A Star is Born: Sales Conversations That Make the Client the Star

Customer Stars Why is it that so many sales and marketing organizations focus so much energy on re-working product bundles, updating sales pitches and collateral while distributing the information via the latest POS technology like laptops and iPads and think that this approach is going to lead to dramatically better sales results?

I am not saying that these tools don’t add value to a sales call.

But, let’s keep them in their proper role. If you view each sales opportunity as a movie, these tools are merely bit players. They support the plot line of the sales process, but they do not move the plot forward. To expect bit players to carry the load is unrealistic and expensive. That job belongs to the real star – the prospective client – and the best supporting actor, the sales professional. It is through their dialogue, their directed and insightful conversation about the clients’ business goals, plans, processes and challenges that the plot develops and a legitimate sales opportunity is born. Without this conversation, the presentation of your companies capabilities becomes an out of context soliloquy and the movie that is your sales opportunity never properly develops.

Soliloquy: n – the act of speaking alone or to oneself, especially as a theatrical device

Let’s examine in more detail the soliloquy that masquerades as a sales conversation. In this approach we assume that we already know the clients business need and this need can be effectively satisfied by our product or service. We state that need to the client and then go on to tell them how our capabilities will address that need.

When this becomes a standard approach, it often isn’t the fault of the sales person, rather the director who failed to facilitate meaningful dialog between buyer and seller — the two main characters. The soliloquy scene often unfolds like this — marketing develops a product bundle, writes the pitch and designs the corresponding “client customized” presentation (often based on assumptions about certain market segments) that resides on the sales reps laptop or iPad or “site seller”. Sales management then mandates that the reps master the “lines” they have been provided and demonstrate proficiency in delivering the pitch while using technology to display the corresponding visuals. The sales rep then delivers the soliloquy to their client and a sale may or may not happen. While this approach can produce the occasional sale, in most cases sales and marketing managers are soon focusing their energy on trying to explain why performance isn’t hitting targeted AVOs.

There are two reasons why this doesn’t achieve maximum results.

First, even in the SMB space, business are often more complex and unique than our marketing assumptions allow. As a result, our scripted pitch fails to resonate with many prospective clients, even though they are in similar business.

Second, the very approach of presenting before we demonstrate concern for the client creates a level of skepticism and distrust that negates the value our solution may legitimately bring. From the client’s perspective, if we didn’t take the time to know them, we can’t possibly help them.

When we gain a deeper understanding of the client’s goals and plans, strengths and weaknesses, we discover more specific opportunities to positively impact their success. If we do not do this, we leave it up to the client to apply our value and capabilities to their business goals — in essence to do the sales job for us. They may get it completely right, they may get it a little right or they may not get it at all.

When this approach falls short of expectations what do we do?

We design a new bundle, re-write the pitch, re-work the sales collateral retrain the reps etc. — and the sales people soon lose confidence in our ability to manage effectively. It’s a bit like the movie 17 Again where Zac Efron wants a ‘do over’ on being 17. Wasn’t it hard enough to be 17 the first time!  Imagine having to do it again to get it right.

Wouldn’t the time of sales and marketing managers be better spent supporting a sales methodology that facilitates meaningful business conversations that will allow reps to demonstrate the impact their capabilities can have on their client’s business goals? Wouldn’t this approach allow reps to know that we value the client’s and their role in the conversation and that we are expert at guiding them through a discussion that will maximize their success and help them make the best decision possible? And won’t our sales people feel more confident in us as leaders when we commit to a client-facing, consistent and disciplined approach? As leaders we are the Directors of the movie. The choice is up to us. Who will be cast as the star of your production, the product, your collateral, an iPad or your prospective client?

Axiom Sales Kinetics LLC Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250