/stop_collaborate and listen_
“Stop. Collaborate and listen”, while you can’t say that without feeling book cool and dorky, but mostly dorky, at the same time, it’s actually pretty sound sales advice.
So many of us that end up in sales, are there because we’re good at talking. We know how to get our ideas across so that people understand. But that doesn’t necessarily make you a good sales person and in fact, it might actually make you a bad sales person. So STOP.
Stop before you talk.
When people come to a company to purchase something it’s because they are trying to solve a problem, usually on their own. There aren’t quite as many people who would rather pay somebody to do something than do it themselves as you may think. It’s not actually natural to identify a problem and think “who can do this for me?” Because that requires two things. It requires the humility to admit that you can’t do it on your own and it requires the resources to be able to pay for literally everything. So everyone is going to have this internal debate between, do I do it myself or do I look for help.
This means that when someone comes to you chances are they have tried and tried and tried to do it themselves and they keep coming up short. They are tired of trying to do it themselves and they just want help. But that doesn’t mean that they have given up on finding a semi-diy solution. If at all possible they may still want to find a way to just get the assistance needed to be able to complete the project themselves. But you don’t know that.
That’s why you need to stop before you talk. Give the person the chance to talk about what they’ve tried. Why the problem is causing them so much grief. Why they can’t do it on their own. Why they can’t use other tools or if they can what are they debating about. Just don’t go into the same old song and dance right away. Not until you figure out where they are at in their journey.
Are they just looking for a tool they can use to do it themselves? Are they looking for a partner that can help them complete the project? Or are they looking for a solution that can take the project off their hands completely.
If you are doing sales in the marketing space I think you’d be surprised by how many people would prefer a partner that can help them complete their project. Even at high levels, the key stake holder will want creative input. Marketing work straddles art and science. We know there are objective results and processes that drive revenue but there is also a personal artistic flair that comes in because the brand and messaging has to speak to the sub-culture that both the company and consumer belong to. That is inherently subjective which is what makes it artful.
We’ve found that in much of our design work that creating templates or wireframes that are 75% of the way there then making changes and adjustments in real time with the customer gets us to the final result faster and with less back and forth. This is why we collaborate.
Daniel Pink is fond of thinking about sales as an invitation to collaborate. But with a twist.
A couple of years ago he posted on Twitter:
“Is it better to solve problems in isolation or by collaborating with others?
Harvard research says . . . neither.
The best solutions come from ‘intermittent collaboration’ — group work punctuated by breaks to think & work by ourselves.”
In his MasterClass, he also says that collaboration in sales is more effective than claiming that you can solve people’s problems for them.
And if you think about it, that’s kind of a guy thing to try to just step in and fix everything. But what many of us are starting to learn in our relationships which is that our partners don’t necessarily want us to solve the problem, but they do want support and perhaps a little bit of enablement to help them solve the problem on their own.
That’s what collaborative sales looks like. You aren’t necessarily taking away their problem. You’re just enabling them to solve it on their own. You’re being a cheerleader or better yet a guide, being a resource rather than a fixer. And if that is the case, you will continue to be a resource to them for a long long time.
When I was in high school, I had a football coach who was a big reader. He frequently brought in books into the locker room and shared passages and sometimes he’d print off whole sections and give us copies to read at home.
On one occasion he was reading a Vince Lombardi book. He opened up the chapter about communication and pointed out that the entire chapter has four words: “Talk less, listen more.”
Talk less, listen more.
Listening as a sales tool actually helps prospects and current customers to solve their own problems through talking it out. You don’t have to worry about them solving their problems without your product or service when they are working it out in front of you because they are going to naturally lean on your expertise when they hit bumps in the road.
Get them talking and diving in deeper into their own thought process by repeating back to them what they are saying. If you want them to feel heard, say it like a statement. If you want them to elaborate, repeat what they are saying like a question.
Both Daniel Pink and Chris Voss teach repeating or mirroring as an extremely useful sales technique.
If you want to guide the conversation, make them feel heard by repeating their last three words like a statement, then follow it up with an inference.
My customers are coming to us for online booking solutions so I’ll use an example from our business.
The customer might say, “I’m looking for an app that I can white label that will give me the the ability to book and take payments.”
If I want to get them to elaborate I’ll say, “and take payments?” Then they’ll go into why they want to take payments and that will help me understand their needs better. Such as, “Yes, I need to be able to take payments because I want to be able to charge for appointments and adjust the price based on the appointment type.”
From there I might try to guide the conversation with an inference. “the appointment type…it sounds like you’re looking for a point of sale for your services.” They respond, “exactly, does your app do that?” And I respond, “it does. How about we build out one of your services together while we’re on the call?”
And now we are back to collaborating.
Gee, that was cool. Thanks Vanilla Ice!
In case you aren’t familiar with me here’s what’s nice to know. I’m a former CEO. I decided that marketing and sales was more fun than running an entire company so I made a big change and joined one of my software vendors as the Director of Business Development. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but here I am at Periodic and I’m having a blast running the marketing and sales program.
I believe that conversation is the number one business tool that anyone can have. And I’m continually trying to get better at having conversations. So I’d love to have a conversation with you. It can be about anything. I’d love to hear how you are doing in business and what big nuts you’re trying to crack. I’m an open book. Find a time on my schedule for a jam session at torlando.periodic.site