I recently conducted a sales effectiveness workshop for an AXIOM client that included an unusual participant. Our clients often want people other than their direct sellers to attend our programs. It is not unusual for attendees to come from marketing, customer service, overlay groups, and even human resources. Sales transformation is a company-wide undertaking and for positive change to occur, any organization that touches the sales effort should be included in the process. It is unusual, though, to have a Director of Procurement in a sales effectiveness workshop.
Sales people often see Procurement as the enemy. Purchasing agents are trained negotiators and are evaluated based on the savings they are able to wring from their providers. Sales people, on the other hand, are tasked with protecting their company’s margins, ensuring that the business they bring in is profitable. It would seem that the two have mutually exclusive objectives. However, spending time with this Director of Procurement (we’ll call him Bill) made me realize otherwise.
I am a big believer in process. While selling is in some sense an art, it is also a science. Sellers need a logical, repeatable sales process in order to act in their own company’s best interest and to better serve their customers. Bill’s observations during the workshop only convinced me further of the importance and of efficacy process.
Bill said, “I can always tell when a sales person is winging it. I don’t know if it’s because they think they are so good or if they’re just too lazy to prepare. Either way, it’s disrespectful of my time. If a sales person expects to get more of my time, he has to earn it.”
Also, “I am open to questions that could cause me to change my mind regarding what I’m buying. I’m even willing to go back to engineering if need be. But before I do that, a sales person has to be able to help me quantify the value of a different solution.”
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“Often, the questions sales people asked me are very surface level questions. Most sellers only want to ask enough questions to determine that I don’t have the capability they are selling. Then they launch into pitch mode”.
Virtually every conversation with Bill pointed to back to the need for process. As a buyer, Bill’s comments highlighted the importance of several things we as sellers should always do:
Consider your customer’s time as valuable as your own.
Prior to any customer meeting, prepare a statement of meeting objective and agenda and begin by sharing it with your customer. You will appear organized, prepared, and respectful of your customer’s time.
Understand the value of your solution for your customer.
If you can’t convey how your products and services will positively impact your customer’s business, why would you expect him to buy from you? Be prepared to communicate how your products and services will improve productivity and efficiency, help contain expenses, and drive revenue. Sales people aren’t needed if all we do is point out product features and capabilities. We add value when we understand how what we do makes our customer’s business better.
Prepare and ask questions that will help you to understand what your customer is trying to accomplish as an organization.
What are their goals? What plans have they put in place to achieve those goals? What business processes are they considering changing? The answers to those questions will tell you where you need to deliver value in order to give your customer a compelling reason to buy from you.
A logical, repeatable sales process benefits buyer and seller alike. Sales process is really about enabling buying decisions. Even a Director of Procurement could tell you that.
Questions to consider:
How do you as a sales person add value to your customer’s business?
How would your customer rate your pre-call preparation?
What would your customer say about the questions you ask?