When you simply do what the client asks, you become just another order-taker. Instead of seeing great value in your ability to execute with excellence, » Continue Reading.
The definition of insanity, as attributed to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When talking with sales leaders, I’ll often modify this definition and apply it to their circumstances. I’ll ask, “This year, if your sales professionals do exactly what they did last year, will they get the same sales performance as last year?”
If their company grew exponentially last year, they might say yes. More often than not, sales leaders reply, “If they do the same things as last year, we might grow a bit, but not as much as we need to.” If, however, sales were down the previous year, the reply will be, “If our sales professionals do what they did last year, we’ll be in bad shape.”
For most sales leaders, no matter whether they did well or not, the objective each year is to improve sales performance and grow revenues. To me, the sane conclusion is that sales teams need to do something different if they aim to achieve different results.
During these conversations, once we get to the point of agreeing that something has to change, I share four areas where change can make a difference in results:
Sales skills: Does the sales team use the Six Critical Skills—Presence, Relating, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking—for client dialogues to develop and expand relationships. Sales talent: Are the right people in the right roles. Sometimes it » Continue Reading.
I have been in sales for many years, well before joining Richardson last August. I have heard my share of objections from prospects and clients, and I thought it worthwhile to share some of the most common objections to sales training.
I don’t have the budget. There is an investment component to training, and if prospects don’t have money in the budget, that’s a valid objection. If I’m talking with the right person, they certainly have a budget to run their business, but they may not have set aside money for training in that fiscal year. If they agree in the importance of getting people to do things differently to get better results, then the objection really isn’t about budget, but about timing. Even so, it is worth having a conversation around what the investment might look like, and whether there might be more value in exploring a sales development initiative versus another effort they currently have allocated money for. The framework for this conversation is to develop a mutual understanding of what it takes to get sales professionals to do something different to achieve better results. I don’t have the time. Sales leaders are extremely busy, trying to juggle competing priorities in managing their teams while achieving their financial targets. I understand their time constraints, while knowing they could achieve more if they invested the time to get their middle performers to act like top performers. If they » Continue Reading.
This could be a very short blog post. The answer, in a word, is “Yes.”
But let’s look a little deeper into the reasons why sales training is important for growing your business.
First, consider these assumptions:
Sales professionals drive revenue. Within every sales organization is a range of skills, talent, and capabilities. The B2B selling environment, with ultra-informed buyers, continues to grow more challenging.
Some might argue a new way of selling is needed to succeed in today’s digital, connected, mobile world. The good news is that while enhancements might be necessary, there’s a lot about selling that hasn’t changed.
Buyers may be more savvy and demanding, but they still need guidance to make the best decisions – and trust is still a major factor in making buying decisions.
What this means is your sales professionals must be skilled in connecting with the buyer on both a personal and business level. They must be authentic in establishing credibility and earning the right to ask questions. Then they need to gain pertinent information about the buyer’s situation, tailor insights and ideas, and provide a differentiated solution.
These are a higher-order level of consultative selling skills, requiring a greater degree of preparation, assertiveness, and initiative. The sale is still made in the dialogue; it’s just that the path for getting there is a tougher climb.
There is one question that comes up in virtually every Richardson sales training session that I have conducted over the past 23 years. It is part of an activity in which teams practice coming up with and asking open-ended questions to buyers. This is the question that participants love to ask buyers — “What keeps you up at night?”
This was new, innovative, and fun back in 1997. Now, it is a cliché. It is a salesy question. If a buyer is interviewing four different companies to find the right partner, he/she can hear that question four times. In my training sessions, I work really hard with participants on asking open-ended questions that avoid this trap. The goal is to come up with classic questions that never go out of style. “What are your biggest worries when it comes to switching advisors?” If I am a buyer and you ask me a worry question, I’ll talk about my worries. You don’t have to make it a cliché about what keeps me up at night.
Another pitfall that I encourage sales professionals to stay away from involves trading questions: “If we are able to do X and Z for you, will you agree to do Y?” Asking open-ended questions with “If”; is a manipulative construction. Buyers see that you are trying to get them to say yes to something before they are ready. They hear the start of a » Continue Reading.