My next guest, is Tom Williams, the founder and Chairman of Strategic Dynamics Inc. The firm helps organisations accelerate revenue generation by improving sales effectiveness. He is the co-author of The Seller’s Challenge: How Top Sellers Master 10 Deal Killing Obstacles in B2B Sales and Buyer Centred Selling: How Modern Sellers Engage & Collaborate with Buyers.
Talking about the Sellers Challenge the book you wrote with Tom Sane, which focuses on specific 10 Deal Killing Obstacles in B2B salespeople face that aligns the sells process with the buyer’s complex decision making. Tom explains the evolution of the book culmination of discussions with Tom Sane. They
were both selling a sales methodology that did a variety of things such as call planning, execution, how to win a complex sale. Clients would ask, can you help me with this specific problem?
And they would come up with, a variety of things that were not taught in the typical methodology program. So, we listed about 21 of those challenges, and we covered ten in the first Book Sellers Challenge. And then in the second book, buyer-centred selling. We picked up the rest of those and made buyer centre selling more around looking at not only what’s the challenge from the seller’s point of view, but what’s the buyers’ dilemma.
In the second book, looks at what is going on with what Tom calls today’s modern buyer. Everybody understands buyers have more knowledge today than ever had before. There is a plethora of information on the Web and other areas that buyers can go. Users spend a lot more time in the research phase because they do not want to make a poor decision or a wrong decision. There is a tremendously increasing number of buyers that are involved because again; it is about risking about making a change. What used to be one decision-maker is now often trying to get consensus around a specific transition from one product or solution to another. There is a greater reliance on self-diagnosis, more and more customers come to you sellers today and say, I know what I want. Here is what I want, what your price and we are also faced with an expanding, subscription economy. Things like Netflix have changed the way people buy. We do not need physically own something we can subscribe to it. Uber and Lift are an offshoot of that are what we do not subscribe to it, as we need it purchased. There are larger groups of people who are coming together to make a decision that comes from a wide variety of disciplines. They can be cross-divisions, they can be domestic and international folks in a large multinational company. Lastly, there is a generational shift. We are seeing more, younger people in the middle and senior management roles that have a different philosophy in another way, in which they want to learn or approach, making a change. And then finally, buyers today are looking for trusted sources of information. And when you weigh with how they feel about salespeople often time, and it is extremely low in the pyramid. They were looking for other sources of trusted information with this material that it comes from research analysis from their peers. They are looking for other sources of trusted information until that sales professional has earned their trust and respect. These are some of the trends that we have seen.
Talking about how the sales professional earn the buyer trust in respect. Tom offers, one of the ways to do it is by preparation; he is big on preparing for sales calls; it comes across that you are ready? You are confident, you ask better questions. Preparation is just crucial; no sports team goes and plays a game without preparation. Surgeons that operate on patients in operating rooms walk through a surgical checklist to make sure they got the right patient the right procedure that they are going to do etcetera. Airline pilots walk around the plane before they take off; they also have a checklist that they go through. There are countless numbers of people in professions that have checklists.
Tom said sales reps can differentiate themselves and earn trust by the types of questions that they ask.
Tom always says to Salespeople a great question is when somebody says to you; ‘Wow, that’s a great question’ or ‘I have to stop and think about that for a minute’ or ‘nobody’s ever asked me that before’. It is those questions that give you pause to say, wait a minute. It says to the buyer, that this individual is thinking about my problem, opportunity, or threat in a different way, and they might be able to help me. That is what we are trying to do to differentiate yourselves from other people. Buyers may see ten or twelve salespeople in a day, depending upon their role, at the end of that day, are you memorable? Did you do something that stood out from everybody else or are you forgettable? And I know when I look back in my early days of, being a manager and a leader in a company, said Tom. There was always one sales rep that I said to my admin, ‘every time they come to town, I want to see them’. because they always taught me something.
On likeability, Tom said, you want to be respected more than you want to be liked. There is that edginess with great sales professional, that can kind of challenge you in a positive, professional way. You might not want to go out and have a drink with them after work.
One of the things is that we talk about a lot about is insights that educate. Are you providing insights to get people to think differently about their situation? Because for people to change, they must look at what is their situation today? What might it look like in the future if they, did something different? And what is that cost of inaction? Or that gap that is in between the two? Because if it is not big enough to drive a truck through, it is not a priority, said Tom. If there is no priority, there is no need and there is no sale. Can you create insights that educate? It does not just occur at the beginning to get the sale; it is through the buying process to get somebody out of the status quo.
Those insights continue through the buying process as you are talking to different stakeholders at different portions of their pathway to decide. I think a good sales rep provides what we call prescriptive guidance. They show what would help the buyer to buy. Often buyers are buying for the very first time. When you think about buying, three things happen. One is, I am replacing or substituting one product for another. In another case, I am buying a product because of the enhancements or improvements has more features, more benefits, etcetera, more value. So, it costs me to change. And the third reason is disruption. And so, by providing that prescriptive guidance to help people decide that they want to go on a process with you. It maps the sales process with how people buy and often people do not know how they are going to buy. They do not know the process in their organisation for a variety of reasons.
Good modern sales professionals are spending more time on discovery. They thoroughly understanding all the needs and wants desires of the organisation. And what is going on within it before they offer, potential solutions? They say you must earn the right to talk to you about your product or service because you have done a great discovery. It is around executing the right messaging to the right person at the right time. It is about helping that buyer build consensus around a common problem that they can all engage around. Because they have all got their own individual wants and desires from a personal or emotional point of view. But can you grab their attention and get them to agree on a common goal that makes sense for the organisation. That is how you can affect change, and then mitigating the risk is crucial.
One tried and tested strategy is our collaboration plan mentioned in the book. A document that we have developed, that asked the perspective stakeholder buying influence, to go on process sand says. If we are going to potentially where to work together here, thee things we need to. We need some commitment from you, at certain stages, we need to collaborate, and we need to think about building consensus.
We talk the current state, the future state and the cost of inaction. Then we develop a plan of how we are going to work together to solve that problem, opportunity, or threat that they have. We talk upfront, that we were going to use this plan, and if I do not have the right solution for them, we will say but you will have a comprehensive plan for other suppliers. It is helping them think through the process. You also mitigate some of the problems that we talk about the two books.