In my two previous posts — So, You Want to Sell to the C-suite? and So, You Got in to See the CEO. — I shared reflections on what works and what doesn’t. Now, I want to talk about the sales dialogue itself and follow-up.
Gaining access to the C-suite is not an invitation to launch into a soliloquy where you talk entirely about yourself and your organization. You’re there to start a relationship, and what goes a long way in building relationships is making the prospect feel truly heard. In our time-tested and proven Richardson consultative selling methodology-speak, listening is one of the Six Critical Skills in selling. Simply put, listening is the ability to concentrate on meaning, and when listening at the highest level, you are fully engaged and fostering effective sales dialogue.
As a proponent of the importance of listening in the sales process, I expect sellers to focus on what I say and to be attentive. If you’ve gotten my time, don’t miss the chance to actively listen to the information I am providing you. Too often, I am surprised by how many sellers only half-listen because they’re obviously reading from a script or following their own process. It makes me feel like I’m wasting my breath and my time.
Show your understanding.
After a call or meeting, I expect sellers to convey their understanding of what I’ve said through a communication that’s complete, accurate, and timely. It doesn’t always happen that way. Recently, I took a call with a software company, and we had a long chat. I took the time because there actually was a potential sales opportunity for them. At the end of the call, they wanted to send me an e-mail full of links to videos so that I could learn more about their products. Really? I told them that I wasn’t interested in generic marketing videos. I wanted them to write back to me, demonstrating their understanding of the specifics of the opportunity at Richardson and how, based on what they heard, their solution would address the issues raised.
I promised to share that communication with others on the Richardson team so that we could have a conversation, and then I would get back to the software company. They said, “Great. We’re on it.” Then, they sent me a nice e-mail with a bunch of links to their videos. I thought, “Well, they just can’t be bothered. What they sent was half-work.” It was much easier for them to push out links to generic videos, with a page of marketing material, than to focus on Richardson’s specific opportunity.
If sellers can get through to the point of contact, especially in the C-suite, they’ve got to make it work. They have to delight and surprise their prospect with a true understanding of the situation, capturing the nuances of what was discussed. Then, they have to do a good job of translating their understanding back into a conversation about ways to meaningfully address the issues raised.
Throughout my career in commercial training and education companies, I’ve learned the value of sellers who take the time to understand the prospect’s issues. Even if they don’t get it completely right, their attempt will often lead to an engaging dialogue.
And, if the seller takes additional steps to deliver value by sharing relevant insights, especially if they help in recognizing previously unseen problems and unexpected solutions, then we’re definitely going to be talking more.
Once a seller has demonstrated credibility and can talk to me about my business on a senior-executive level, it can be the start of a beautiful relationship — and a mutually beneficial one as well.