John Dean (JD), CEO of Katalyst Consulting has been involved in sales for well over 30 years, initially running major IT companies and for the past 10 years his own consulting business, helping companies and sale people change old school selling paradigms to focus on understanding customer needs more closely rather than pushing what they have to sell. During his IT years, he discovered most business have similar challenges in hiring good sales people, understanding how they tick and how to motivate and mentor them and then to take what sales people say and turn it into what customers want to hear in order to get a buying decision.
As JD says: “Unlike traditional sales trainers, we work within sales teams and sales individuals on understanding how to go to market and on understanding the customer. Selling isn’t about telling and closing any longer, and hasn’t been for some time. It’s about understanding the processes and providing insightful questions to a customer to make them change the way they think about their problem. It’s not about how you sell, but how to understand whether someone’s going to buy and then help them with that buying process. Selling is simple, it is made way too complex by sales people.”
Traditional sales tactics have universally required pounding the phones, making appointments and tracking numbers; the prevailing theory being the more calls you make, the more sales you will generate. The sales person who can make the most calls, most often wins. We’ve all heard the “it’s a numbers game” applied to selling success and unfortunately it’s a maxim still used today in many organisations. To be fair though, times do change and much of what worked or was fashionable at one point becomes outdated and no longer valid at another. Or, there becomes a better way to optimise results so that the focus shifts from making more calls to getting better results from calls that are made.
A recent article in Forbes Magazine agrees with JD saying, “Creating or expanding business relationships is not about selling – it’s about establishing trust, rapport, and value creation without selling. Any organization that still has ‘sales’ titles on their org charts and business cards is living in another time and place, while attempting to do business in a world that’s already passed them by. Engage me, communicate with me, add value to my business, solve my problems, create opportunity for me, educate me, inform me, but don’t try and sell me – it won’t work. An attempt to sell me insults my intelligence and wastes my time.”
According to JD, “When you talk to a prospect about your company, your product and your client base that’s push selling and it’s not good because you are not asking questions about their buying process; why they’re going to buy, what problems they have, is there enough pain. We dare people not to talk about their company or their product in prospect meetings and to instead ask clever and insightful questions which present a significant challenge to almost all sales people. An insightful question is one where the prospect says ‘that’s a good question or I haven’t thought about that before.’ If you can do something to change the way they think about the problem then you have become the thought leader in that moment.”
When most organisations hire a sales person, they typically do some kind of induction or training that focuses on the company products, process and business. While we all acknowledge that’s necessary, the training will hardly ever focus on what’s important from a buying perspective, and how prospects buy. Sales people need to understand what buyers look for, how they research, the pain they have and then be able to give insight into their problem and the solution that can be provided. It is no longer about telling prospects how brilliant the company is and what it can do, which is not really important to the buyer in the initial stages.
As JD says, “Most of the organisations we deal with have a sales team or an individual that’s not performing and what they tend to do is focus on the wrong stuff. They focus on quantity of meetings or number of phone calls. They focus on the inputs rather than focusing on the value of the outcomes of those things. It’s the wrong emphasis.”
A recent article on the Harvard Business Review website pushed for a more creative approach to sales. “The arguments are familiar: well-informed customers, changing buying behaviors, and increased pressure on prices all contribute to the demise of the traditional sales machine. The conclusion: Leaders must abandon their fixation on process compliance and embrace a flexible approach to selling driven by sales reps’ reliance on insight and judgment. I think the solution is don’t over-engineer your sales process. It has to be flexible enough for your sales reps to feel guided, but not constrained.”
For more insights into selling without telling and understanding how people buy, visit: http://www.katalystconsulting.com.au.