Become a Strategic Advisor, Not a Friend
The customer is NOT your friend.
Let that sink in for a second: For generations, we have been taught that the customer is always right, and that we should win at all costs. That combination of mantras has translated to innumerable corporate golf outings and steak dinners, fishing trips and flights of fancy, among other trappings of the “close bonds” that we have forged with our clients in order to get the P.O.
Today, however, the buddy system is all but dead in the consultative sales process. An uber-competitive marketplace, pressure to cut expenses, and a desire to choose the right solution the first time, have truly changed the game. Indeed, even your “old friend” is under the gun to make the right investment in goods and services – and that choice may not be you.
This changing landscape has given rise to the “strategic advisor” concept of consultative sales, and though, comparatively, it may seem like “all business” compared to the buddy sales approach of the past. This consultative approach to selling b2b buyers may be what your competitors are doing more effectively to steal your business.
Ready to not be liked – but to be revered, for your insights and your ability to offer your buyer real solutions to their problems? Here are some ways to take a more customer-centric tact with today’s B2B buyer:
Genuinely Get to Know Your Buyer:
This, I find, is the default mechanism of sales – show up to the client meeting and do a “feature dump” of your product or service. Rather than arrive ready to fling your brochure across the table or to scroll through your fabulous 50-slide PowerPoint, spend the time to ask questions instead. Your goal as a trusted advisor in the consultative sales world is to truly understand what the customer is trying to achieve or what their problem is. Then – and only then – should you outline your benefits and narrow your focus on the features that will be most meaningful to this particular buyer.
Our founder here at The Brooks Group, the late, great, Bill Brooks, once stated that it is fundamental to be in front of the customer when they’re ready to buy – not when you are ready to make the sale. This means you may need to be brave enough to walk your customer backwards a little bit if they – or you – have any uncertainty that the product in front of them is not exactly what they need. A true customer-centric sales professional will take an interest in the best outcome for the customer, and that might require patience before the deal is assured.
We’ve all done it – we’ve visited the doctor, knowing full well what is wrong with us – only to be disproven by the one true professional in the examination room. You, too, are the trusted professional in the room when you are meeting with your prospect or b2b buyer. And it is possible – even plausible – that they’ve done a fair amount of “self-diagnosis” about what they need to do to solve their issues, before you even set foot in the room. Remember, it’s your job to ask the probing questions, to truly understand what problems lie beneath the surface, instead of just responding to what the customer thinks their problems are.
At The Brooks Group, we realize that consultative sales represents a quantum leap for many types of sellers. There are a couple of ways we can help you to gauge these profiles: A tool called the Brooks Talent Index, a proprietary measure we use to benchmark jobs and assess sales professionals, can help you assess your sales team. Also, tune in to our current podcast series, “The Five Types of Sellers,” which gives listeners an in depth understanding of the different types through real-life situations and stories.
For more than 40 years, The Brooks Group has partnered with sales organizations around the globe—helping them to hire, train, coach, and develop salespeople and sales managers to reach maximum performance levels.