When salespeople respond to an opportunity, the customer has already identified the issue, the solution, and the expected outcomes. Now, a provider is sought. This is the most reactive style of account development. The scope and budget are usually already set. Pressures on both price and competition are often high. By no means should a salesperson ignore such opportunities. Flexibility is a key element of business. Salespeople should be able to respond as well as initiate. However, responding is not the best way to develop and grow a business relationship.
High-performing sales professionals tend to focus more on shaping opportunities. This is where salespeople help the customer in defining the issue, the most likely outcomes, and even possible unintended consequences. This is a much more proactive style of account management— one where salespeople may be able to preempt the competition. And even though some opportunities might initially appear to be “respond” situations, if you have a different opinion or broader view, you might be able to shape a respond opportunity in new ways.
The third selling mode is the most ambitious and creative. Here, salespeople create an opportunity. They bring forward insights to challenging issues that are not even on the customer’s radar but will likely have an impact sometime soon. This is the most proactive style of account development, and it is the most difficult because they are teaching the customer something new and are creating both the need and an opportunity. This allows salespeople to become actively involved in defining the scope and budget. They may even be able to shut out the competition and forestall or lessen price pressure.
Salespeople that consistently provide good ideas establish credibility over time and become a part of their customer’s inner circle. They have the opportunity to develop into a trusted advisor. It is important to understand that an idea does not always need to be fully developed. Instead, providing an idea or point of view provides a starting point from which a discourse begins and a collaborative discussion can take place. It is through this collaborative process that customers can refine their thinking, establish their own point of view, and determine their course of action.
When a salesperson doesn’t present a point of view, what are the risks to their personal brand? Proactively sharing a point of view is perceived as valuable by a customer. The opposite is also true. When a salesperson consistently doesn’t present a point of view, they risk the perceived value of their brand being diminished. This limits their ability to elevate their relationship into being a trusted advisor, and over time, they risk becoming irrelevant to their client. This opens the door for competitors to fill the void, and if they can consistently provide insight and ideas, they will ultimately win the business, and the salesperson will be replaced.
Selling modes are important because they affect where salespeople enter the customer’s buying cycle. The earlier they enter the buying cycle, the better.