At SalesGym, we’re always on the lookout for sales executives that have interesting and timeless insights into top performers, coaching, and building better sales teams. In a recent interview with John Allen Mann, SVP Practice Leader, Employee Benefit Consulting, he shared some thoughts into how sales teams can generate better results. His insights included:
- The negative impact canned responses can have on building trust
- Focus on solving problems more than selling
- Ease into the more invasive questions
Early in the interview, John brought up two problems he’s noticed when it comes to how salespeople sell,
“There are two common problems; first, in most cases, the prospect is doing more prep work than the business development person and secondly, salespeople need to go into meetings looking through the lens of being a problem solver versus trying to sell somebody something, they need to change their approach, starting with their ability to listen.”
Focus first on building trust
Initiating a new relationship is one of the most difficult and stressful elements of selling. Our ability to be effective in the opening moments of the first contact, for most salespeople, has a big impact on their results. In general, our objective is to generate enough curiosity and interest so the decision maker will agree to another meeting or call. Ideally, we project credibility and competency to increase our odds.
We typically don’t have much time before the prospect makes the decision to give us more time or not and this can create trust-destroying tactics as John explains,
“Salespeople that are in an industry that would require some level of cold calling, or warm calling, get taught all sorts of different kinds of rebuttals, when the first thing that they should be able to do is create emotional trust. In reality, they’re being taught to break that trust because the customer tells them exactly what they need which is, ‘I need space and time because I don’t have it right now,’ and the salesperson violates that very first opportunity to gain trust by pushing forward with a rebuttal they’ve been taught. If they want to build trust and have a chance to build that relationship they need to respect that customer’s request and instead say, ‘Sorry I caught you at a bad time. I would like to catch up with you. Is there a time that would be better for me to call you?”
One of the keys is to have, in those opening moments, something to say that is interesting and curiosity-piquing to the prospect. Typically, salespeople often say things like … “Hey Bill, I’d love to schedule a time in the next week or two so I can give you an overview of what we do and how we could help you with your XYZ needs … how does your schedule look?
Instead, better results are usually generated when we focus on what matters most to the prospect. The prospect could care less what you want or what you’d love to do as they know your interest is to do your job and sell. So, focus on what matters most to the prospect will resonate more often as in … “Bill, I appreciate you taking my call as I know you’re busy so I’ll get to the point. In researching your company and your concerns about protecting your customer’s data, we’ve been working with a number of CTO’s facing similar challenges that are doing some really innovative things to lower their costs and improve the security of their customer’s data that I think would be interesting to share with you. There’s a lot of new thinking on how to get in front of the problems you’re all experiencing right now. What would be the best way for me to share those insights with you?”
In this second example, we’re speaking in terms of what matters most to this prospect. Less about what we want and more about helping the prospect. That’s what works.
Solving Problems vs. Selling
John shared with us his perspective on shifting our focus to problem solving,
“If salespeople can shift their focus to trying to solve a problem, then the level of focus that they can listen to and the nuance and detail they can pick up on is exponentially higher than if they’re sitting there thinking about what they’re going to say next in order to rebut whatever it is the person is telling them.”
Customer focus means placing the needs of the decision maker front and center and keeping it there from the first contact all the way through the sales process as John explains,
“So many salespeople approach sales from the perspective of, ‘What information can you give me so that I can construct a story, or proposal, or whatever to get you to purchase what I sell so that I can have X, or pay the rent or whatever.’ It’s so much more effective to go in saying, ‘Look, I solve problems and here are the types of problems my company solves and I’ve done research on your organization, and I understand that you guys have problems in similar areas that we solve and so what I’m here to talk about today is how we go about solving those verses how you’ve been solving them to see if we can fix some of them together.”
Ease into the more invasive questions
With all the training that’s been stressing the importance of asking probing questions and getting deep into the emotional drivers of the decision makers and influencers, often salespeople go a bit overboard and approach the important early steps of the sales process, when we’re developing rapport, as an interrogation that ignores the most basic elements of human relations. John explains,
“Imagine you go on a date and you sit down at the dinner table and start in with, ‘So, how come you and your last partner broke up? How often did you guys go out on dates? Were you thinking about having children? Were you going to get married? If you were going to get married, where were you going to live? Who was going to have a job and who was going to stay home? Did you want kids?’, and you start asking all these really personal penetrating questions trying to figure out where the ex went wrong … You’re going to come across like a lunatic. Yet, that’s how the majority of business development people have been taught to run a meeting!”
It’s important to ask questions in a non-threatening way but do it in a way that elevates the relevance of the conversation to what matters most to the decision maker(s). We need to be assertive, but we also need to do it in a way that builds trust and rapport. Ultimately, buyers prefer to do business with people they like and trust.
So, in summary, focus on building trust first, solve problems instead of selling and think about and communicate around what matters most to the customer. Finally, approach questions in a way that builds trust while helping find out how you can help the prospect address what matters to them. These priorities will help you generate better results and build better relationships.
SalesGym is a research, consulting, and training company that works with and learns from sales teams all over the world and has refined a coaching and training process that trains sales teams the way elite athletes are trained. More insights and articles from us can be found on our RESOURCES PAGE.