As a general principle, we in the profession of Sales seek to disrupt the Status Quo of our prospects. This is good…and appropriate. Too often, there is one behavior that sales reps exhibit, that can completely undermine their effectiveness in closing the sale.
Following is a simple, one question test. Your answer to this one question will help you determine if you too, may be exhibiting the same behaviors and at risk of compromising your effectiveness in the sales process.
What does the Orange ball represent?
If the picture above were representative of you selling to prospects, what does the orange ball represent? Before racing to find the right answer as so many of us performance-driven and competitive sales people are inclined to do, I would encourage you to pay more attention to your gut response to the question, and less on solving ‘what’s the right answer.’
Common responses to this question typically include:
- “Standing out from the competition”
- “Differentiating our solution from others”
- “Being seen as a Trusted Advisor”
None of the aforementioned answers are bad, nor are they wrong for any sales professional to desire. But key to understand is that these are all byproducts of something much more important.
In each of the representative answers above, notice what was the intended focus for the prospect — Company, Solution, Rep. What did we start out with saying was our primary aim in the sales process? Disrupting the status quo! For the Challenger Sale rep, this is reframing how prospects see the unanticipated or underappreciated aspects of their business problems through commercial teaching and insight.
If that is our primary aim that is critical to making the sale, then why on earth would we want to distract their focus from seeing their business problems with absolute [and painful] clarity. To prematurely talk about or point to anything other than the business problems that are currently, negatively impacting the prospect, causes the prospect to shift focus from resolving their status quo to resolving in their mind, “Relative to other companies, solutions, reps I have dealt with, how do I like this one?”
The orange ball should represent the prospect’s focus on their business problem, not your solution!
While we certainly want to be seen as trusted advisors that stand out from the competition with our differentiated solutions, the more we keep the focus on those aspects about ourselves, our solutions and our organization, the more we look and sound just like everybody else.
There has been tremendous research and studies done on how we make decisions. The layman’s version of the findings is that prospects tend to see more similarities between organizations, solutions and reps than differences. Therefore, when we focus on these aspects about ourselves, here is what the prospect sees…
Question — If this is truly how prospects see suppliers and their products, what do you suppose becomes the differentiator for how to make their decision? If you said “Price,” you are absolutely right. The answer is not in differentiating ourselves through solution or organization.
Repeatable Success Tip
To stand out in the ‘sea of sameness’ is not to point out how different you are, especially since the majority are already doing that. To repeatedly stand apart from the competition with a differentiated solution is to help prospects see their problems differently. When you effectively do this, the byproduct is that they will see you differently.
Key to this whole process, though is to keep your solution out of the conversation until the end when they have clearly understood the problem. To insert ‘solution’ between you and their problem forces a feature and benefit comparison to what they have already looked at. As my good friend from Sandler constantly says, “Focus on the Problem, not the Solution!”
That’s a good tip for leading to Repeatable Success!
Jeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.
4 thoughts on “1-Question Test of Sales Effectiveness”
This is a great post Jeff. I in fact fell into this trap myself. My co-founder and I were so concerned about what competitors were doing, and how we could do it better. Rather than focusing on what we were doing to help the customer with their problem.
In truth, we all have fallen into the trap of misplaced focus…some of us more often than others.
Thanks for your comments on the post, Ian. I appreciate hearing about your experiences!
1.What was your first answer to the question, “What does the orange ball represent?”
A unique individual customer that has needs different that everyone else. All the white balls a sales people with the same pitch
2.In this article, the author references studies that indicate that purchasers “tend to see more similarities between organizations, solutions and reps than differences.” Have you ever been on the proverbial “other side of the desk” in a business to business purchasing interaction? Yes
Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation of how business buyers view their purchasing options? I believe most things through a corporate purchasing dept will be shopped and sometimes things a purchased but not comparible to what is actually needed.
3.In essence, this author suggests that keeping the focus on the customer and their critical business issues (rather than on your products and solutions) is the key to truly differentiating ourselves, our business, and our solutions. Do you agree or disagree, and why? Bringing up critiical issues will help he realized some problems he has and maybe more that he hasn’t thought of. That will give you the opportunity to assist on solving his problems.
Posted 7 hours ago
Dear anonymous –
Thanks for reading the article and for taking the time to comment.
I must confess I had a little bit of difficulty following your comments as your format was presented almost like you were interviewing yourself.
The result was I couldn’t tell if you were in agreement or disagreement. Either is fine of course, but just not sure how to respond other than thanking you for taking the time to comment. Of that, I am deeply appreciative!