Sales should be looked upon as helping clients solve complex problems.
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In every business there are people who would rather have their fingernails surgically removed than be seen as ‘in sales’. That might be true of you as an entrepreneur or business owner, too.
But to your clients, all those subject matter experts, designers, analysts, technical specialists etc have the knowledge, know-how and insights that they want, and the competitive advantage that this brings. However, time and time again these experts say, ‘But I don’t do sales!’
In over 25 years of working with and training these ‘secret armies’ (as I call them) of amazing ‘non sellers’, I am convinced that everyone can connect with clients and release that potential – and you can do it with your teams in four steps:
Step 1: Reframe what ‘selling’ really is
Ask the geekiest software engineer or the most introverted specialist lawyer if they like helping clients solve complex problems – the answer is almost always a resounding, “Yes!”
That, fundamentally, is what good ‘selling’ (I’m not talking about the foot in the door types or snake oil pushers) is about – helping a client solve a problem so that they want to work with you. Reframe what selling really is and everyone is ‘in sales’ – just don’t use the word in their job title.
Step 2: Shift the mindset
If selling is helping clients solve a problem, then being nosey or curious – it’s the same thing just a slightly nicer word - and understanding our clients better is the key to unlocking success. The more curious our teams are about what our clients do, why they do it and what goes on in their world, the easier it is for us to connect.
Genuine interest and curiosity are infectious. A little injection of curiosity and a whole new world opens up. We get to know our clients much better and they get to know us, too. Help your people to open their minds to see how interesting it is when you know more.
Step 3: Provide a toolset - recipes for success
Some of you may be naturally gifted cooks. You can throw ingredients together and turn out something spectacular. But most of us need recipes. We may adapt those recipes, make them our own, but they get us started.
It may take several attempts to avoid the soggy bottom and many more before it becomes our showstopper. By giving our teams tools and recipes to help connect with clients, we take away the fear of not knowing what to do or, worse, doing it badly.
Tools to connect: Show your people how to build trust with your clients. Trust comes from being credible, reliable and showing that we have our client’s best interests at heart. It’s not about us or what we want from our clients (snake oil again), it’s all about them.
Train your people how to open a call or Zoom meeting with a clear purpose and agenda that puts the client in the driving seat and earns us the right to have conversations that make progress.
Having started to build trust, we move to the discovery phase and in this we need two things in our toolset. The ability to listen, really listen, and to be able to ask questions to fully understand our client’s world and the challenges they face. Everyone can learn these skills, if the mindset is open.
Understanding the challenges and issues our clients face and working from a position of trust we then train our people in how to connect through sharing – their experiences, their knowledge, their stories, how your products and services work.
And because we now know what really matters to our client and what’s bleeping on their radar, we can do this in a way that connects us even more deeply. It’s here, through the power of story-telling that you show the value you bring. That’s what will make your people stand out.
Always our aim is to deliver value to our clients. Working together, collaborating for the long term and asking for and getting commitment to joint activity builds solid business relationships based on trust. Again, all skills that you can train your people to do.
So how do we make it work and make it sustainable?
Step 4: Build their skillset
Monty Roberts, the original horse whisperer, (Robert Redford’s film role was based on him) says, “When your technique is good, practise is your greatest friend. When your technique is poor, practise is your greatest enemy”.
Practise alone doesn’t make perfect, it makes habit (and sometimes not good habits). It takes practise with feedback. If you want your people to connect with clients you have to be able to support, coach and mentor and give them feedback on how they’re doing.
A skill is a technique you can use under pressure. We have to create an environment where they feel safe to try out these tools and recipes and are able to see and understand what’s working well and what they should do differently.
Remember they don’t ‘do sales’. They don’t have the thicker skins of seasoned sales campaigners; they will need support. But unleash that potential, help them to reframe selling for what it really is – helping clients solve a problem and making them want to work with you – and everyone wins.
They may discover, what many people I have trained have already done, that connecting with clients and selling is the best part of all.