Read any book, article or blog about sales and you’ll probably come across some reference to the need for the sales person to provide value to the customer. But the real question should be “how can a sales person make their value more visible to the customer?”
Sales people who differentiate their value succeed
Most sales people work for a company where they have developed solutions which can add value to the customer’s business. The challenge is to persuade the customer that the value that one company (or sales person) provides is greater than the value presented by their competition. In many cases it is not the ‘best company’ or ‘best solution’ that wins the sale but rather the sales person who was able to make their value more visible to the customer. You’ll often hear people say that company 'A' was simply “out-sold” by company 'B'. What they really mean is that the sales person in company 'B' did a better job of making their differentiated value more visible to the customer.
How sales people make value visible
It’s no use having the best solution for the customer if you can’t make that value visible. So how can sales people make value visible? The starting point has to be to focus on the customer first, not on your product or service. This may appear counter-intuitive but the problem is that most sales people think that the value proposition is all about themselves and their product. It’s not; the value proposition
should be all about the customer and what your product or solution can do for the customer. Therefore, the sales person who can articulate the value that their solution can provide to the customer is more likely to win the deal.
Understand the value the customer is looking for
In complex sales scenarios (where there is more than one person involved in making the buying decision) this is even more important. This is because the sales person has to determine what type of value each individual member of the customer’s buying team is looking for, and then make that value visible to them personally. If they succeed in doing this they are more likely to win the support of all involved.
For example, let’s say that one sales person believes that part of their value proposition is that they are the market leader in their space. What does that mean to the customer? What is the value to the customer of this vendor being the market leader? The answer depends on who the sales person is addressing in the customer: for the CFO, or financial buyer, it might mean financial stability, the fact that the company is likely to be here for the long-term. For someone in marketing perhaps it has to do with brand and market perception. They want to be seen to business with a successful company. For someone in the implementation team perhaps it has more to do with experience and having a trusted, tried and tested solution. For others it might represent the potential economic value of being able to buy a solution at a fair price because the vendor has better economies of scale.
Sales people tell customers engaging stories to articulate their value
The key task for any sales person is to determine what their differentiating value is, and to find a way to make it more visible to the customer. One of the most effective ways of doing that is for the sales person to have a story to back-up any claim or value proposition. People remember stories. They re-tell stories. Customers are far more likely to remember a story which provides a good example of the value that the vendor provides. Good stories, customer success stories, references and market innovations help the customer to see and appreciate the real value that the vendor can bring to them. People will buy from sales people they trust – and sales people who are able to bring their value to life, to make their value visible by telling meaningful success stories.
The previous posts about how to become a trusted advisor 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green & Robert M. Galford,' discussed how to earn trust, give advice and build relationships. Along side developing these skills, it is important to know how to focus on the other person, to be self-confident, to put your own ego aside, to be curious, to maintain a high degree of inclusive professionalism and always be sincere.
Focus on the other person
“The only way to influence someone is to find out what they want and show them how to get it” Dale Carnegie. To achieve this degree of influence it is essential to be able to focus on the other person giving them what they need and want. It is not about providing them with your knowledge or expertise but more about giving reassurance, helping the client see new approaches and make decisions. The ability to become an empathetic listening is key to this. How well we succeed in this depends on how able we are to truly feel what the other person feels, focusing on them not our own self-promotion. This is a skill that takes years of learning to master but it reaps great rewards.
What is being referred to in the context of being a trusted advisor is the ability to have the self confidence to listen and understand and brainstorm before offering solutions. To put aside the fear that we are squandering critical influencing time by not immediately providing solutions.
This is the ability to focus on the consultative relationship process, the issues at hand and not on any blame or credit attached to it.
To solve other’s problems we need to ask questions, and to listen, in other words to be curious focusing not on what we know but what we don't know. It is our curiosity which creates the situations which allow us to contribute.
By this we mean being able to align with our clients to work collaboratively by acknowledging and engaging them to find solutions rather than just providing them ourselves.
We demonstrate our sincerity to others by caring behavior, by our attention and interest, by our research and by how we listen. When we then respond enthusiastically we invite the other person to explore with us the possibilities and solutions. Being sincere is a critical element of any relationship and of trust. Sometimes we might find ourselves in a situation where it is impossible to relate or be sincere. As long are really sure that you have tried everything you can there are times when you have to accept the situation for what it is and walk away. In relationships there really are only win-win and loose-loose combinations.
Being sincere and building a strong client relationship doesn’t mean you have to become your client’s friend. To be a trusted advisor you have to care and show you care. Being sociable with your client will definitely deepen your understanding of your client’s needs and fears but that doesn’t imply that you have to become their good friend. If you are attentive to your clients needs the effectiveness of the sales process will be enhanced. To earn trust you will need to do this and to be vested in the long-term benefit of the relationship.
Ultimately you are not trying to build a relationship that is simply a means to an end but you are trying to create a partnership that will mean you go on a journey together to resolve your clients needs. What do you think, do you have any other suggestions, we would love to hear from you?!
What does it mean to become a ‘trusted advisor’?
Why would you aspire to become your client’s ‘trusted advisor’? From the book 'The Trusted Advisor' by David H Maister, Charles H Green & Robert M Galford, we are going to examine this critical question. As your client’s trusted advisor you become your client’s ‘go to’ person, a provider of excellent, impartial advice when its needed the most. That could be during a period of change, in a crisis, in times of defeat or even in times of victory. It means that you are your client’s partner, you share in all things, good and bad. You are the person they think of first for help and support, someone who cares about them, someone they respect and can rely on and trust to do the right thing for them.
The trusted advisor, earning trust
Building trust is a gradual process, it takes time to develop and it requires effort. Trust has to be earned, you have to show trust in order to get it. Initially trust can be earned by being generous with your specialist knowledge, by being prepared to freely share pertinent information and your advice with no gain to yourself.
For your client to trust you they have to respect you. To earn respect you need to show respect. Firstly you need to show respect of yourself, in the way you dress, in how you talk, interact and behave towards others. Respect of others is demonstrated by how you treat people, how courteous, considerate and sincere you are and how attentively you listen to them. Gestures such as following up after meetings, inquiring after individual’s families etc all help to to build trust and show that your priority is the other person, in helping them not yourself and that you sincerely care.
Emotion and reason
Building trust is both emotional and rational. Rational, in that it is based on what expertise you have to offer your client and emotional in that it is about providing support, challenging thinking and offering encouragement. To become a trusted advisor you need to do both.
Trust - a two-way relationship
Trust is a two-way relationship- you cannot create it on your own, your client has to participate and reciprocate.
Trust entails risk, potential to violate the relationship always exists but what makes the relationship special is the advisor never doing so. The advisor is trusted and the client does the trusting, although just because you have the ability to trust others does not necessarily mean that you are trustworthy!
Trust is about the individual
Trust is personal in that we don’t trust organizations or companies we trust the people within them. Trust requires being understood and having some capacity to act on that understanding. It is a relationship built on shared values and principles. One person relying on the other, the trusted advisor being vested in the long-term gain.
Ultimately people trust you if they respect you and believe that you sincerely care about them; in their interests and concerns, over and above your own. Your client will turn to you as their solution provider because they respect and trust you. They will listen to you, they will act and they will make mutually beneficial decisions. Successfully building this type of relationship will create a long term, sustainable partnership.
In the following weeks we will look in more detail about how to build a trusted advisor relationship, next time we will look at how to give advice. In the meantime, what do you think, are you your client’s trusted advisor? We’d love to know your thoughts!
“Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It is easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory…….It is another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down” Lee Iacocca.
As the savior of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca believes that leaders are made in a time of crisis. The crisis of a nation such as Sir Winston Churchill faced in 1939 and the crisis of a corporation such as Iacocca faced in 1978. Leadership is about who we are and how we behave, we can learn to develop our behavior and become more successful leaders. Here are the nine qualities Iacocca believes are needed for effective leadership.
A leader needs to be curious, to step out of his comfort zone and to listen others' different, possibly challenging ideas. Without challenging our thinking and belief’s how do we know we are right?
Leaders need to be willing to try something new, to think outside of the box. Part of a leader’s role is to manage change.Circumstances alter constantly, a leader needs to adapt and creatively deal with those changes.
Effective leaders confront realities, even when it is painful to do so. They communicate the truth, suggest strategies to move forward, inviting others to share their ideas and become involved as part of the solution.
Character means knowing the difference between right and wrong, it is about our moral and ethical strength. It is what is deep inside us, both when things go well and wrong. Ideally our reputation and our character should be mirror images. As Abraham Lincoln said: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
A leader must have courage. The courage to sit down at the table and talk, to defend what is right even when it might be unpopular.
A leader should passionately believe in their goals and be determined to achieve them.
Charisma is the quality that inspires, that makes others trust you, follow you and believe that they have a valid role to play as part of the vision.
A leader needs to be competent and to surround themselves with people who know what they are doing as competent problem solvers.
9. Common Sense
Leaders need to be able to reason and use common sense!
When Iacocca joined Chrysler in 1978 it announced a $160 million quarterly loss, it was appallingly managed, lacking organizational discipline and structure. Harsh measures were needed, measures which Iacocca had the courage to implement. Visiting every Chrysler plant he learned how employees felt and he devised a rescue plan. Never asking others anything he wasn’t prepared to accept himself; hard work, commitment and for himself a salary of one dollar a year. Inspired by their leader’s honesty, common sense, conviction and passion employees accepted losses in wages and benefits to help effect a dramatic recovery. Iacocca bought a company teetering on bankruptcy back to life, retaining employment for thousands and making an enormous contribution to the American economy.
In today’s competitive, depressed economy, Iaccoa’s story is inspirational. Try applying his nine C’s of leadership, always do your best and do let us know what other ideas you might have to be an effective leader.