Today's blog post is by Tracey Wik, president of GrowthPlay’s Sales Talent Consulting business. If high-achieving leaders are not meeting their number, Tracey helps them understand what sales talent they have, what talent they need, and how to use data to inform their decisions. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Customers have high expectations. If you want them to buy from you, you need to manage the relationship, understand their business (including their markets and customers), and provide value beyond the features and benefits of your offering.
In short, today’s customers want salespeople to be trusted advisors. With all that in mind, do most salespeople take the right approach when trying to win deals?
Three Common Selling Approaches
Let’s examine three potential approaches sales professionals can take with prospects.
Approach #1: Decrease costs
Perhaps the salesperson discounts an offer by 10 percent below the prospect’s current vendor. This usually happens when the rep doesn’t fully understand all the aspects of the deal, including the customer’s concerns, and the salesperson simply hopes the existing vendor won’t be willing to match the discounted price.
Approach #2: Sell solutions
The sales professional finds out the prospect wants to save 5 percent. The salesperson then finds ways to align the product’s features and benefits to the solution that will fit into that savings percentage; this helps the customer achieve an important corporate goal.
Approach #3: Establish a strategic partnership
The salesperson hopes to be more to the prospect than just a solution provider. Accordingly, in addition to using Approach #2, the salesperson offers comprehensive solutions, including ideas to increase the prospect’s efficiency in unexpected areas of the business.
The Best Approach to Win the Sale
So, which among these approaches is best?
Sure, many companies sell through aggressive cost slashing. But this approach is difficult and often ineffective. Discounts generally result in price wars, which is a game no one really wins: In today’s age of Amazon, customers can quickly gather comparative price data. As a result, discounting and other price-driven sales strategies have grown increasingly useless against price wars and narrowing margins.
Of course, solution selling will help profit the seller’s company, and there’s also no doubt a strategic partnership is much more likely to help shape a long-term mutually beneficial relationship that will continue to make money. However, strategic alliances can place more demand on the salesperson to get to know larger business issues, well beyond the scope of what their offering may be able to address.
We know salespeople are no longer walking catalogs who spew out information and populate order forms. Today, sales professionals are more intimately involved in developing new products and services, supply chain management, and strategic planning. And not just within their own companies – but also inside the companies of their customers.
Today’s Salespeople Act Like Entrepreneurs
To win deals today, salespeople need the skills of an entrepreneur. Sales professionals need to analyze a client’s current business, recognize areas for improvement, and then match up those resources in a way that can solve the customer’s problem and help create value.
Salespeople must also have deft interpersonal communication skills and a deep understanding of the business issues that affect their prospects and customers. (Even salespeople who went to business school will definitely need to stretch beyond the lessons they learned there!)
Prepare for Team Selling and Conducting Research
Another change with the sales environment is the call for team selling. Buyers assemble in teams, so sellers need to as well.
Buying and selling as a team creates a collaborative relationship that helps ensure long-term, successful business relationships. Sellers must create situations where their functional expertise and perspective become strategic to the buyer’s long-term success; and this idea exists outside the domain of conventional sales training.
Sales success requires salespeople to conduct extensive research about a prospect’s business. Sales jobs now demand both general business knowledge and greater integration among other departments, including marketing, engineering, and accounting – inside both the prospect’s company and the seller’s company.
The best approach to win the sale will require far more than offering the prospect a discount or selling solutions. Establishing a strategic partnership is getting close – but the real winners will be salespeople who can extend their value even beyond what their offering might currently be able to provide.
Register now to join Tracey Wik at the Sales 3.0 Conference on April 1-2 in San Francisco, where she will present “Customer Success Management: Inside the New Talent Analytics.”