Behavioral scientists have studied how people respond to winning and losing. They’ve even gone to the point of giving (spotting) people money to put them in a position where they can’t actually lose to see how they behave. Study after study consistently shows that people do far more to protect themselves from losing. Behavioral finance puts the difference at about 2x – people work twice as hard to avoid losing then they will to pursue winning. In times of distress, chaos or confusion the difference is even bigger.
This is a critical concept for anyone involved in a sales role to understand. Traditional selling teaches that you should focus on the benefits, or the value of someone doing business with you. As a result, salespeople are always focusing on what some will gain from working with them. While this creates a positive feeling, in times like these where budgets are tight, priorities are overwhelming and resources are limited it does not promote action. Often it’s quite the contrary. Selling initiatives and proposals get stuck in committee and review; or, God forbid, get sent to procurement.
Rather than fighting human nature, selling organizations need to embrace it. Salespeople need to spend less time focused on the value of doing business with them, and far, far more time on the cost of not doing business with. Stop now and ask yourself, what’s the cost – the consequence – for that prospect you’re working to close if they fail to do business with you? What happens if they buy from a competitor? What happens if they do nothing, and just maintain the status quo? What would go wrong (or fail to go right)? Why and how does that matter to them?
When the answer to those three questions are clear, you’ll know the focus for your sales approach. It’s not about the product, or even the benefits. Your job is to lead that prospect to understand the consequences.
One of the consequences of the economic downturn, and the reductions in workforce over the last several years is a greater gap between executives with the authority and the people who are responsible for implementing and overseeing solutions.
When I work with salespeople, the most common challenge they have is getting access to authority. To get the access you desire, the first, most important thing you must do is to have something worth talking about.
Here are the five steps to take to get the access you desire:
- Be very clear who you want to speak with.
- Determine the critical results this person is responsible for.
- Next, use your experience to determine the most likely problems or issues this person is having in attaining these results.
- Now to determine the consequences of not utilizing your solution.
- Develop a well-defined resonating case to share with your targeted prospect.
For example, if I’m trying to reach out to a VP, Sales to begin conversations, I’d skip the focus on my features and benefits. Instead, I’d share something like this:
Over the last 20 years, we’ve worked firsthand with more than 1,000 companies mid-market growth companies. We’ve learned that these companies are getting, at best, only 50% of the results from their sales and marketing investments they should be getting. We’re concerned that if you don’t identify the issues that are causing this problem, you’ll lose hundreds of thousands to millions in lost profit and equity value. I’d like to share our findings with you, and share some tools with you so you can ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
The key to access is knowing your customer better than they know themselves. To get a jumpstart, you can download my Understanding Your Customer Workbook.
This post originally appeared on The Washington Business Journal’s BizBeat Blog.
Answer these five questions about your sales and business results:
- Is your sales cycle getting shorter?
- Do your customers and prospects properly value you, your company and your offerings?
- Are you able to control price?
- Are your margins expanding?
- Are you able to connect with the people you want quickly and effectively?
If you’ve answered “no” to two or more of these questions, than your business and sales efforts are in the danger zone.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked, firsthand, with more than 1,500 small and mid-market companies and nearly 10,000 salespeople. I’ve learned that only about 5 – 10% of companies or salespeople can confidently and accurately say “yes” to four or more of these statements – and it’s costing them hundred of thousands to millions of dollars in lost sales, profits, income and business value.
What’s worse, I’ve also learned that it’s rarely their fault. They’re working hard enough, they care enough, they’re smart enough and they’re good enough to make far more money and have far more impact than they are. The problem isn’t their behavior – it’s their approach.
There are three mistakes made in 90% of sales approaches that are destroying your efforts and need to be stopped immediately.
- Stop focusing on the “We-do’s.” Always remember, your customers and prospects don’t care about you or your company. Stop talking about yourself and start focusing on your customers’ key issues.
- Solutions are just another word for commodity. If I hear another salesperson telling me about the value of their “solution,” I might lose it. Customers have more solution options than they can manage. Instead, dig deeper into your customers’ problems and you’ll be treated like a valuable asset.
- Stop assuming! If you’re creating value in the sales process, you understand your customers’ problems better than they do. You need to slow down and help your customers diagnose their issues. You must get your customers to understand the causes and consequences of their problems. Stop talking about the value of doing business with you, and instead help them understand the cost of not doing business with you.
Join me in future posts here as I share insights, experiences and tools so you can build your sales system to drive growth, profits, incomes and business equity value – effortlessly.
Recently, I’ve gotten a number of questions from clients and others about effective social media. It seems a number of people a wondering if now is the right time to jump on the bandwagon.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Networking is networking. The rules for offline networking are precisely the same for online.
- The biggest mistake made with social media is that people view it as a strategy – it’s not. Social media is a tactic, used to support a strategy towards a specific result. If the result isn’t clear, the strategy will be bad, and your social media efforts will be useless.
- Social media is a horrible broadcast mechanism. If you’re think you’re going to use Twitter, Facebook or any other platform to tell the world what you’re doing, and that the world will then respond – don’t waste the time.
- Social media is good for connecting, engaging and pointing. If you’re not planning to actively participate, and build content to support your efforts, then you’ll be much happier doing something else.
All that said, social media, and by extension the creation of meaningful content to share, is increasingly becoming mandatory. Imagine the biggest conversation in the world taking place. You’ve got to answer a simple question – do you want to participate in the conversation or be left out?
If growth is imperative, the answer is simple. It’s the execution that’s tough.