By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

listening_to_buyerImagine you’ve applied for a job. In the first meeting the interviewer gives you the choice of first hearing about the job or starting by providing your background and experience. I hope you’d agree the interview should go better if you first heard about the position and requirements the company felt were necessary. It would allow you to tailor or position your knowledge and experience in a way that better aligns with their requirements.

Executives seldom give you that choice in sales calls. Sadly, many sellers begin by talking about their offerings first. Without having any context of what buyers need, several bad things start to happen:

  • Few executives find product pitches interesting.
  • After product is mentioned, buyers can drag sellers into premature pricing discussions.
  • Features that aren’t relevant to buyers are likely to be presented.
  • It’s likely the call will end before the allotted 30 minutes that was scheduled.

In my recent blog post, I talked about the importance for sellers to be business experts, not product experts. Here’s how you can start down that path and earn the right to discuss offerings with buyers.

1. Listen, Don’t Talk
Similar to the job interview scenario, it’s important for sellers to let buyers talk about their situations and challenges first. In fact, viewing sales calls as job interviews may give you a good mindset. Your ultimate objective is to have them “hire” your offering.

Diagnose and Prescribe2. Do Your Best Sherlock Holmes
An initial step is uncovering a goal or problem an executive would be willing to spend money to achieve or address. This will be easier if you go into the call with a menu of title-specific high probability goals. Keep in mind most executives will want to determine that sellers are sincere and competent before sharing business issues.

3. Lead the Discovery
Once a goal is shared, resist the temptation to blindly dive into product. Instead ask why the goal can’t be achieved today and then be prepared with diagnostic questions designed to uncover reasons that can be addressed by specific features or capabilities of your offering. If the buyer knew how to address these barriers, they wouldn’t bother talking with a seller. Helping buyers discover how their current approach is “broken” allows sellers to establish credibility.

4. Patient-Doctor
Doing full diagnoses allows sellers to focus discussions on only the relevant parts of a given offering. Engaging executives in this manner makes the buyer-seller relationship more like a patient-doctor relationship. Complete diagnoses (examinations) result in recommendations (prescriptions) buyers are more ready to accept.

Key Takeaway: Once sellers understand their buyer’s environment they aren’t selling offerings, they’re empowering buyers to achieve desired business outcomes.

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