As we all plan for a new year and for changes that will make a difference, a good place to start is with core selling principles and practices. Mike Schultz gives us a useful checklist in his recent blog 10 Rainmaker Principles and Keys to Sales Motivation, which I highly recommend.
Given my commitment to focusing on “being the best“ I found this list especially helpful. Like all good points this post stimulated additional thoughts that I’d like to share.
Principle #1 — Play to win-win. One of the challenges many of us have given our years of experience is to view principles like this through a mindset of “yes, this is a good one, I understand.” I will be challenging my organization to re-think and re-apply this principle in ways that break through our “thinking as usual.”
We will re-define what it means to deliver in the best interests of clients and prospects — specifically and in detail. What does it mean to be “top performers”? How committed are we — really? We will use this to set new levels of expectation.
Principle #4 — Think buying first, selling second. I think this is a key principle to achieving our objective of being the best and taking our business to the next level. Again, we’re re-thinking what it means to “think buying first.” Aligning with the customer’s buying process is an important starting point, and one we baked into our process well in 2010.
For this year, it means to start with a buying vs. selling mindset. This will drive our entire approach to prospects. Rather than thinking about “what can we sell them?” our approach will be based upon how well we can service them uniquely, and how our buying criteria fit with the prospect, i.e. we’re “buying” a new customer.
Among our criteria will be “fit.” We will work with customers where we are truly the best fit with their needs, values and beliefs. They will value the best, and be appreciative of our “secret sauce,” the things that make us best. This is important because too many buyers do not meet this criteria. Either through ignorance, indifference, or the belief of commoditization of services, they refuse to appreciate our capabilities that provide real value.
Three important buying questions from our perspective: 1) can the customer be helped best by us? 2) will they allow us to help them? 3) will they value our help sufficiently to make them an ideal customer?
This will show up in the conversations we have with customers. They will sound like a journey of discovery and alignment, rather than directed questioning, pitching of value propositions, or even traditional discovery.
Principle #5 — Be a fluent expert. Everyone in our organization must know, appreciate and be able to communicate our unique expertise — where and how we are the best — and how this provides value to customers. This must be delivered not in a pedantic or typical competitive sense, but to gain alignment and verify appreciation.
Principles #6 & 7 — Create new conversations – Lead masterful conversations. Of course, it’s all about conversations. But conversations about what? Not about us and our ideas and services (as tempting as that is). Leading conversations is about leading the buyer to better understand their current situation, their business and personal objectives, to notice symptoms that indicate problems they might not appreciate, to understand what’s possible, necessary and required to resolve their problems. The quality of conversations dictates how well we execute on our vision and plan.
Our conversations will focus first on becoming related, on sharing our vision and values, on establishing trust and a common view. Like good buyers, we will discuss shared criteria to making the best mutual decision.
Each of the selling principles and practices in this post bear reflection and serious application. How we interpret and apply the principles is the real challenge and opportunity.
Track and add to your list of master selling principles and practices. Conduct regular review to maintain your focus and motivation. Most importantly, apply them with rigorous discipline and conviction.