One of the biggest mistakes both companies and sales reps make is focusing too much on building relationships with customers. These are necessary, but they shouldn’t be the priority of your sales interactions.
Instead, you should focus on delivering insights and unique perspectives about their business, teaching customers something new and valuable about how to compete in their market.
A research conducted by the Sales Executive Council shows that 39% of high performers B2B sales reps use this approach. In complex sales, this number grows to more than 50%, against 4 other identified (and less effective) approaches.
However, teaching is not enough to ensure these results. They come from the application of the “Challenger Selling Model”, that includes tailoring your message and taking control of the sale.
Before we dive into this model, one question needs to be answered:
Do Customers Even Want To Be Taught?
A loyalty survey conducted by the same institute showed that yes, customers do.
The most valued sales experience aspects are related to customers’ desire to learn something, not to buy something. Five aspects stood out, in order of importance:
- Rep offers unique and valuable perspectives on the market.
- Rep helps me navigate alternatives.
- Rep provides ongoing advice or consultation.
- Rep helps me avoid potential landmines.
- Rep educates me on new issues and outcomes.
Turns out the most effective way to do all that is to develop the three skills of the Challenger Selling Model and apply them.
1) Teaching for Differentiation
You should develop a Commercial Teaching pitch that:
a) Leads to your unique strengths.
b) Challenge customers’ assumptions.
c) Catalyze action.
d) Scale across customers.
To do that, you can use this 6-step framework:
1) The Warmer: Start building credibility, showing your prospect you understand their challenges.
2) The Reframe: Present your insight or different perspective, showing them a bigger problem or opportunity they never realized they had – or they never valued enough, that you can help them solve.
3) Rational Drowning: Tell them why they should care about this. Use data, graphs, anything to help you make your case.
4) Emotional Impact: Get past the “we’re different, I can’t see how this will work for us” response. Use case studies and storytelling skills to get personal and make sure they bought into the Reframe.
5) A New Way: Show them there’s a solution, but don’t sell them on your solution yet. Make them think about what they need to have to solve that problem. What would their lives be like if they solved it?
6) Your Solution: Explain your solution and show how it’s better than anyone else’s at helping them getting their desired results.
Even if your sales reps won’t pitch customers using this framework, acknowledging its existence and tailoring their messages to comply with it is the first step to increasing their effectiveness.
2) Tailoring for Resonance
There are different types of customers and different individuals within each customer organization.
Knowing how to identify and speak to each of your customers’ priorities is essential to create the connection and make the pitch stick.
Thinking about how your pitch resonates with their organizational levels – their industry, company, the role of the person you are talking to, and his or her individual preferences – allow you to tailor it more specifically and achieve better results.
3) Taking Control of the Sale
To take control means to be comfortable to talk about money and to “push” the customer without being pushy.
That’s a hard task, and reps need to learn how to be assertive, instead of either passive or aggressive.
One practical technique to help them do that is to make specific, powerful requests. Set the timeline, establish next steps, don’t wait for your customers to take action, lead them.
Companies and sales reps who apply this framework achieve on average 189% more results than those who don’t. Now it’s up to you create the change.
PS: This article was based on the book “The Challenger Sale”, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson.
Also published on Medium.