Written by: Steve Walmsley
This Monday Morning Drill is another reprint from Rain Today and is a great summary of several central Sales Evolution concepts and thoughts. Enjoy it; do it.
Professionals love challenging work, but oftentimes they don’t like the sales process. They struggle to build their businesses in a way that is compatible with their professional identities… to sell without selling.
After observing and working with top producing professionals, I’ve discovered there are five key things they do that help them stand out with their clients and accelerate relationships with future clients.
Principle #1: Know Your Clients Warm
Knowing your client “warm” is what will differentiate you from everyone else who develops business.
But what does it mean exactly?
Knowing your client warm means knowing something other than their golf score, or how many sugars they take in their coffee or where their children go to school. It’s about understanding what drives them in their role and how they are measuring their performance.
The difference between knowing your client “cold” and knowing them “warm” is the difference between knowing the minute details of their annual report and knowing what the current and pressing priorities and objectives are of the people sitting in front of you.
Knowing your client warm is also about actively building empathy, interest and respect for what your client tells you about these things.
As the listener of their hopes, vision and goals, you create shared meaning around these objectives. Following up with commitment to see their goals through will have your clients saying, “This person really gets us and what we’re up to.”
And who doesn’t want to work with someone like that?
Principle #2: Don’t Push Your Pitch.
Have you worked slavishly on your PowerPoint presentation or proposal because you believe that will be the key to the sale? We’ve all felt the pressure to articulate the “perfect” message to our clients that will convince them to buy, or felt that we were being pushy, but had no other options.
Here’s an antidote to the pressure: Forget your message; forget the need to control the room through razzle-dazzle or charm. That’s right – forget it!
Trying to be the razzle-dazzle persuader with the “perfect sell” will fall flatter than a cartoon coyote for all but the most charismatic of salespeople. Happily, that’s not what clients really want anyway.
Clients hate the feeling of being pushed into a decision. If you have to “sell” or “push” it usually means the client is not committed or convinced it’s relevant or right.
They prefer to come to the table as an equal, knowing that you have their best interests at heart. That means that if you share the space – allow them to tell you what they want and indicate that you understand – they relax. They can now listen comfortably to what you have to say, now that you understand who they are and what they’re trying to achieve.
Sharing the power is about initially making your clients’ needs more important than your own. It’s not about giving up your needs – let’s face it, you won’t do this deal or continue this client relationship unless you’re getting what you need and want out of it, too.
But, as you put the client’s needs in the forefront, it gives you a distinct advantage.
Genuine listening to real challenges makes for an authentic, engaging conversation – a conversation in which you can tailor that original “message” you walked in with to be in sync with what your client tells you is vitally important to them. Get more client perspective earlier and you’ll have ever so much more power than if you tried to keep it all to yourself.
Principle #3: Add Value at Every Step.
Clients expect a tangible sense of value. As soon as possible.
People talk about “adding value” all of the time… but do we actually do so? Can you pinpoint an explicit process you use that ensures you add value in all of your interactions?
There are a lot of reasons we hesitate from adding value:
- Sometimes we analyze the problem endlessly before we feel we can provide some answers.
- Sometimes we wait too long to get started.
- Sometimes we think we might give too much away before they pay for it, waiting for them to give value before we do.
- Sometimes we get stuck trying to have all the answers instead of asking great questions.
- Sometimes we have a “perfect solution” that challenges the client to the point of paralysis.
- Sometimes we are trying to be “valuable in a vacuum” because we just don’t know enough about the situation to know what, exactly, will create value.
Follow this principle and soon you will find that your clients and even future clients turn to you for advice and counsel. You will become more than a one-off transaction. You will become one of their valued, trusted network – and launch a client relationship built to last.†
Principle #4: Always Be Opening.
We won’t close every client.
We tend to approach sales like we’ve always got to create activity, activity, activity. It’s exhausting and unnecessary.
The most enduring pop culture image of sales is Alec Baldwin’s character from Glengarry Glen Ross. Blake and his “ABCs of selling – Always Be Closing” routine is a traditional sales shtick that has indelibly poisoned our common sense when it comes to how we should approach doing business with others.
This is especially true when we’re talking about value-added products and services that require longer and more intensive conversations, often with more decision makers to determine best fit.
Bury the phrase “always be closing” deep in the ground immediately. Trying to convert everyone face-to-face, trying to live up to the archetype of the charismatic salesperson – that’s what creates the classic sales tension. You become “that guy,” the stereotypical “salesman in white shoes,” the one people are always trying to duck, dodge and evade when they see you coming.
Instead, think, “always be opening.”
Focus on opening and creating dialogue. Release your expectations and demands. Create possibility and build trust.
That’s your motivation – not the close.
We need to always be talking with our clients, talking about what they want to achieve and how we can help them achieve it. If there’s no immediate match, there’s no need to slam the door closed, either.
We want to keep exploring the space between our business and theirs, looking for potential places where we are a match, where we can add value. If not now, perhaps in the future. If not for this service, maybe something else.
No pressure. No forcing. Just opening.
Related: Killing Your Sales Darlings
Principle #5: Be True to Your Style
The last instrumental principle that you need to know is that, in sales, one size does not fit all.
We can’t squeeze ourselves into someone else’s process and hope to duplicate their success. When people try to incorporate tips and tricks they learned from sales seminars, they often don’t work or are hard to sustain because they’re so unnatural. For a process to work for us, it has to feel genuine – and you have to stay true to that when you’re using them, what ever they are.
I’m asking you not to be someone else; I want you to be more of you with your clients. Project your strengths and make them more clear and valuable to clients.
Get the Business and Gain the Client’s Trust at the Same Time
Winning business is one part of the equation; another is earning the client’s complete trust so that we are drawn into the fold. If we know the key events and expectations that are driving our client, we can continue to adjust and adapt our offerings to them to suit their immediate and future needs – indefinitely.
We don’t have to guess what’s driving them. We just have to ask.
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