Like most of us, our customers are drenched in data and information, especially sales information. It has been estimated the human race produces more data in 2 days today than all data produced from 1 A.D. until 2003 combined! Much of this data is in the form emails, PowerPoint’s, documents and piles and piles of extraneous facts and overly comprehensive explanations of practically everything.
I would guess a large portion of this information overload is selling information. We’ve hit the wall on selling overload and it’s no surprise we now pay to remove selling messages from our daily experiences (phone apps, movies etc.). If we hate to be sold to so much then I suggest we stop selling and pick a new model that is more palatable for our customers.
Recently I interviewed our customer’s customer who was an IT executive. I asked him to share some examples of good interactions with IT providers and examples of bad interactions from his standpoint. He immediately said, “Stop the noise… good people don’t make me sort out noise”…what did he mean by that? “ Presentations, pitches, emails and communications that came out of the vendors conference rooms which had little or no relevance to that customers life or work(because they never asked)…He said “stop selling and talk to us about what matters to us here in our world, so we know you understand what can help us ”. He said several times “understand our roadmap, help me put together a presentation that will be tailored to our specific needs(not your sales pitch). Help me demonstrate my value by making your visit NOT a waste of time for my internal clients. He also mentioned his “Tier 1 vendors, the ones I always called first” were “people I could talk to that helped me think better and more clearly about my own role and goals, above and beyond what they were selling.”
Customers still buy, but the way they buy and how their buying is influenced is significantly different now that is was even 5 years ago. Our customers want to be understood first before they are comfortable opening up to what we are selling. No understanding, no shot at selling to put it bluntly.
When we understand our customers we understand what they like and don’t like, what they need to raise their stock at work(ie: keep their jobs). When we truly have curiosity about what it’s like to stand in our customers shoes we don’t have to be told what is important to discuss, the right time to discuss our offerings, or the context for why the customer should care. We don’t need scripts or prepared anything because we know intuitively how and when to engage, driven by great intuition based on real stuff our client cares about.
Call this insight selling, solution selling, consultative selling, regardless of what you call it, make sure the key element is understanding. If you keep customer understanding front and center of your sales efforts you will have something valuable and timeless; the trust and engagement of customers who know you care enough to understand them. Understanding trumps baseball tickets, objection handling, and practically any sales “technique.” Why? Because it bypasses techniques and gets to the real thing that binds human beings; trust that comes through a true desire to understand.
Perhaps the best thing we can do assure a high performing (customer connected) sales team today is to include the following focus areas to our sales training programs:
Rapid learning and adaptation
Inquiry and investigation