Every single one of your conversations with a potential customer should revolve around at least one if not more of these pathways providing insight. Customers want you to teach them not to ask them discovery questions like every other resident.
Now with all this said, your goal isn’t just to give out free consulting. Your teaching efforts need to meet some specific criteria otherwise you might be educating your prospect on how to buy from the competition. This is called commercial teaching and it has four key rules –
- Leverage your unique strengths
- Challenge your customers assumptions
- Prioritise action
- Scale across the market
As we run through these rules, you’re going to quickly realise that all of this follows in the principles of what the Sales School is here to teach. That we are selling tactics don’t work and the you to have success in B2B sales now and forever onwards you need to become an expert in your industry. So, let’s run through each of these commercial teaching principles in more detail.
1) Leverage your unique strengths
First and foremost, your commercial teaching must tie directly back to a capability where you outperform your competitors. If what you are teaching is something you do better than anyone else clearly you can be in a much better position when it comes to winning the business that arises from the conversation. Yes, you have to get your customer thinking about new opportunities to save or make money, but have you really succeeded if your customer asks “how can I make that happen?” and you respond by giving your money to someone else…
Your “commercial teaching” must tie directly back to a capability where you outperform your competitors
Of course, you need to make sure that you actually can help the customer. From their perspective there is nothing more frustratingly in when a supplier reaches out to them, teaches them something new then can’t actually do anything about it. You are leading your customer into the desert and then dumping them there with no water to survive.
Of course, to lead someone to your unique strengths, you have to understand what your unique strengths are. If you are unsure of your organisation strengths, subtly ask this to your sales manager or even higher up the food chain. It’s very easy for salespeople to get bogged down into the day-to-day prospecting, admin, and paperwork, and it’s easier for others to lose track of our products positioning in the market. If you are putting the customer in a position where there are two suppliers that are undifferentiated, it’s simple, they can choose this cheaper supplier. This is the reason why most sales reps are happy to battle on price. But you are going to battle on value instead.
If you’re still struggling to suss out what makes you unique, ask yourself this question “across the whole organisation, why should our customers buy from us over anyone else?” answer that and you will know where you are leading your customers to with your commercial teaching.
2) Challenge your customers assumptions
This seems like a simple one, but a lot of sales professionals get this wrong. To put it bluntly, whatever you teach your customers, has to actually teach them something. You have to challenge the assumptions and speak to them in a way that they have either never thought of or never appreciated before. Whatever data or information you put in front of your customer must change the way that they think about their business.
To put it bluntly, whatever you teach your customers, has to actually teach them something.
Remember what I said at the top of the video, your teachings must challenge your customers assumptions on at least one of the following-
- Unique and viable perspectives on the market
- Helping the customer navigates the alternative vendors
- Ongoing advice and consultation
- Navigating potential landmines
- Educating buyers on new issues that crop up over time
If you’re not doing one of these, you’re not doing much at all. When trying to confirm what the customer already knows, any idiot can do that. There is huge value however in giving insights that changes what they know, in ways they couldn’t have uncovered on their own.
You will know if you’ve achieved this by your customers reaction. Your customer agrees with what you’re saying then you’ve actually failed.
You will know if you’ve achieved this by your customers reaction. Your customer agrees with what you’re saying then you’ve actually failed. This may feel counter-intuitive but it is true. If they agree with you then you have highlighted something that is perhaps in the dark, we haven’t actually taught them anything. You are looking for the response of “oh shit, I never thought about it like that way before”. They should end a conversation with you, walk down the corridor and be thinking “what else don’t I know?”
This tells you that the customer is engaged, they’re perhaps a little unsettled and this is exactly what buyers want when they sit down in the first place. This is when you’re having a conversation that itself is something worth paying for.
Now just because we help them see things differently doesn’t mean they were persuaded them to do things differently that the next step.
3) Prioritise action
In a world with a buyer has limited resources and all kinds of competing priorities is not enough to just challenge the way that the customer thinks. You’ve got to get them to act. Most sales people talk about the return on investment of spending money with their organisation.
When you are prioritising action for the buyer the goal is to focus on the money they are losing right now and the potential upside working with you moving forward. At this point you’ve given them an insight which they didn’t know existed, you’ve placed the burden of this insight on their shoulders by the fact that you can show that is losing their money and so you clearly demonstrated why there is a benefit for them to fix their own problem.
4) Scale across the market
All of this will scale when done correctly from deal by deal to market segment by market segment. Typically, if you uncover one incredible insight for an account, other accounts in that industry market segment will be wowed by the same insight. You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel every customer you speak to.
Therefore, we need to segment our messaging and teaching to customers who have likely similar set of needs. Additionally, an overlay on top of this is that for example selling into hospital A, or perhaps hospital B would like to know some counterintuitive ways that they are having success. And of course, overtime as the market develops, probably vice versa, hospital B likes to know how hospital A is succeeding in specific areas too.
It’s important to document our insights so that were not reinventing the wheel every time we open our mouth.
Therefore, it’s important to document our insights so that were not reinventing the wheel every time we open our mouth. If you have the ability to suck segment your target accounts across not necessarily company size, potential value or the typical criteria for segmenting a market but on the specific needs of the end-user then you should do this.