Selling has always been, simultaneously, the most important, most difficult, most lucrative, and most essential element of the business lifecycle.
“Nothing happens until…you sell somebody something!”
- Zig Ziglar
The legendary sales guru Zig Ziglar makes it sounds so straight forward, however, it’s not.
As we find ourselves fast approaching the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, now is a good time to examine 3 of the most challenging issues facing every salesperson; keeping in mind that we are all salespeople.
In this series, we will examine:
- Part I: Change
- Part II: Prospecting & nurturing
- Part III: Risk & Uncertainty
Part I: Change
When salespeople are asked what challenges their customers face when making purchasing decisions, “building a case for change” is inevitably at the top of the list. Businesses are a collection of individual people, and businesses, like people, often have a deep and immovable anchor attached to the status quo. To build, grow, or maintain a successful business today demands more deliberate and aggressive effort to simply keep the current level of performance.
While they will never admit it, many leaders view change as an obstacle to the growth and acceleration they seek. This is where the cliché — “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” — rears its ugly head. Those who acknowledge that change is unavoidable often fall into the “analysis paralysis trap” and become overwhelmed by the complexity of the process. This reveals itself when customers appear to be unable to make a buying decision because they are perpetually “comparing their options.” This is a classic illustration of a “catch 22.”
Fear of change is genuine and impacts people at all levels and all ages; CEOs and 1st-time employees alike. By definition, being open to change, and encouraging it requires acceptance and appreciation of implied risk and uncertainty.
In the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, internationally recognized psychologist Dr. James Prochaska suggests…
“Behavioral change is rarely a discrete or single event; however, we tend to view it in such a way. More often than not, behavioral change occurs gradually, over time.”
Individuals move through various stages while attempting to form new behaviors or adjust old habits. A linear progression through the stages is not the norm. Individuals tend to move back and forth through the stages, re-cycling through them until the change becomes fully established. (Psychology Today)
Armed with the understanding that fear of change can be a major challenge (a.k.a obstacle and/or objection) during the sales process, the educated salesperson needs to use this knowledge to his/her advantage.
Help to build the case for change:
To successfully assist your customer in creating an effective case for change you must first be sure you understand the customer’s fears and pain points. Understanding your customer begins by doing your homework. Make sure to read everything you can from their website, marketing materials, and press releases. If your customer is a publicly traded company, make sure to take the time to read their Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings from the past 12–18 months.
During your research phase, make a note of things like:
- Leadership changes.
- Changes to the corporate vision.
- Strategy adjustments.
- The current trajectory of growth, revenue, profit, and expenses.
- Changes to the product portfolio.
- Mergers and acquisitions.
With this information at your fingertips, it is now time to listen to the customer. Ideally, in person, but a phone call will suffice, ask the customer to provide his/her perspective. This is not the time for “solutioning.” Remember, your goal is to help the customer build his/her case for change.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
- Stephen Covey
With all of this information, it is the salesperson’s responsibility to advance the sale by mapping his/her products or services to the detailed “case for change” that was developed with the customer.
“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- attributed to Theodore Roosevelt
By following this approach, the enlightened salesperson begins to build trust by demonstrating to the customer that he/she is genuinely concerned about doing what is best for the customer.
Coming soon — Part II: Prospecting and nurturing
To achieve one’s full potential as a sales professional, effective prospecting and nurturing is not just about filling the pipeline. Prospecting and nurturing must become your raison d’etre (way of life).
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