Sales Conversations That Make the Client the Star

sales conversations

Why is it that so many sales and marketing organizations focus energy on re-working product bundles? They update sales conversations and collateral while distributing information via POS technology. This includes laptops, cellphones, iPads, etc… And yet, they think this approach is going to lead to dramatically better sales results.

I am not saying that these tools don’t add value to sales conversations.

But, let’s keep them in their proper role. If you view each sales opportunity as a movie, these tools are merely bit players. They support the plot-line of the sales process. However, they do not move the plot forward. To expect bit players to carry the load is unrealistic and expensive. That job belongs to the real star – the prospective client. Furthermore, it belongs to the supporting actor, the sales professional. It is through their dialogue, their directed and insightful conversation about the clients’ business goals, plans, processes, and challenges that the plot develops and a legitimate sales opportunity is born. Without this conversation, the presentation of your companies capabilities becomes an out-of-context soliloquy. Moreover, the movie that is your sales opportunity never properly develops.

sales conversations

Soliloquy: noun – the act of speaking alone or to oneself, especially as a theatrical device

Let’s examine in more detail the soliloquy that masquerades as a sales conversation. In this approach, we assume that we already know the client’s business need. This need can be effectively satisfied by our product or service. We state that need to the client. We then go on to tell them how our capabilities will address that need.

This often becomes a standard approach. If so, it isn’t necessarily the fault of the salesperson. Rather the director who failed to facilitate meaningful dialog between buyer and seller is to blame. These are the two main characters. The soliloquy scene often unfolds like this. Marketing develops a product bundle. They write the pitch and design the corresponding client customized presentation. This is often based on assumptions about certain market segments that reside in the sales rep’s laptop or “site seller”.

Sales management then mandates that the reps master their lines. They must demonstrate proficiency in delivering the pitch while using technology to display the corresponding visuals. The sales rep then delivers the soliloquy to their client. Realistically, a sale may or may not happen. This approach can produce the occasional sale. However, in most cases, sales and marketing managers are soon focusing their energy on trying to explain why performance isn’t hitting targeted AVOs.

There are two reasons why this doesn’t achieve maximum results.

First, even in the SMB space, businesses are often more complex and unique than marketing assumptions allow. As a result, our scripted pitch fails to resonate with prospective clients. This is despite the fact that they are in a similar business.

Second, the approach of presenting before we demonstrate concern for the client creates distrust. This negates the value our solution may legitimately bring. From the client’s perspective, if we didn’t take the time to know them, we can’t possibly help them.

When we gain a deeper understanding of the client’s goals, plans, strengths, and weaknesses, we discover more specific opportunities to positively impact their success. If we do not do this, we leave it up to the client to apply our value and capabilities to their business goals. In essence, this forces them to do the selling for us. They may get it completely right. However, they might miss the mark.

Sales Conversations 101: When this approach falls short of expectations what do we do?

We design a new bundle, re-write the pitch, re-work the sales collateral retrain the reps. And the salespeople soon lose confidence in our ability to manage effectively. It’s a bit like the movie 17 Again where Zac Efron wants a ‘do over’ on being 17. Wasn’t it hard enough to be 17 the first time!  Imagine having to do it again to get it right.

Wouldn’t the time of sales and marketing managers be better spent supporting a sales methodology that facilitates meaningful business conversations that will allow reps to demonstrate the impact their capabilities can have on their client’s business goals? Wouldn’t this approach allow reps to know that we value the clients and their role in the conversation and that we are experts at guiding them through a discussion that will maximize their success and help them make the best decision possible?

And won’t our salespeople feel more confident in us as leaders when we commit to a client-facing, consistent and disciplined approach? As leaders, we are the Directors of the movie. The choice is up to us. Who will be cast as the star of your production, the product, your collateral, an iPad, or your prospective client?

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