Think about the last time that you bought a car. Did a car salesman cold call you and convince you that you needed a new car, or did you decide it was time for a new car? Did you walk into a random dealership waiting to be sold on a particular make and model or did you know what you wanted to buy? Did you know the features you wanted and the price point you were willing to pay? The reality is you knew what you wanted to buy, the color, the features and exactly how much you wanted to pay.
Business to business sales today, is a lot like car sales. Our buyers have already identified a need. Our buyers have determined which suppliers can meet that need. And our buyers know the price point they are willing to pay for your service. Supplier is pitted against supplier competing for preference with the customer. And guess what… your products and services are the same… both you and your competitors tout great customer services… and the price points are similar. So either you win, your competitor wins or no one wins.
Access to information changes everything. Sales people are being treated like procurement. By the time the buyer is ready for a conversation with you, they know what they want and they want to know how cheap they can get it from you.
So how can you change this paradigm?
- You can change the conversation.
- You can teach your prospects into the funnel.
Changing the Conversation
I was at a conference when a speaker discussed the best approach for responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP). The speaker said to respond to the RFP the way that the business has asked. And then when you go to do a presentation on your response hand out the RFP and tell the participants… “We’ve responded to the RFP and you can read it after we leave. Rather, now, I would like to discuss with you some of the unmet challenges that we uncovered in our diligence and how we think you can respond to them.”
What struck me is that when salespeople are treated like procurement, it is like responding to an RFP… No one knows the right format, the right words, no one knows what will strike the decision makers fancy. Someone will win and a lot will lose… So how do you create preference for your solutions over the competitors? You differentiate yourself and you differentiate yourself as someone who can help their business be competitive. And that means that you don’t simply take the order. You ask the customer to step back with you to learn about their environment, you provide unique perspectives and you share the insights that you have learned from other customers.
Teach Prospects into the Funnel
The truth is that you speak to more decision makers that look like your customer than your customer does. What issues are they sharing with you? What challenges are they facing? How are they meeting those challenges? Use social media (I will talk more about this later) to share those challenges. Participate in discussions where your customers or future customers are learning. And teach them something… Don’t talk about you or your services, talk about the issues that businesses face (ultimately that your solution can resolve).
The truth is that people who win deals more often tell decision makers something they don’t know. Use social media as a mechanism to teach them what they should be concerned about. Provide context that leads to action and ultimately back to you and your solution.
Procurement or Consultant
At the end of the day, you can continue to take orders. And if orders are falling from the sky, good for you. However, if you are like many salespeople I am coming across it is getting harder and harder to make your number from customers who are pinning you against your competitors. It’s time to be known for something different… It’s time to teach. It’s time to challenge. It’s time to win.