It’s a familiar lament: Executives at business-to-business (B2B) companies say that their customers have never been more demanding. But whereas some companies are simply caving in to price pressure, others are trying to create and capture more value through their sales approach.
A client-centric approach is where it is at. According to Alma Tejpar, Miller Heiman Group’s senior sales and training consultant and facilitator, “In today’s complex, longer sales cycle, buyers are making their decisions in the intervals between interactions with the salesperson. More often than not, they are doing so with incomplete information. This means that to ensure you stay top of mind, your sales interactions need to give both you and the customer a greater understanding of their problems, why they matter, who cares about them, and what the desired business outcomes are. This is the nature of the consultative sale: You’re co-creating the solution as you sell it.”
How much will be remembered by your customer when you are not there? As Alma explains, two principles of effective communication tell us that:
- People value more (and believe) what they conclude than any stories you tell them, i.e., they don’t argue with their own data.
- People value more what they ask for than what we freely offer.
Highly effective sales performers influence the “value balance” we all use when weighing up a decision. They influence the customer’s value scale by doing the following:
- Ask questions with a clear intent.
- Frame the questions so that customers view them as necessary, relevant, and valuable—they should show evident planning, but the delivery should come across as conversational.
- Flow the questions logically, based on customer responses.
- Ensure that questions are in line with the planned outcome.
In sales, as in life, your ability to ask questions, listen actively, and demonstrate understanding are really what separate the amateurs from the pros.