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Working through a pandemic has offered us a different perspective to see areas in our lives we would like to improve. Alternatively, what no longer serves us becomes very easy to let go of, freeing up valuable space for expansion, growth and change.
Letting go can be scary. We cling to the people, processes and practices that are familiar to us. They provide safety and comfort, but they also keep us rooted in our current state. If we are seeking new beginnings, improvement and change we need to do something different.
How is what we are trying to do with ourselves any different than what we ask our prospects to do? Change.
We want them to stop using someone's product and replace it with ours, change to a different supplier and integrate with new systems. So many changes, but like ourselves have we considered their starting point, their emotional comfort in their current state.
Have your prospects acknowledged?
Is the pain of staying the same greater than than the pain of change?
This statement has guided me throughout my sales career. The sales process is made up of many micro-commitments all needed to get to the final commitment of asking for the business. However, the commitment to change is often overlooked and it is the most important one in my opinion.
I have worked with companies who were offering their hardware for free with an extended contract or other creative options and their prospects were not interested. It's Free! Why are they not biting?
When you show someone a brand-new shiny item that will replace their long-standing existing item with no pathway as to how they will get from one to the other, they are not interested. They can't see the full picture- the future vision of where they will end up. They don't know how to get there alone, so they choose the safer option of staying put, status quo.
What happened here? They failed to gain the commitment to change.
Our job as sales professionals is to get our clients to think differently, realize their current product/system is not operating as strongly, efficiently, effectively as they once thought. We need to take that a level deeper, and go where most reps fail to go... Impact.
What is the impact of this? on other systems, potential to integrate? To scale? financial implications? Cultural impact? You get the idea.Can you shine a light on what they are currently doing? Get them to come to the realization there is a better way.If they are not willing to go that far, can you gain the commitment that the status quo is no longer an option?We don't know what the future looks like, all we know is we can't continue to do things the way we are currently doing. This is a win. It is a starting point.
We need some flexibility, some wiggle room that they are open to potential movement. If you can't gain this commitment you will most likely hear "we've always done it this way and it works fine for us".
Status quo bias is a tough one to displace.
As sales professionals, we have the ability to shine a light on their problems. How do we do this?
1) Ask thought-provoking questions that expose an issue/area of concern with their process, business, company or industry that they are unaware of. Be mindful you are not cornering them and your solution is the answer, this will surely backfire. Your questions should be underpinned with genuine curiosity.These illuminating types of questions shine a light and expose things they were not aware of, making the invisible visible. These insights provide a different way of looking at things, a new perspective. What we are doing is selling the problem, the clincher here is they need to feel like the solution came from them. According to a survey in Hubspot Research, a mere 3% of people consider salespeople to be trustworthy. If the information came directly from us, would the outcome have been the same? Most likely not.
2) Make it about the customer. Too many sales professionals love to hear themselves talk and pitch their product too quickly, very seller-focused. Prospects feel this immediately and shut down.Allow them to come to their own realization, ask the right questions, share case studies, insights, what you are seeing with other clients then listen. Create space for them to take it all in and come to their own awareness, the penny will drop, be patient.Once it drops, they feel a sense of ownership to make this happen, accountable to solving the problem as it was their idea, you just helped them see it.
3) Reduce the risk. There is fear and uncertainty rooted in change. People are afraid to make a bad decision. That is why it is never just one person, there are buying committees. According to Gartner's "The New B2B Buying Journey & its implication for sales", the typical buying group now has 6- 10 decision-makers. How can you use storytelling to share similar customer successes, paint a picture in their mind, can they see themselves in the story and ultimately gain consensus?Are you leading with transparency? Avoid coming across as the five-star perfect review, everyone knows that doesn't exist, it only pushes them further away feeling you are hiding something. Build trust, sell next steps in the journey, this may be the first time they have purchased a product like this, let them know what/who is involved, roles, responsibilities and timelines. No surprises, guide them along the journey. Make it easy for them to navigate the purchase process.
While we think of the discomfort of our own journey around change, take this feeling into your client's environment. Draw on your empathy of what they might be feeling as you propose your solution. Acknowledge the emotions they may be feeling, label them so they know you are aware of them and understand where they are coming from, create common ground, a good starting point in building a lasting relationship.
Think of yourself as a tour guide, leading your clients through the change process. Sharing insights, trends, and best practices but soliciting their feedback and engaging them along the way. When you co-create what the future looks like it becomes "our" way vs "my" way. Invite them into the process, get their specific feedback and use their language so there is resonance making it feels like the best logical next step.
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.