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Most companies I am working with are not typically struggling to close deals, they lack a pipeline. They have no deals to open. Is this you? If so, it is easy to hit the desperation button and provide knee-jerk reactions to the situation, without a plan. This is where I stress the importance of a process. A systematic, predictable set of steps lacking the emotion that advances you and your buyer along the buying phases.
Very high level we can consider the Buyer’s Journey in 3 phases: Awareness - Consideration - Decision.
Our buyers travel through these areas while making a purchasing decision. What I highlight is, what if they are not aware? Unaware they actually have a problem? Unaware there is a better, quicker, more efficient way? Well, our role is to meet them where they’re at. In most cases, it is the "Unaware Stage". How can we present new ideas, new ways of thinking about existing or pending problems they didn’t know they had?
We are a few steps ahead of them guiding them along a journey, informing them of possible landmines, setbacks and widening gaps if left unattended. Anytime someone has effectively pointed this out to me in my business, I didn’t feel I was being sold to. I considered them helping me. They educated me on the risks of continuing on my current path. Financial risks, overall goal attainment risks, strategic risks, what other areas of my business will be impacted, and what are the short- and long-term effects of this? When you really start thinking about it, your brain goes down a rabbit hole of "Wow, I really need to look into this".
This is what top performers will do…..Plant the seed. Introduce new ideas, and potential risks and allow our buyers to think it was their idea. Why is this critical? Well if I tell you straight out that is the problem and I have the solution, we are unfortunately conditioned to think a typical sales-unaware person trying to sell me something This may not be the case, but this is the perception of our buyer. When we as sellers, can tee up the idea, share stories of others in similar situations, and share trends that align with their role, and their stage in the business that will impact them in the short term or long term, they can connect the dots, most times. When they do, it is magic. They are happy and proud they came up with the idea. The next step is ownership and accountability, they now want to get out of this situation and that’s where we come in. Our role now is to co-create the solution. Work together, sharing expertise to shrink the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Our solution is the bridge that brings them to the other side. But how do we get to talking about our solution? We lead them TO it Not With it.
I am going to share 3 ways we can move our prospects from the Unaware to the Aware phase that will have an impact on your pipeline:
1) Sell the Problem. What is happening in their industry that is left unaddressed will turn into a catastrophe? Some like to sell an opportunity as a goal, if your prospect has a goal you can align with, start there. However, the Theory of loss aversion suggests people are 2x more likely to avoid loss than they are to realize gain. They don’t want to lose something. The problem they are potentially facing will have an impact on other areas of their life, business, and loss.
How can we shine a light on this? Make the invisible visible? Bring to the surface what they are not seeing. What triggers are happening in their role, business, and industry? Are new regulations being adopted, has there been a change in leadership or a new product? New players in the market? What are their buyers doing differently that is causing them to react in a new way? Think beyond our buyers. What about our buyer’s buyers?
We must bring this to the forefront. Presenting it is not enough. This is where most average performers stop. It makes it very easy for your prospects to choose the status quo. There is no discomfort here, it is easy to say “Call me back in 6 months” or “We are working on other priorities right now” Typical objections that can be avoided. Dig deeper. What is the impact of these triggers on them? Their team? Company? Reputation? What emotions are attached to it? As an individual what can’t they do? We must highlight the COI, the Cost of inactivity. What happens if they choose the status quo? What are short-term and long-term risks? Financial, how does the competitive landscape change? Impact on shareholders? It is our job to go here, this addresses the question of Why Change and Why change now.
2) Align the problem with their business priority/ objective. This is an approach I used my entire 20-year corporate career in medical device and software sales. Where others were chasing features and benefits and further commoditizing themselves, I Went high. High in the org chart, spoke with C-suite to understand what priorities they were focusing on this year. At the end of the year, what 3-4 initiatives were they responsible for? They were already working towards these and not alone, typically with other task groups. This allows you to multi-thread, ensure you are dealing with more than one person. You also gather different perspectives and impacts of the problem based on the various roles, giving you clarity on the bigger problem, Above the Line focus. You are seen as a strategic partner, not a vendor. When you align the problem, you are focusing on and ultimately your solution with the priority they are working towards you are helping them do their job. They are trying to Solve for X, part of your solution contains X. They are working towards this anyway; how can your solution help them get closer to achieving their goal?
3) Look at KPIs, data doesn’t lie. What we can’t measure we can’t manage. When we are selling the problem, often time in our buyer's head it may not seem as big as it actually is. They may be downplaying it as they don’t have the bandwidth or desire to solve for it now. How can we truly know what we are dealing with and the impact? It may have spread into other areas of the business we are unaware of.
Understanding what KPI is impacted by this challenge is a good way to quantify the problem and get actual vs perceived impact. Most leaders manage activity metrics vs outcome metrics, when done correctly one should feed the other. When you have a set number of calls/meetings/ demos required per week, what activity metric is impacted when these activities are not achieved? What outcome metric do they influence? When we don’t hit one, we don’t hit the other. The number of deals in the pipeline, average deal size, and Sales cycle may be impacted. What outcome KPIs are impacted sales revenue, win rate, and overall NPS score based on the experience we provided?
When we can attach to a KPI we expose the true size and impact of the problem. In summary, as sales professionals we must meet our buyers where they are. If we are too far ahead our message doesn’t resonate, they are still unaware, in denial.
In their mind, they don’t have a problem, why would they need a solution? If they are sophisticated and in the Consideration phase, gain some background information as to what got them to that phase and keep going. They have momentum and are energetically moving to where they want to go, go with them and guide them along the way. What one thing will you do differently that will help move your prospect into the Awareness phase?
Need help getting started? defining your sales process? Aligning it with how our buyers buy or creating unique ways to bring your buyer into the Aware
phase, Reach out. We can help you take the first step toward building a qualified pipeline.
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.