Klaus Schwab, the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, coined this term and explained that this new era is “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” Sales professionals need to bring a different value proposition to the market in order to position these connected, holistic, and digital solutions. Moreover, they need a different way to position their value by elevating the sales conversation and reaching different or higher-level stakeholders.
Customers need to understand how the solution’s abstract capabilities offer concrete value to their business. Therefore, sales professionals need a way to articulate the complexities of the solution in a way that is compelling to the customer. They also need the ability to adjust their value proposition so that the same solution can address different business needs across numerous customers.
However, coalescing a team of sales professionals around these crucial skills is a challenge. The solution begins with a sales kickoff meeting designed to focus sales professionals on the right skills for selling to the customer’s new set of needs. Here, we detail the three most important capabilities required to succeed in this new setting.
Assert a Point of View
Sales professionals need a way to shape the customer’s thinking. To do so, they need to assert a point of view without resorting to aggressive tactics. However, asserting a point of view is challenging because the customer is firmly anchored to their biases and preconceived notions.
Moreover, activities like attending meetings, responding to emails, and taking calls demand about 80 percent of the customer’s time, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review. Therefore, sales professionals need to be diligent and intentional in their approach. They must reveal the full scope of risks and opportunities with a four-part approach:
- Normalize Discussions of Risk: Sales professionals must help acclimate the customer to an environment in which a degree of risk is commonplace. Discussing concerns in an open manner makes the risks less abstract. Bringing clarity to these issues helps the customer develop more comfort with the decision to move forward.
- Ask Reflection Questions: “How does this solution fit into your business model?” and “What hesitations do you have about this solution?” are both reflection questions. Reflection questions serve both parties. The sales professional learns more about what matters to the customer. At the same time, the customer is engaging in an exercise designed to help them crystallize their understanding of the challenges and goals they’re facing.
- Use Specific Language: Assertiveness is about making your position known. The best way to do so is with language free of jargon that makes the messaging clear. Specificity gives more direction to the conversation because the sales professional and the customer can address underlying challenges rather than vague, surface-level issues.
- Build Trust through Transparency: Building trust is difficult in selling scenarios because customers are aware that they are being sold to. Sales professionals can overcome this challenge by becoming transparent. They must show the customer their intent and the value it has for both parties. Simply put, they must share information.
Build A Consensus
Sales professionals must coalesce support among the decision-makers. Each stakeholder has a unique set of needs and different leanings. Some are concerned with the aspects of the solution that are purely financial, like ROI. Others need clarity on more abstract issues, like how the solution will integrate with existing business processes.
It is important for sales professionals to remember that consensus building is an incremental process. Often, stakeholders have different ideas about the nature of the challenge. Additionally, individual stakeholders are likely to move through the buyer’s journey at different speeds. Managing these disparate parts is an iterative endeavor. Sales professionals can succeed with three skills:
- Get Involved in the “Hidden Dialogue”: Sales professionals must remember that their conversations with the stakeholders only represent part of the picture. There are always separate, buyer-side conversations unfolding. These hidden dialogues reveal the dissenting voices that would otherwise go unaddressed. Sales professionals need this information to understand how to more specifically address the concerns of those stakeholders who do not support the solution.
- Become More Agile: Selling with agility means responding to customer questions and concerns clearly, quickly, and accurately. Speed helps the customers build decisive momentum, which prevents stalling. There are more twists and turns in the buyer’s journey than ever before, and agility allows sales professionals to recognize and respond to those changes. Additionally, agility signals the sales professional’s reliability as an ongoing partner throughout implementation.
- Drive the Customer’s Momentum: To drive the customer’s momentum, sales professionals must first help the customers arrive at a shared definition of the goal or challenge to be addressed. Second, sales professionals must articulate the opportunity costs associated with the status quo. They must also understand the decision-making process within the organization so that they know which stakeholders to address and when to address them.
Tell A Story
Stories are an effective way to bring a new value proposition to life. Customers want a solution that either addresses a problem or helps them accelerate toward a goal. When listening to a sales professional, they are searching for that singular characteristic that speaks to their needs. Effective sales professionals seize that opportunity by drawing the customer’s attention to the aspect of the solution that most directly addresses the customer’s top priority or that highlights the solution’s key differentiator.
Selling through stories is effective in this context because they represent a simplified template in which the sales professional must edit their message to only the pieces that fit a narrative structure. Doing so helps keep the delivery tight. A compelling story includes:
- A Relatable Premise: Effective sales professionals commit to the mantra “So what?” Therefore, crafting a relatable premise begins at the end. The sales professional must first understand the resolution of their story. If they know what message they want to end with, it will be clear where they need to start the story to reach their destination. Storytellers must also consider their audience when shaping the premise. Some customers are willing to listen to an unconventional story while others want a narrative that offers early parallels.
- Powerful Visuals: While visuals are an effective way to anchor your message, sales professionals must remember that many visuals are forgettable. It’s not enough to simply add a graphic. Often, presenters use the visual medium to articulate an idea with a chart or infographic. This style is common, and customers are not likely to remember bar graphs and trendlines the way they will retain a simple, powerful image. Visuals compel customers only when they’re carefully selected and are designed to have a specific purpose.
- Encourage Speculation: Sales professionals can boost the customer’s engagement by inviting the customer to predict the outcome. This strategy doesn’t need to be overt. In fact, many listeners will silently predict the outcome without being prompted. However, a compelling storyteller can draw out this characteristic with intentional pauses at key points in the story. For example, the storyteller might choose to insert a well-timed pause in the moments leading up to the resolution. While useful, this technique should be limited to one instance per story to keep the effect strong.
A sales kickoff meeting is the perfect time to share these skills with a team. By equipping sales professionals with these key skills, leaders can ensure their teams will be prepared to face the increasingly stringent demands of a new economic cycle.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you prepare your sales team to face the increasingly stringent demands of a new economic cycle and data-driven market with a successful sales kickoff meeting, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.