By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
Companies are intensely focused on their offerings/products. I appreciate there are many valid reasons this is necessary. A major issue is passing this focus onto sellers who are given a great deal of product training despite that it can become a barrier for them to be “customer- centric.” Products unto themselves provide buyers neither value nor payback. Having buyers understand HOW offerings can be used to achieve desired business results should be a seller’s primary focus.
An unfortunate consequence of extensive training is that for B and C Players, talking about offerings becomes their comfort zone. Is it any wonder this opens them up to objections and premature discussions of price? Key Players are generally unwilling to tolerate product pitches. Some calls will end abruptly with sellers being delegated to lower levels starting the “death spiral” for opportunities.
Buyers, sellers and vendors would be better served if:
- Companies and sellers viewed each offering as a potential means to an end.
- Ends were defined as desired buyer business outcomes having inherent value.
- Sellers realized titles might have different desired ends than others in buying committees.
- Each person’s perspectives were known, enabling sellers to present “enterprise-views” of the potential value that can be realized. Sellers that fail to get each person’s perspective leave potential benefit on the table and will have less compelling values to present.
The way sellers answer a simple question can go a long way toward determining the outcome of a sales call. When asked: What does your company do? Answers that refer to offerings give buyers options to drive conversations in sub-optimal directions. If a seller answers by saying, “We offer sales training,” then buyer responses can be:
- Our salespeople don’t need training.
- There’s no budget for sales training.
- How much does the training cost?
- Tell me about your training.
Consider the last response. A seller is 30 seconds into a phone call and being told to describe his or her offering with no idea of a buyer’s needs. It is analogous to being invited into a dark cave without a flashlight! Somehow sellers must attempt to get buyers talking about their situations.
A better seller response would be to reference results the vendor has helped clients achieve, followed by a question to start a conversation such as: We help clients identify and share best practices to empower a higher percentage of sellers to achieve quota. How do you share your top performers’ techniques with other salespeople?
Steven Covey created the brilliant concept of starting with the end in mind. “A Players” learn the ends first. Next, they help buyers understand why ends can’t be achieved in the current environment. They offer the means (only the relevant capabilities) and seek buyer agreement. Lastly, they ask buyers: If you had these (capabilities) could you achieve the desired outcome?
At Key Player levels, vendors and sellers are more likely to be successful when B2B buying decisions are focused on outcomes and usage rather than offerings.