In March of this year, just before social distancing started in response to the coronavirus pandemic, I hosted the Sales 3.0 Conference in Orlando (along with our amazing Chief Networking Officer, Alice Heiman).
During one of the breaks at the event, I recorded a video interview with ConnectAndSell CEO Chris Beall. I always love talking with Chris. He is an original thinker, a true fan of the science of selling, and always has great, transformative ideas to share.
Even as of March 11, Chris could feel the fear taking over the world of business and sales. As he acknowledged in our interview, this fear is not altogether unfounded. However, we must ultimately meet fear with two things: courage and creativity.
We're living in a historic time, and B2B sales teams need creativity and courage. They need transformative ideas to turn customer fears into mutual value. But where will these ideas come from?
What Makes a Great Selling Idea?
The American philosopher Mortimer Adler once directed a team of experts, who wrote two books containing the 102 greatest ideas that shaped our world. Adler’s team rated the books of great minds from Aristotle to Albert Einstein and extracted all the great ideas they had come up with in their lifetime. Adler defines an idea as an “object of thought that we cannot touch, or perceive with our senses, but that, as thinking individuals, we can discuss with one another.”
The interesting part is that it is the quality of our conversation that either shrinks a great idea or enhances the idea to the next level, where it becomes transformative. Transformative ideas contain the key to sales success.
Great Ideas Begin with Great Questions
Werner Heisenberg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932, once said, “Nature does not reveal its secrets. It only responds to our method of questioning.”
A salesperson’s method of questioning can determine the success or failure of a sales call. Customers appreciate a salesperson who leads them to think and causes them to critically examine their situation through the lens of a great question.
While good salespeople persuade their customers with great (but often prepackaged) answers, great salespeople ask great questions that transform the customer’s position from a sales target to a cocreator of the sale.
How The Right Questions Can Push the Sale Forward
Let’s assume we’re engaged in a thoughtful conversation about current events. For example, we might discuss a news item we both read about research being conducted to find a COVID-19 vaccine. Without a doubt, our conversation will reveal our understanding of what’s good or bad, and it may cause us to review what’s right and wrong. The chain of ideas could lead, through artful questions, to a better understanding of what both parties value.
While a conversation about current events leads to a chain of ideas that helps us better understand the world we live in, a great conversation with a prospect will help us understand the customer’s world. As a result, we will be able to generate better ideas for creating customer value with our solutions.
Asking great questions can often lead to great responses from customers. But here is the big challenge: How do we process the customer’s response? By listening actively, we will get much closer to the great selling idea that will add value to the customer’s business.
Listening to the customer is similar to catching a baseball. It takes an agile mind and body to catch a ball thrown by a professional player. One customer may throw a curveball, another may send a fastball, and yet another could launch a knuckleball. The goal of active listening is to catch more balls, which ensures complete understanding of the customer’s true situation.
Five Qualities that Can Yield Great Selling Ideas
Top salespeople develop the five qualities listed below and, in turn, come up with the great selling ideas that lead to more sales.
1. The ability to recognize and understand a great idea during a conversation with the customer. This is the starting point for all good selling. Top salespeople speak two languages: the customer’s language and the company’s language. In essence, great salespeople are like ambassadors who speak the language of the host country and their own county.
2. The ability to analyze an idea. Top salespeople will look at a customer’s problem from many different angles with the help of smart questions. Examples: “What would be the cost of doing nothing? If it turned out that we found a solution, what would be the impact on your business?”
The salesperson’s job is to extract enough information from the prospect to be able to define the core problem and establish a value for the solution.
3. The ability to objectively compare one idea with another. Top salespeople will lead the conversation to an observation point, at which the customer can objectively compare where the path leads by adopting solution A or pursuing solution B. Comparisons are near impossible when salespeople are unable to appraise a situation objectively.
4. The ability to place the ideas on a map that lead to the best solution. Great salespeople are like mapmakers, and they show their customers where they are on the map, how far they can go, and how to get there.
5. The capacity to assign a value to each idea. Top salespeople will break down the value of the final solution into concrete numbers: time saved, money saved, troubles avoided, reduction in cost, gains in productivity, etc.
The big idea is not to prepackage ideas before visiting the customer, but to engage the customer and then co-create the idea that you placed on the map before the call. In the ideal scenario, your customers will end up thinking that it was actually their idea that created the solution. The smart salesperson will always give the customer the credit, while he or she gets the commission.
Join Me for the Virtual Sales 3.0 Leadership Summit
During the coronavirus pandemic, courage and creativity will lead to transformative ideas among sales teams. And your ideas will give you the cutting edge you need to win and remain competitive.
I'm excited Selling Power will partner to produce the new Virtual Sales 3.0 Leadership Summit on May 28. Top B2B sales experts and sales leaders will be on hand to answer all your pressing questions (live) about how you can succeed and thrive amid via virtual selling and making human connections with customers.
My good friend Chris Beall will be there -- he's already shared some interesting data on LinkedIn illustrating how sales reps are using ConnectAndSell to connect with customers in high volume while they work from home. Our agenda so far includes these topics and more will be announced soon.
- Creating a Revenue Resilient Sales Team
- How B2B Decision Makers are Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis
- Six Great Strategies for Selling in Tough Times
Register now for this FREE event and as a bonus you'll receive 500 free prospects from our data partner, MountainTop Data.
In the meantime, keep asking questions that move the sale forward. I wish you good luck and good selling!