It’s certainly no surprise that the landscape of sales is changing dramatically. Neil Rackham of SPIN selling talks about the new landscape for sales and the outlook is not pretty. Transactional business is quickly being squeezed through the hiring of low cost offshore groups, as well as technology and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions.
It should be noted that Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, a big data company in Palo Alto, was recently interviewed and made a compelling statement that most technologies are replacing jobs while his technologies are creating new jobs. We need to heed this because lower level jobs are going away and there will be fewer high-level positions.
The traditional sales model from which we have recognized up to 80% of our business is moving to the transactional sale and the higher end business is going to demand a consultative sales approach. This approach is going to shed light on the skills – or lack thereof – of today’s sales professionals. So it’s time to ask yourself:
Do you have the skills to connect with executives in order to gain access to their team?
This is highly critical because only through these connections will you be able to do some discovery to map their processes, come back with an understanding of their business challenges and opportunities, and, most importantly, prove where and how you can add value. This Trojan Horse method will be a required skill for the next generation of sales professionals.
What can you do right now to make yourself more valuable at the executive level? Forrester Research analyst Mark Lindwall discussed the following in a recent post; to paraphrase, he commented: “Executives feel that, for the most part, meetings with sales people usually focus on a push of their products and services, and very few come prepared to address and execute based upon the business issues or to educate based upon the real world success they have had.”
So how can you share real-world experience with your prospects?
Step 1: Gather Real-World Examples of Success
You need to capture success on LinkedIn in the form of recommendations so you will have them when you need them. You should be able to deliver a succinct story to showcase how you have worked with similar clients so having these posted on LinkedIn gives you immediate credibility and instills a sense of confidence. In our Sales Gauge 2 Social Selling program that we deliver live, as well as via our eLearning platform, we show you how to effectively request a recommendation by first developing it and then asking them to post it. This is easy, fast, and usually your customers will do it without hesitation.
Step 2: Initial Qualification
The next step is to go back to the idea of qualifying based on the ROI Triangle: people, time and money. However, to become a trusted advisor to our prospects and clients, we need to expand this method to an even more targeted approach.
Through our engagement with clients, they have already seen the benefits of gathering strategic assessments for the accounts they already sell to. They are now working with and assigning sales people to create higher-level conversations with executives. Some are getting really good at this while others are having mixed or poor results as they seek to shift these efforts and conversations to be more strategic.
The Big Challenge: Mediocre results are often due to the inability of the newly anointed “Strategic Advisor” to refrain from “the hard sell,” and, as Alec Baldwin says in Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always Be Closing.” While I am certainly not advocating avoiding a close, you need to defer a product close for the much bigger opportunity, so I am suggesting that your sales advisors close for a value assessment process that will differentiate their offerings.
Step 3: Conducting the Value Assessment
You are now going to speak to your clients about their process of creating products and/or services. Take a simple block diagram and determine which functional departments you have worked with successfully in your career. This block diagram represents the steps in their process; you need to begin by capturing how they are doing things today, i.e. the “as is.”
Walk through these steps with the department managers and then with a few key individual contributors in the department. Often, the surprise here is that the people in charge and the people doing the work will not always see things the same way, and this is good for you to understand and to capture. Now ask these basic questions about their process:
- How long does this take?
- How many/often do you do it?
- How much does it cost?
- How many people are typically involved?
These questions form the basis for capturing the critical business issues (CBIs) but now we need to take this one step further. At each step of the value assessment block diagram, you need to ask 2 more questions:
- What are your specific desired improvement goals for this step?
- What do you see as the obstacles in achieving these goals?
This process outlined above enables you to go back to the management team with a report on your findings. This will serve as the roadmap for what they want to achieve and then the areas where the prospect can recognize improved outcomes as a result of your partnership.
While this process is simple and extremely effective, recognize that it will take more time. But with the value that you are bringing, you can grow bigger deals, expand your footprint, and block out the competition. One of our clients took this path and unseated the competition, closed a deal 120 days earlier than they had forecasted, and owns a reference account they can leverage for the long-term.
So how do you install this process within your organization? Sales Gauge can help! Reach out to us at: 781.910.0077 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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