The Sales Conversation Pendulum
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The World of Buying and Selling Has Changed and So Has The Sales Conversation
Few people disagree that professional selling has changed. The internet has disrupted standard selling approaches because it has changed buying behavior. Request for Proposals (RFPs) are more frequent, as buyers do their own research and engage suppliers much later in the buying process. Buyers attempt to drive us toward commoditization while sellers strive to differentiate. With closer budget scrutiny, senior executives and procurement professionals are more involved and the number of decision makers has increased.
Everyone is talking about content marketing, and some, content selling. Social selling is all the rage. Selling with insights is a hot topic, and Richardson’s Selling with Insights® program is one of our most popular new courses in our recent history. Cold calling is dead, or it’s not, depending on who you listen to. Inside Sales is growing and predicted to overshadow field sales. Decision makers are buried in email and voicemails often are not returned. Smartphones might as well be surgically attached to us and there is no downtime.
Sound familiar? It should! Most sales organizations are facing these challenges.
But Some Things Remain the Same
As much as the landscape has changed, and forced new behaviors for sales professionals who want to remain relevant, there are some key things that have not changed, or changed very little.
- People still buy based on some combination of emotion, logic, and credibility (or if you’re a fan of Aristotle: ethos, logos, and pathos). They make decisions based on a combination of business and personal needs and wants. Organizational politics, positioning, and posturing still linger. While the Millennials and the digital natives of Generation Z may have different values and approaches toward working, social interaction, and digital connectedness, they remain human beings with all of our best traits and worst foibles. Emotions, kindness, decency, altruism, helpfulness, and trust still matter a great deal. Researcher and author Dan Pink posits that purpose, autonomy, and mastery remain our intrinsic motivators. We evolve and are influenced by our environment, but our hardwiring makes change slow. People are still… well, people.
- Dialogue and discourse remain foundations of effective human communication, whether in marriage, friendship, learning, or business. The open, respectful exchange of ideas around a shared interest or a common purpose, and the willingness to listen, learn, and share with others is powerful glue for relationships of all kinds and can generate the impetus for the positive changes we all seek.
Dialogue: The Oldest New Killer Sales Skill
It is for these reasons that we, at Richardson, believe that dialogue is the oldest, new killer sales skill. Whether you are opening a sales meeting, leading a needs discussion, exploring solutions, or establishing next steps, it’s all about (or should be all about) engaging your client in an effective dialogue.
It is also a critical skill when selling with insights.
If you have been thinking that selling with insights is simply a way to use data, information, or expertise to shock and awe your prospects or clients with your brilliance or show them the error of their ways, you might want to rethink that. We have found this to be one of the many possible traps that sales reps unwittingly get snared in, that completely undermines their effort and objectives.
The Sales Conversation Pendulum
It is helpful to think of a customer sales conversation as a pendulum, and through the course of the conversation, the pendulum swings between asking questions, listening, and sharing insight. There are times in that conversation where you will want to lead with questions, such as when you need to sell understanding or seek confirmation. Then, there are times in the conversation where you lead with an insight, such as when you want to seed new ideas or influence thinking. And of course it is necessary to listen for both verbal and nonverbal cues. Sellers must draw on the right skills at the right time, depending on what you know (or don’t know) and how the buyer responds through the discussion.
When the opportunity presents itself to position an insight, we believe that the seller should first start by floating the issue to the buyer and then checking with an open-ended question to test for support. For example, the seller could say something like, “Here’s a challenge that we’ve seen with clients similar to you. What have you considered so far to address this challenge?” Then, if the buyer responds favorably, the seller can dive deeper into their insight, continuing to check along the way to ensure that the buyer is tracking and addressing questions or concerns along the way.
This conversational approach has many advantages over presenting a canned commercial teaching pitch. First, it gives the seller an early out if the concept won’t fly with the buyer. There are many reasons why a buyer might not even entertain your idea, so why waste valuable time trying to push that issue? Second, checking along the way helps the seller keep the buyer on track with new thinking. Finally, by asking questions, the seller gathers more and better information from the buyer. This enables the seller to tailor the delivery of the insight message for even more relevance as the conversation evolves.
As buyers become better informed and better prepared, competition becomes more intense, and sellers need more skill than ever to succeed. Presentations have their place in the sales process, but insights are best shared through the sales conversation.
Want to Have a Sales Conversation about Dialogues?
We speak with clients weekly who are struggling to scale an insight methodology across their sales organization. Often, they are falling into common traps and want to start to use insights in an effective manner. In other cases, they are having some success but want to improve the effectiveness of their efforts. If you would like to explore any of these things, or just have a dialogue and swing on the Sales Conversation Pendulum with us by clicking here. Reach out and let us know or comment below… we’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.