Instead, the earliest signs are found in the sales professional’s selling behaviours that emerge before those metrics begin to move in the wrong direction. It is in those moments when the selling organisation has the greatest opportunity to create change.
This idea begs the question: What are those signaling behaviours?
Here, we examine three of the most common selling behaviours that suggest it’s time to renew selling skills.
They Have Made Pricing Their Competitive Strategy
Competing on price only encourages the customer to view the solution as a commodity. Moreover, customers today are in a strong position to find a lower price for nearly any product or service. Given the customer’s access to such vast resources, it is unlikely that a low price will ever go unmatched.
Additionally, a focus on pricing misses a valuable opportunity to ask the questions revealing what the customer truly cares about. In many buying decisions, the price represents only one of several critical factors underpinning their decision. Customers are focused on three general goals: to make money, save money or manage risk. A focus on pricing ignores two of these drivers.
Finally, a focus on price limits the conversation. The sales professional has little room to move if there is disagreement on the numbers. Effective selling comes from the discoveries made during the sales conversation. It is within this dialogue that the sales professional can explore the customer’s needs and concerns. In contrast, steering the conversation toward price is often the fastest way to get relegated to a procurement professional who is not prepared to offer details revealing the range of goals across the group of stakeholders equipped to authorise a purchase.
They Focus Only on Features, Functions, and Benefits
Discussing features, functions and benefits risks losing important customer details. Without these details, the sales professional cannot connect the solution capabilities to the customer’s needs. Forming these connections means taking the time to ask the kinds of questions that surface the challenges and goals underlying the buying decision.
The tendency to jump to product features is understandable. A sales conversation represents the high-stakes engagement that prompts most people to justify their presence with a list of benefits. Therefore, asking questions is a skill that requires mindfulness and practise. It is also important to remember that a questioning strategy should extend throughout the sales conversation. For example, sales professionals need to ask questions to ensure that the sales conversation is tracking the customer’s needs. The sales professional must also periodically check-in to ensure that the benefits discussed align with the customer’s perception of value.
Even the most impressive and advanced capabilities are not enough to support the entire sale. It is the sales professional’s job to learn enough about the customer to understand which capabilities matter and how they can be best implemented in the customer’s world.
They Are Doing More Talking Than the Customer
The path to the sale is in the customer’s words. If the sales professional is talking, they are not getting the information that comes from listening to the customer’s perspective. Despite this, many sales professionals dominate the conversation. The reason: silence is uncomfortable.
Many sales professionals believe that even a little silence suggests that the conversation is going nowhere or that the solution simply does not resonate with the customer.
One solution to this problem is to become comfortable with silence. Sales professionals can do so by remembering that the silence often demonstrates the customer’s willingness to think through the responses they provide. This thoughtfulness on the customer’s side is good for the sales professional because it indicates that the information shared is salient and valuable to positioning the sale later.
Another solution is to prompt the conversation with a question. Often, these initial questions generate more questions and ultimately more dialogue. Eventually, the customer reaches a point where they become comfortable enough to volunteer additional information. The key to avoiding the trap of out talking the customer is restraint. Sales professionals must have the confidence to withstand and eventually push through some silence.
These three behaviours suggest that leaders need to refresh or redesign the selling skills in their organisation. These signals are not as loud as metrics like declining revenue or decreased profitability, but that is exactly what makes them so important; they represent an opportunity for leaders to get ahead of the financial repercussions that follow these behaviours.