Beverly asks: What can we do when a buyer is going through the data gathering to separate ourselves from the competition?
I’ve had a couple of clients where their product or service had a business case on return on investment scenario, and they sold that way. I mean the salesperson really got involved in talking about return on investment and building a business case, and the company’s value proposition was based upon the fact that our product or service is going to save you $10,000, whatever. What we did in both of those case- Not both, several cases, quite a few as I think about it, is we actually incorporated the CFO or the financial officer in the organisation into the sales cycle.
Somewhere in early stages of the sales cycle, after the discovery, where the salesperson qualified the prospect, did some discovery, a call was set up between the prospect, the salesperson, and the financial officer of my clients, I guess it would be, or the selling organisation, where the financial officer would have a conversation with the prospect’s financial officer and the person we’re talking to. They would ask a series of additional questions about the company, the expected return on investment, what they were expecting to do. The financial officer of the selling organisation actually created a little spreadsheet and, based upon the answers, created a return on investment payback calculation, and that spreadsheet then was shared from the CFO or financial officer back to the prospect, and so the CFO or the financial officer actually made two sales calls: (1) to gather information, (2) to explain the payback.
The reason we did that is that salespeople are good. I like salespeople. But, sometimes, they’re not financially aligned to do a business case. When you want to have- I call it transactional sales issue. You have a decision maker to decision maker, maybe a CFO to a CFO, a salesperson to a salesperson, a technical person to a technical person, based on products or service, but all of a sudden you had one more person in the line.
Going back to your earlier question about who makes the decision, if the president of the company turns to the CFO and says, “You think this is a good product?” the financial officer is going to say, “Yeah. It’s really good. Their financial officer spoke to me, and we rationalised.” And this is the business case: “We built.” It helps take some of the pressure off the buyer, but it also allows another voice, another person to be involved in the sales process.
The thing to do is to set yourself apart. One thing that will set yourself apart is- I’m a trainer. You’re a trainer. If we ask ourselves, “Okay. What do people hate about trainers and training? Okay. Let me not be that.” That’s one way to go about it. Right? What do people hate about lawyers? Well, they chase ambulances, and they da, da, da, da. If I’m a lawyer, I’m going to think,” Okay. How can I do the opposite of that?” As a trainer, people think training doesn’t work. People come in, and they try to cram their perspective down our throats.
One of the reasons training doesn’t work is it’s a huge information dump. Instead of dumping information, I’m going to make my training about experience. Right? We come in. We put people through an experience. We drill this stuff, and then we get from them: What did you just learn by having that experience? They’re teaching us while we’re training them. That sets us apart. To be able to send them a video that says, “Here’s why most corporate training fails, and here’s what makes corporate training work,” and it’s really about the principles. Oh. By the way, we do this “be” part. Right? But what I’ve done is given them information about what works and what doesn’t that’s useful no matter who they’re evaluating. Oh. By the way, we fit into this works category. Right? That’s a great way to go about it.
Then, you can ask them: “Hey. During your data gathering, what are the questions that you’re going to be asking? How can I help you get those answers? What do you need to know?” I just put out a proposal recently. He asked me for references. Instead of saying, “Oh. Here are some of the people that say the best things about me,” I said, “What are you going to be asking? What do you want to know from these references? Okay. Well, Dave hasn’t worked with me as much as Deanna has, and Deanna loves to sing our praises, but Dave is an executive with an executive mind, and you are an executive with an executive mind, and you’re asking about how we can address those high level of education. Dave hasn’t worked with us as much as Deanna, but Dave is bringing us back. I’m going to send you to Dave. Even though he may not speak as glowingly as Deanna would, I’m going to send you to Dave because he’s going to answer your question.” That’s another important way that you can really set yourself apart is not sending people to the best reviews but sending them to the most specifically targeted reviews.
Then, the other thing is not calling and saying, “Hey. I wanted to follow up,” or, “Hey. I wanted to touch base,” but, “Hey. You told me about this timeline,” or, “You told me about this interest. I want to make sure that I’m serving your interests.” As a trainer, I often call and say, “You said you wanted some training in May. Our calendar is filling up. I want to make sure to get you in. Right? But I want to make sure that you’re getting all of the information you need so that you can meet that objective of having training in May. Here we are. We’re a week into May. You’ve only got three weeks left, and our calendar is filling up. I want to help you answer the questions you have so that you can make the decision, not just push, push, push. Hey. May is ticking by. But I want to help you meet your objectives. These are the specific objectives that I know because I did a good job in discovery, so let’s solve this together. Let me help you get the information that you need.”
Sending third-party information with statistics is the last thing that I would add is that statistics help because somebody in that decision-making process is going to be looking for the numbers. It may not be the person that you’ve been doing the most talking with, but somebody’s going to be asking them about the numbers, and, to be able to provide those numbers, especially if they come from outside from a third-party that’s going to have a little extra credibility, that’s really going to help them make the decision yes.
We want to be the company, the individual, the salesperson feeding the potential customer the information so they can build a potential business case on the back of our product specifications, what we can offer, what you can offer as an individual. This is a step of the sales cycle that has always been there, but, now that the prospect has the opportunity to go online, Google research on their own, the value that we can add as an individual is to add and help them through the process, add more information on top of what they can publicly find, whether that be insider secrets, whether that be insights on our product versus the competition, or even the competition versus us.
We want to get in there. We want to start a conversation early. We want to be on top of it, and we want the customer or the potential customer to come to us with questions so that we’re helping them. We’re guiding them. We’ve got our rapport. We’ve got that trust before the business case has even been built.
Well, that can be a long process. We need to be patient, and, during this period of time, there are a couple of things that will really help you to stay in their mind and to differentiate yourself so you’re positively moving to the forefront of their mind.
The first one is to remain in a position where you are a resource. You are positioning yourself as someone who is helpful and objective. This is where you leverage your industry knowledge. It’s where you talk in broader generalities so that you are entering in more as a consultant. You’re not advocating for your product as much at this point. What you’re doing is you’re differentiating yourself as the go-to resource, the one that I want to bounce ideas around with.
You’re also doing something else. You’re differentiating yourself as a leader, as someone who is going to help guide them through their process. Leaders guide. By the questions that you ask, by the information that you bring in, you’re demonstrating that you are going to dignify their decisions. You’re not just waiting for that opportunity to derail anything else they do and bring them over into your camp. Instead, you’re dignifying their decisions. You’re giving them the credit that they deserve as someone who can autonomously think and has an opinion and needs to be taken into consideration. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
When you enable your buyers in this way and you validate their process, you are going to let the competition fall by the wayside because what they’re doing is hard selling. They’re making it clear that it’s all about them and their product, and they’re trying to convince the buyer to do what they want the buyer to do instead of aligning themselves with what the buyer is going to be doing. Hard sell backfires. Enabling sets you up for success.
A key phase when a buyer goes through the phase of educating themselves is the process of educating. Now, if you are marketing to me, what are you? What kind of role do you play if you’re a marketer to me?
I’m a pesterer.
I’m a pesterer. Great. You’re a marketer. You’re a pesterer. If you sell to me, what kind of role do you play if you’re a seller?
Hopefully an educator.
Okay. Not an educator yet, but that’s what I want you to be. Now, how do we call somebody who is an educator? What is a name for that? Different name? A teacher. Okay? I want you to think, when somebody is gathering info, think of being a teacher or a coach rather than being a salesperson. What a teacher and a coach do is they really are trying to enable you. I want you to think, whenever there’s a customer in that mode, I want you to think of one sole thought and keep that to be your true [north]. If a buyer is fully educated, they will make the right decision for them.
Now, half the time, that works in your favour, and, half the time, that work in a different favour. That’s fine. I’ll take a win rate of one in two every day. Right? But educate, educate, educate, and educate them on things that are relevant to them obviously and not things that are just like out in the boonies, but you’ll have to educate them on the things that are relevant to them.
Education is a process of sharing information in context of their world. If I send you an article- Let’s say I sent you a three page, four page whitepaper, of course I know you’re going to read that paper at some point in time, but it’s not going to be relevant. If I sent you a four page whitepaper, and, in Adobe, I used a highlight section to highlight the specific paragraph of interest or, if I mail it to you, I put a little sticky note on it, maybe a little [cover writing], now I’m making it relevant to you. If I sent you a video, I’m pointing you to two minutes and 38 seconds where the blah, blah, blah talks about. If I sent you a Powerpoint deck, I’m directing you to slide 14 where this topic is described.
That is how you educate a person. You don’t just shovel information and say, “Hey. There’s a great book that you need to read,” but you tell which specific section relates and why it relates to that person.