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When B2B sales representatives get on a sales call, they often jump right to the product – how great it is, why it’s better than the competition, and did I tell you how amazing it is? But jumping straight into the benefits and features, at the expense of learning about the buyer’s specific needs and pain points, is not the way to a quick close.
Sales reps should focus on being customer-centric, rather than product-centric. Highlighting the value the product can bring to the customer’s situation, rather than the features the product possesses, means shifting perspective to the buyer’s point of view.
However, having a customer centric process and then applying that to the call is often easier said than done. If your sales reps are not instinctively able to do this, how can they learn to manage a conversation that centers around the customer’s needs? Coaching them to anchor the process around three specific questions can make all the difference in the world.
The best way to focus the conversation and keep it customer-centric is to center it around these three questions:
The biggest obstacle to closing a sale is never your competitor, but the status quo. Sticking to the current approach is always the easiest option for any company, because it doesn’t require any effort or decision-making. Reps need to start by giving the potential customer a reason to consider any alternative to their current situation, and only then start promoting your solution.
If the sales rep doesn’t make a successful “case for change” early on in their interactions, they might think that the purchase journey is proceeding smoothly, right up until the prospect suddenly becomes stuck at a later stage and cannot be convinced any further.
Skipping this stage to open with “why us?” means that reps never get the chance to find out what the potential customers need, where they are heading, or which features they most need from your product. Starting out with “why change?” firmly sets the tone of the entire sales process as customer-centric, not product-centric.
There are a number of possible answers to the question of “why change?” By listening carefully to the responses, sales reps will know how to best proceed.
For example, a potential buyer might be ready to consider changing to a cloud-based tool because:
Your reps might find that there’s a lot of repetition among the different reasons for change, but that’s ok. That just reinforces the message.
When reps have established a case for change, they can move on to discuss “why now?” It might again seem counter-intuitive, but it’s human nature to delay making a decision until it’s truly urgent. Making a “case for now” is what keeps the lead moving along the purchase journey instead of remaining stuck at an earlier stage.
“Why now?” could require reps to ask the client some questions about what might be shifting in their business environment that could lead them to need an imminent change, or it’s possible that the reps themselves has some suggestions for “why now.”
For example, the potential purchasing company could be moving to a new office, undergoing a merger or acquisition or experiencing a rapid market expansion. The prospect might have suddenly switched to support remote working or accelerated their digital transformation because of a global pandemic (sounds familiar), or their current software license could be nearing its end.
It’s worth remembering that “why now?” is a far more emotional and less data-oriented question. Even though business people like to think of themselves as solely analytical about their decision-making, even business decisions are led by emotions. Understanding the trigger or urgency is important to drive the deal over the finish line, and avoid deals that linger and don’t close.
It’s obvious sales reps need to address this question at some point in the sales pitch. This is the point where they differentiate your company from the competition. What’s less obvious is why it should be the last of the three.
Essentially, the first two questions are like readying the ground for crops to grow. Discussing “why us” is like planting the seed in prepared, well-fertilized soil. When sales reps discuss “why us” only as question three, they are far more likely to frame it in terms of resolving customer need, rather than how awesome the product is, and that kind of context is far more effective for completing sales.
Having clarified that the “three whys” are the right approach, we still need to find a way to coach sales reps to ask these questions and, what’s more, to pay attention to the answers. It takes practice to overcome the instinct to open up with a list of product features.
The best way to promote this approach is to create a template of scenarios based around the “why change, why now, why us” framework. Reps need to come up with specific reasons for change for each potential target, because generic ones are simply not good enough, and contrast their company with the main competitor.
Reps need to practice asking questions about the prospect’s current situation, because “why change” is frequently tied with gaining an understanding of the company at this time. When the prospect replies, reps need to know how to respond with follow-up questions that uncover more of the prospect’s own reasons for change.
By structuring sales simulation and coaching sessions based on these specific three questions, and even scoring reps based on how well they embody that approach, sales enablement teams give reps the tools to have customer-specific conversations that focus on the value they can bring to customers rather than the product features.
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