B2C sales reps, especially those with potential for client development, here are two questions and a few thoughts for you. B2B reps, this isn’t tailored for you, but I believe many of you will find much of this relevant.QUESTIONS
- Are you building a portfolio of satisfied, loyal, long-term clients who will fuel your business in years to come, because you provide true value to them and nurture those relationships over time?
- Or are you making a series of transactional sales, based on price and product presentations, to clients who will eventually defect from your portfolio due to: A) their dissatisfaction, B) your inattention to them, or C) whenever a lower price comes along?
Stop. Go back and re-read those questions. Do some soul-searching and introspection, and answer truthfully (to yourself – I’m not asking you to answer here, or to me – you’re the one that matters).Don’t fool yourself on this one, because the answer to this question:
- May determine your likelihood and level of long-term success.
- Will determine how hard you have to work and how long you have to work that hard.
It’s Deja Vu, All Over AgainThere are those who say you can’t be successful selling transactionally. I wish that were true, but it’s not. Sadly, sales people in every industry prove this every day. Even in my current relationship-driven industry, if reps can self-generate or buy enough leads every year, they can still achieve a modest amount of success, making one-time sales, doing the same thing, year after year, without developing their clients further. Not ideal, or at least not in my opinion, but it’s possible. Have you ever heard the expression, “Some people have 15 years of experience; others have 1 year of experience, repeated 15 times”? Selling transactionally, instead of client-centered, value-selling, is like that. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day (the same day, repeated over and over). Worse, it never gets any easier. (It’s also less fun without Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, and doesn’t have a romantic, happy Hollywood ending. 😉 To escape from Groundhog Day Syndrome, you need to move away from transactional, product- and price-based selling methods, in general. (Sidebar: I know it probably seems odd to see me write this now, but you won’t find me saying you should NEVER sell transactionally. Your sales process should morph to match your client’s buying process, and frankly, there are some economic buyers who are solely driven by price and nothing else. I will caution you, however… don’t use that fact as an excuse against learning and changing… there are fewer of those buyers than you may think.) Goodbye, Punxsutawney Phil So, what’s the better long-term approach? Here are some things to think about… Client-centered:
- This is a shift of focus from you to your clients. What is important to them? What’s their perspective? What are their goals, hopes, needs, wants, fears and concerns? Help enough other people get what they want, and you get what you want.
- To learn those things (goals, hopes, needs, wants, fears and concerns), you must ask questions and listen. (Thus, the term “discovery.”) That means you can’t be asking mostly closed questions where they can provide a brief factual answer or say yes or no. It involves using open questions to make them talk and share their perspective… and then using closed questions to clarify and confirm what they said (and what they’re hoping to accomplish). It’s certainly not simply asking a lot of leading questions, designed to “make them realize” they have a need for what you want to sell.
- Your understanding of their needs should include understanding “what is” today – their current situation and circumstances, and why they want to make a change. It should also include understanding “what should be” – what they hope to improve or accomplish, why they want to accomplish that, and what they want to avoid. As mentioned in “client-centered” above, it’s about discovering their goals, hopes, needs, wants, fears and concerns.
- Consider this perspective: When YOU see a need that one of your products can fill, that’s a POTENTIAL NEED. When, through discovery, questioning, listening and confirming, you can get YOUR CLIENT to say it, it becomes a REAL NEED or confirmed need. This is client-centered, discovery-enabled, and needs-based.
- This is about selecting the right products to meet your clients’ needs. It’s the building and customization of a solution from your vast product toolkit to accomplish what they want… what is best for them. This may or may not be what you want to sell. It’s not about you; it’s about them. Client-centered and solution-oriented.
- Value trumps price almost every time. This doesn’t mean price isn’t important at all… people have budgets and they are a reality. But the best solution to meet their needs and protect your clients (and often, their family) isn’t always the cheapest solution. To focus on value, remind them about what they want to accomplish and how you are helping them do just that.
- Remind them about the problems they’re solving and what they said would happen if they didn’t solve them. Tell stories to illustrate the value. Don’t immediately fold on price without referring back to the value of your recommendations, based on what THEY told you.
- But, remaining client-centered, the final decision is theirs. If necessary, eventually, ask them questions to determine what they value the most, and want to do now. This includes what they want to remove, adjust, or not do. It’s talking about outcomes, situations, using stories, and focusing on the value and solution, not just the price.
- If you’ve ever dreaded answering when you see a certain client’s name appear on your ringing phone, you know how important this is. If you do as recommended above, you will so rarely have to worry about your clients being unsatisfied. Or, at least not about how you did your best to help them during the sales process.
- You will have done your best to serve and help your clients, and they’ll know it. Of course, you’ll also need to assist (as possible) when they reach out to you with questions or for help, but that will be so much easier once the relationship is started right to begin with.
- Selling to your clients in this way, is what lays the solid foundation for future and ongoing referrals, staying in touch, periodic need reviews, and cross-selling later to meet needs you couldn’t initially, or discovering new needs as things change (when trigger points occur – births, deaths, job changes, moves, and more – whatever life circumstances indicate that needs for your product may have changed).
All The World’s a CircleTo circle back to where we started this whole discussion, selling and servicing your clients properly is what allows you to build and grow a portfolio of satisfied, loyal, long-term clients who will fuel your business in years to come, because you provide true value to them. When you do that, you escape the never-ending rut of Groundhog Day, because you will be developing a solid account base, renewing more and more orders, getting more and more referrals – and not just at the point of sale – but over time, further developing your relationships with your clients and deepening their ties to you. You will need far fewer other leads, and will be working smarter, instead of the same (or harder) every year.
Poke. Poke. Poke.
I hope this has provided some food for thought. One final provocation… the more uncomfortable you felt reading this message, and perhaps the more strongly you’re resisting it right now… the more you need to consider it. Sorry.Praise, feedback, or disagreements may be posted here or sent to me privately at mike_kunkle at mindspring dot com, at your discretion. Be safe out there, and happy selling! Mike
___________________________ Mike Kunkle Contact me:
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