Manage episode 371079756 series 2952524
There is nothing worse than meeting a buyer with no problems. Theoretically, we shouldn’t be meeting them at all because we should have qualified them first. After three years of Covid forcing us all on video, getting to meet a buyer face-to-face is a genuine thrill for salespeople. We are likely to meet every single buyer we can get in front of. There is also the point that a buyer may think they are “all good” and have no issues, but perhaps we can help them see that is not the case. The simplest illustration of that is the buyer thinks taking no action is free. It isn't free, for there is always a price to pay for inaction. Our job as salespeople is to point that fact out to the client.
Unprofessional salespeople in Japan get straight into the detail of their solution for the buyer and just bypass the questioning bit. How do they know if their solution fits the needs of the buyer and even worse, how do they convince the buyer who believes they already have enough solutions, that this isn’t the case? If the buyer thinks they are self-sufficient or are already well taken care of by another supplier, then getting the business is going to be extremely difficult. The only way to break through that wall of non-interest is to use questions to plant the seeds of doubt in their mind. Just repeating the “sales points” of the solution won’t go anywhere, because mentally they have dismissed us as irrelevant. All they are doing is thinking how they can shorten this meeting and get on to something more beneficial with their time.
Salespeople are talking to a lot of buyers and hear a lot of information about trends in the industry and about issues relevant now and also about issues which will surface soon. Buyers are often stuck inside the groupthink of their own companies. There is a single truth being observed internally and this can make them impervious to our solution. Our job is to shake up that belief in a single truth and point out how dangerous that idea is in a fluid and complex business world.
Let me give an example. Many companies are actively working on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) for their companies. The belief is that they can tap into greater innovation by involving women and younger people more in coming up with ideas. In traditional companies these two groups are excluded, because older men dominate the direction of the firm and they distil the single truth, which everyone must follow.
Talking to some clients who were early movers in the DEI arena, I found they had done a good job of the WHY component of DEI, but they hadn’t been able to get to any meaningful diversity stage. Therefore, the premise of gaining greater innovation wasn’t working, despite all the time and effort put into the DEI campaigns. I realised they hadn’t progressed from the WHY to the HOW. Knowing this, when I speak with potential clients about DEI, I don’t go into any detail about how it works or what is in specific modules, etc. I ask questions which inflame their thinking, strike fear deep into their hearts and scare the hell out of them.
Remember, they have come up with their own solutions or they are using my competitor’s solutions, so I have to blow all of that up with questions which challenge the accepted truths. For example, I would ask, “Change fatigue is a real thing inside companies and it accelerates when the benefits of the changes are not being seen by the team. Given you have been working in DEI for some time now, are you seeing concrete changes around innovation inside the company?”. The buyer has to nominate the benefits of the DEI programme and prove that it is working. If they cannot, then I need to push harder and say, “Could it be that you are very close to a breakthrough, but the missing piece is something beyond just explaining the WHY of DEI?”. I don’t volunteer the HOW part of the solution, because I want them to tell that to me, rather than it comes from my side. If they say it, then it is true. If I say it, I am a salesman and they might not believe it. If they supply the answer I want and say they haven’t been able to move from the WHY to the execution piece needed to get the changes leading to innovation, then I just ask them why that is and then shut up.
I am drawing them into my web, through questions which are designed to destroy their belief in what they are doing and force them to open their minds up to my solution. It is a hard thing for people to admit they are failing or that they made the wrong decision to use my competitor. Because of this, the answers must come from them and I cannot be proffering the solution. If I say, “Well, what you need is to do more work around the HOW piece and fortunately we have five out of eight of our modules which specifically address the HOW piece”. I will run straight into a wall of negativity to that statement, as they feel they have to defend what they are doing now and not admit the actual situation. I need to be asking questions which push them to internally admit they need the HOW piece and to ask me if we have it.
The temptation is to jump in a rescue them from themselves, but we have to be patient and let them come to the same conclusion we have reached. We do this through the use of well-designed questions which make it obvious they need us to help them.