The personal sales strategy examples we have seen from ‘A’ players are centered around selling new, unbudgeted items. Unbudgeted items take more effort. And if done properly, create net new value for customers. New value the customer has not realized will assure you of more opportunity to cross sell/upsell down the road. To do this well, a sales force must anticipate and manage risk on behalf of the customer/prospect.
I spent some time with one of the foremost thought leaders around managing risk from the seller’s perspective. Michael McLaughlin is Founder and Principal of Mindshare Consulting. www.mindshareconsulting.com. In Michael’s book, Winning the Professional Services Sale, he breaks risk into 5 key components:
Talent—do we have the right people to use the new product or service
Execution— can our company consistently execute with the new product or service
Operational- will this disruption to our organization be too much to handle
Financial-what level of ROI can we expect?
Career-how will this spend impact my personal career if successful or unsuccessful.
Q-What is the biggest mistake you see sales people make when selling unbudgeted items?
A-If you think about unbudgeted items you are trying to generate demand. Why is it so difficult to generate demand? Generating demand is what separates top performers from bottom. People don’t work hard enough and are not diagnostic enough to generate demand. What is the customer dealing with? What pain is the executive dealing with? This isn’t about selling; this is about inquisitiveness. The top performers are targeting their buyer’s long before the buyer actually wakes up and realizes they have a problem.
Q-How should the sales person start identifying these forms of risk during the sales campaign?
A—The areas of risk are what the customer sees as being risky to them. There are really a couple of ways to identify how the customers articulating risk
1. Awareness—Most customers understand where they are and what their appetite risk is
2. Curiosity— Example—What are you worried about with this offering? This is a bad question. You need to get under the surface. If it is unbudgeted, the prospect is probably uneducated. Pull them outside their frame of reference; ask a forward looking question. “What would you say will have gone well and what would you say did not go well”. Understand what they have said and how they view success using a backward looking view.
Q-Sales 2.0 is a complex selling environment with multiple people on the customer buying team; what changes have you noticed in the ‘A’ players of today vs. the ‘A’ players of yesterday?
A—Biggest difference is the ‘A’ players of today play more the role of consultant vs. consultative selling. There are 3 pieces
1. Working to understand problems— deep diagnosis and problem clarity. Intellectual curiosity is critical.
2. Behave objectively and independently. They focus on a true partnership, which may include not selling their unbudgeted solution because it is not the right time. The deals you choose to walk away from can sometimes springboard you to those that are five times as profitable.
3. Sell more on a service approach vs. a sales approach—The best I have seen are not just looking to close a deal; they are truly focused providing insight around a solution and relating on a peer level with each of the stakeholders that will be impacted. If you are selling to executives but they see you do not view you as an intellectual peer, you will never be perceived as a partner.
Q-In the sales 2.0 era, what risk has emerged as most prevalent and how do ‘A’ players manage this risk?
A—Every solution has career risk or selfish implication to the stakeholders. Sellers need to spend time understanding where each of the key stakeholders are in response to the solution. Why would they perceive the unbudgeted solution as negatively impacting their job? Take your focus off what you are trying to sell with who you are trying to serve. Vendors spend time pushing (sell). Problem solvers manage risk by spending time pulling (serve).
Q-How are the best sales managers coaching their ‘A’ players to navigate complex selling environments?
A-They are working with them on becoming a consultant vs. possessing the skills of a consultative seller. In my opinion, selling unbudgeted items is not about driving selling expertise. These managers should be working to drive overall business acumen to sell unbudgeted items vs. selling replacement items.
Michael’s closing comments sums it up: “Anything that creates enough value will get budgeted but there will always be risk. Be proactive and discuss risk: it is about risk management not risk avoidance.
Call to Action: shift your next sales training meeting to risk management, discussing Michael’s tips.