Finding the Solution in Solution Selling… or Customers Rule!

Years ago the very definition of a great salesperson was someone who could sell anything to anyone, whether they needed it or not. But today, selling “ice cubes to Eskimos is not only politically incorrect, it’s a sure path to failure.

Of course you must have something to meaningful to say. But to assume that a canned sales spiel is going to work on every sales prospect is a severely misguided notion.

Consider this concept instead: effective selling is always a dialogue, a conversation. It is an exchange of information. If you’re not receiving twice as much information from your prospect as you’re delivering, you aren’t even coming close to maximizing your sales effectiveness.

It is your job to create and nurture a relationship with your prospect. And the more meaningful that relationship, the greater the rewards for both of you.

Solution selling. Promoting benefits, not features. However you say it, the bottom line is this: the needs and desires of your prospect dictate how you will sell, if you’re actually going to do any selling at all. And in order to craft the right message for THIS client, you will have to get to know them pretty well, at least as it relates to the sale.

Why is this level of personal understanding so critical today? Why do you have to really “know” someone in order to sell to them? Simply because the world and everything in it is at our prospective customers’ fingertips, 24/7. There is nothing your customers don’t have access to. Information about your company, your product or service, about you and your background, who likes you and who doesn’t. And most important of all, everything about your competitor.

The wolf is waiting right outside the door, ready to pounce with a better offer. And your customer knows it. Either you are going to connect with them, or your competition will.

So just what do you need to learn about your prospects, and how do you use that knowledge to make yourself more effective?

1. Find out who your prospects are and what matters to them. The more you know about a sales prospect before you meet, the greater your odds of success. It just stands to reason. People like doing business with people they are familiar with and who understand them. But it goes far beyond a comfort level. By discovering how your prospect thinks, what they like and don’t like, what they are trying to achieve and what they’re afraid of, you can position your product or service as the ideal solution for THEM. For starters, you should at least know your prospect’s age, professional background and education level. But dig deeper. Where were they born? Where did they go to school? Married, or single? Kids? How many? What are their hobbies? Golf or tennis? What specifically are their work responsibilities? What are they trying to accomplish, and what are the greatest challenges facing them in their jobs? How can you find all of this out? ASK—ask them, their colleagues, their assistants. Ask your co-workers or others you know in your industry? Ask Google! The internet can reveal amazing information with just a few clicks. Remember, when it comes to sales success, knowledge is power.

2. Learn their language. If your sales prospect spoke only Japanese, and you could only barely manage English, the conversation probably wouldn’t get very far, no matter how strong your pitch. But the “language barrier” doesn’t have to be so extreme or obvious to be a deal killer. I’ve seen sales people who showed up for a meeting in traditional business attire instantly disregarded by ultra-casual customers, and vice-versa. Know the style and attitude, the language, your prospects are comfortable with, and then adopt it to the best of your ability. Are they formal or friendly? Will they be offended if you call them by their first name, or completely put-off if you address them as Mr. or Ms.? Do they enjoy a good joke, or are they all business? Are they young, either literally, or at heart? Or are they seasoned pros who value maturity and experience? One of the best sales pros I know always says that people need at least a dozen reasons to hire you and only one to pass. Don’t let “style mismatch” be that one.

3. Show them how you will make they’re life better. Once you know who your prospects are, what really matters to them and how to speak their language, all that’s left is connecting the dots. Search for ways to reconcile their needs with what you have to offer, and present it in a way that is meaningful to them. This is the essence of solution selling, and it is key to sales success in the current business environment. Think of your sales negotiations a maze—you’re at one end, your prospect is at the other. Your job is to find the way through, uncover the connection, and unite your desire to sell with their desire for a solution.

No more than 20% of selling is “telling.” The rest is “gelling,” forging strong, personal, mutually-beneficial connections through excellent detective work. Ask questions, watch for clues, use your gut and you’ll be able to deliver precisely what your prospects really need.