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More than 95% of what we do is in our subconscious, we automate most things we do. Why do we tie one shoelace before the other? put our seat belt on without thinking about it, somehow wonder how we made it home so quickly, were we fully present?
Are our sales engagements any different? Are we on auto pilot in our customer meetings?
Quick chat about the weather, commiserate over COVID-19 and all its negative impact, and before we know it our half hour is up.
In our CRM, we checked the box, QBR completed, monthly check in done, account review accomplished etc. But when we analyze the quality of our meetings, are we truly adding something to our interaction, bringing them something new to think about, learn or are we too much on auto-pilot, simply going through the motions?
If we wait long enough, we will most likely be called on this from our managers, but how can we recognize this within ourselves?
Two ways: Increase our own self-awareness and secondly watch the behaviours and response of your clients, they are physical verifiers of what is actually going on. Are they leaning in, asking what’s next or are they slowly detaching and moving on?
When I was nearing the end of my corporate sales career, at the end of every call I would reflect and ask myself 2 questions:
1) Did I add value in that meeting?
2) Would they pay for that meeting?
If I didn’t answer yes to both of those questions, I had to come up with ways for my next meeting. This approach taught me to be intentional and not to take someone’s time for granted.
My role was to target competitive accounts, so already things were stacked against me. When they saw me coming, they saw work. New contract, new relationships, new SKU’s change management. Knowing this, my role was to educate with insights, share tips, and content - what others like them are doing.
Ask illuminating questions, invite them to consider there could be a better way to getting the job done today. I had to be seen as a helper, someone to show them what’s possible,not a threat.
This type of competitive landscape forced me to play the long game, but along my journey I did see leading indicators. I was piquing their curiosity with certain pieces of information shared, I would only provide enough to ensure their question was “interesting can you tell me more about that, how does that work?”
They were leaning in.
This was a very different strategy to others who would go in and start pitching immediately, making it about only about them.
In a competitive environment the only winner there is the incumbent as you invite them to strengthen their bond with them.
So what shifted in me as a sales person? When I saw their immediate reaction of pulling back when being pitched to, I approached the engagement from their lens, I put myself in their shoes. I educated myself on what their day to day involved whether it be Procurement, Pharmacy, IT, Legal.
I spoke to individuals in that role and got a sense of deadlines, expectations, how they were measured, what they valued, didn’t like, I immersed myself in their world.
With that level of empathy and understanding l was able to have relevant and meaningful conversations where there were two active participants. They disarmed, were transparent, and shared freely.
When I made it about them, used their language, understood their internal project, policies etc they saw me as an extension of their team, they let me in.
In a complex selling environment, dealing with many people can be overwhelming, but it is how you can share the information, find overlaps, patterns within the various groups to help them agree on the problem we are trying to solve, prioritize solutions and get buy-in with their team.
It was like a chess game, to win meant playing strategically. Knowing for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes the answers came to me, based on org charts and the path became obvious. I had to avoid stepping on toes, adding complexity and confusion to the problem and potentially delaying the project.
If you find yourself in these types of complex selling situations, where you want to prevent further confusion, delays and maintain engagement and momentum, 3 tips that worked well for me you could put in to practice:
1) Think like a Project Manager, remove emotion and understand their current and future state. Turn your happy ears off. What is stopping them from getting there? Understanding team dynamics, hierarchy, what is happening before, during and after the meetings? Is there someone at the top mis communicating, lacking vision, expediency, clarity in the problem. How can you attend those meetings? Can you come in as an industry expert and share insights? Do you have an internal champion you can work with to prime them? provide feedback as to next steps? Falling short of being in the meeting yourself, your champion is your next best bet, educate them well.
2) Can you get access to their data to run tests, use cases and show them first hand what is happening? Sell the problem, remove their bias, let the data show them what is taking place in their organization. This for me was how I built most of my successes. Leading these types of projects, use cases/ initiatives forced me to speak to many different people in various departments. Compiling a breadth of information to support the overall problem, but also the emotional impact and what it is preventing them from doing within their individual role, lots of value from working the ground up. Also, people knew my face, they saw me coming, I was becoming one of them.
3) Show them the Future State. By solving this problem, what does this mean for the organization, end users, employees? Reference the comments, impact from your employee conversations, what are they now able to do in their current job and more? Can you monetize this? what future goals can they now focus on, what does this mean for their reputation, growth, and trajectory of the company? Move them from the pain to the delight of no longer having to tie resources and time to solving this problem and living in limbo. What else can we be spending our time on?
Working through your customer engagements, are you showing up intentionally, focused on them, considering your past conversations, understanding what has changed and what this now means.
Taking a consultative approach, how can you navigate the complexity without adding to it, and all the while answering the two questions 1) Am I adding value and 2) Would they pay for this call?
How will you bring intentionality to your client engagements?
For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.
Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.