The center of gravity for sales professionals is to act as trusted advisors by demonstrating business fit and business value . . . well in advance of engaging in product discussions and demonstrations. A business fit analysis requires sales professionals to become adept at using reflective, open-ended questions to gather information from multiple contacts in a targeted account. Business value is anchored in understanding how we can make a measurable impact on our client's desired business outcomes. Ideally we should spend as much as 80% of the time listening and only 20% talking. But how do we accomplish this? What questions do we need to ask? In what sequence? With whom? When do we have enough information? When are we done? Are we ever done?
Well nobody said that this would be easy. But the results are well worth the effort when we elevate our selling efforts to a world class level.
Fundamentally, we need to determine a client’s core business directions, goals, strategies, challenges and negotiation expectations. It is not enough to visit a company web site and download business, financial and product information. This information is helpful but incomplete. We need to focus on real-time information, not stale sound bytes from the past. We need to listen and hear the inner voice of the organization. The voice that articulates pressing issues that keep key executives up at night. In order to accomplish this we must forge a relationship based on trust and confidence. Only then can be achieve the level of customer intimacy that brings critical opportunities, problems and challenges to the surface. Unfortunately, if we do not do our due diligence in this level of detail, we have the same publicly available information as our competitors. This translates into no discernible competitive advantage. If fact it may lead to having the same incomplete information that everyone else has . . . which is actually a competitive disadvantage. Seller’s beware if you present your business case based on flawed data and assumptions. Nothing is more damaging to your credibility that to build your business proposal on a foundation of findings and insights that are no longer relevant. This sets you up for failure, not success.
We must operate in the now . . . in the current moment. Otherwise, we can get caught on the wrong side of the shifting sands of corporate activity and change. If we understand the current state . . . we will be in a position to help a client architect the optimal future state of their business. Sun Tzu in the Art of War advocated that the wise general will not move without having the highest level of intelligence. This desire to attain as close to perfect information as possible is our goal. It is as relevant in formulating and executing our sales strategies and tactics today. . . as it was for Sun Tzu in executing his war campaigns on the battlefield over 2500 years ago.
All Rights Reserved: Richard Dodd 2006
Richard Dodd is the President of Chasm Cross Consulting. He is a recognized thought leader and implementation leader in the fields of value-based selling and business negotiation. He recently delivered a keynote presentation at the Private Equity XVI Conference in New York titled: Business Negotiation – A Strategic Imperative. He has been written up in Waters Magazine and Wall Street and Technology Magazine. He is also a frequent guest and contributor at Information Week Technology Conferences. To reach him, call 646-245-8315 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org