Today’s post is by Andrea Grodnitzky, Richardson’s chief marketing officer. She is responsible for demand generation and value creation through strategic marketing, brand awareness, digital optimization, product launch initiatives, and market-facing thought leadership to drive sustained, organic growth.
Why does it make sense for salespeople to develop new skills? To start, consider three facts about the current state of buying and selling.
- Customers have an increasing number of buying options and, therefore, face more complexity in the decision process.
- More buying decisions are unfolding behind closed doors, leaving sellers in a poor position to shift buyers’ assumptions and existing beliefs.
- Skepticism among buyers is increasing: A study of 33,000 people revealed that trust across major institutions, including business, has dropped by 37 percentage points in the U.S., according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.
Sales professionals need new capabilities to properly face these challenges. Here are the current skills sales professionals need – and how to implement them.
Skill #1: Asserting a Point of View to Shape Thinking
Most customers tend to hold deeply ingrained beliefs. Positioning a solution means reshaping these well-established notions.
However, sales professionals must first understand the customer’s needs and perspectives before asserting their own perspectives. Take the time to ensure you express a point of view based on facts, not assumptions.
Asserting a point of view can feel threatening to the customer. Therefore, clarify your intent first. Make it clear that your interests are aligned to those of the customer. This preliminary step creates an environment that is more conducive to asserting a point of view.
Next, use concise, compelling language to deliver your message. Remember: Customers embark on buying journeys because they seek a solution, so don’t be afraid to be assertive.
Finally, after asserting your point of view, ask for the customer’s response. Use reflection questions like, “What are your thoughts on this approach?” or, “How do you see this solution fitting into your business model?” To advance the dialogue, sales professionals need to know if the solution capabilities resonate with the customer’s needs.
Skill #2: Uptiering to Gain Access
Uptiering is the process of expanding your engagement within an account and drawing in more senior-level contacts. This skill is invaluable because decisions today typically occur among a team. In most selling scenarios, if you’re talking to just one person, you’re engaging only a fraction of the customer. Effective sales professionals use uptiering to expand their spheres of influence rather than leapfrogging from one person to another.
Embracing this approach means building trust with the initial contact. Doing so reduces the risk of alienating the primary contact when making the request to meet with senior-level decision makers.
Moreover, the current contact must be certain granting you access to senior-level colleagues will reflect well on them. Without an uptiering strategy, the sales cycle can grow, leaving the sales professional with a limited understanding of the customer’s needs. Sales professionals should begin the request by recognizing the current contact’s existing level of support while highlighting the benefits of expanding ties to both the current contact and the senior-level contact.
Skill #3: Creating Alignment among Stakeholders
One dissenting voice within the buying team is enough to sink the sale. This outcome is more likely to appear as business challenges grow in complexity and create uncertainty in the buying process. Therefore, sales professionals need a plan for aligning the stakeholders and encouraging their resolve to move forward.
The first step is to identify the source of misalignment. In most selling scenarios, the source is fear or communication breakdown. Next, the sales professional must weave the differing customer perspectives into one case for change. Finally, the sales professional must address concerns surrounding risk. Just as the buyer’s journey is dynamic, the process of building alignment is also ever-changing. Alignment is never assured until the sale is complete.
Effective sales professionals are recognizing that the skills needed today look different from conventional selling capabilities. Uptiering, asserting, and aligning are all part of the new playbook.
To learn more about Richardson’s advanced sales training program, High-Stakes Consultative Dialogues, please download a complimentary brochure here.