Business to business (B2B) technology and data sales are rarely straight forward.
The ability to understand and address nuances is what sets apart a regular ‘order taking’ salesperson from one that earns the trust of senior decision makers and goes on to create value for customers.
So a popular directive from sales leaders (as well as trainers and coaches) to their teams is to be ‘consultative’ or ‘consulting-led’ in their pursuits.
Ultimately the goal (or should I say the hope) is to ensure the product or service they sell is fit-for-purpose, creating value and isn’t just what is on the ‘back of the truck’.
A standard approach to being consultative is to dig deep on needs, gaps, budget, timing and so on.
But to have meaningful conversations and to become a trusted advisor, your salespeople need to go beyond being just ‘consultative’ with the technical, functional and financial requirements.
They need to get to the heart of what will impact the success and failure of their projects.
So here are 3 questions that sales leaders can use to coach their salespeople, helping them to get into the right mindset and to have meaningful conversations.
Every successful project, every successful change, every successful sale has an internal champion.
This person has formal and informal incentives to bring to life the change that your product or service is enabling.
To go beyond being consultative, your salesperson needs to have a plan for how to champion the champion. They need to take the time and effort to intimately understand their champion’s world-view, align to their cause and become a supporter.
By asking your salesperson “how will you champion your champion” - you will get them to think more broadly and more deeply about their understanding of and relationship with their champion.
It will help guide their interactions in a way that positions them as a ‘trusted advocate’ - which has more value and longevity than being considered an ‘expert’ or a ‘closer’.
Your customer’s business leaders and C-suite are constantly thinking about improving their competitive position.
Any initiative, be it cyber security, data analytics, cloud migration, customer experience, employee experience etc, needs to translate into gains in financial, market share, retention, net promoter score and other such competitive measures.
By asking your salesperson “how are we improving the competitive context” - you will get them to dig into understanding the business and competitive drivers, the cause and symptoms of the current weak or threatened position as well as the impact of strengthened future position.
This strategic understanding and ability to articulate competitive context is the salesperson’s ticket to engage in a connected conversation with senior leaders and the C-suite.
Every change has its supporters and adversaries.
Even if and even when you are improving people’s lives and work environments, there will be a group of people who will feel threatened.
Their reactions may vary from passive aggressiveness (not co-operating) to blocking to outright sabotage.
So very early on - you need to identify internal and external stakeholders who will be impacted by the projects you are pursuing.
By asking your salesperson “what are the stakeholder sagas” - you’re getting them to move beyond what makes sense on paper to focus on ‘reading the room’ and anticipating which internal and external stakeholders will be impacted.
By understanding the stakeholder sagas your salesperson will be able to better engage with and support the champion and executive sponsors.
Use these 3 questions as coaching conversation starters with your salespeople to help them move beyond being ‘consultative’ to being relevant, remarkable and impactful in the eyes of their customers.
If you're interested in learning more about how to create impact as a leader or professional watch the replay of the Leadership Essentials webinar.
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