handshake-sideviewEvery customer loves to be led, if you take them to a place they can’t get to on their own.

Many salespeople understand the importance of aligning their sales process with the buyer, but often struggle with maintaining control of the sale. These two concepts, aligning to the buyer and facilitating the sale, are not mutually exclusive. The least effective sales are those where the rep and the client are fighting for the steering wheel.

A driven, goal-oriented sale occurs when a seller establishes a partnership where both parties learn and benefit from one another.

How To Achieve The Right Balance With Your Buyers

1. Focus On Value And Problem Solving

Before you can drive the sale, you must first gain the buyer’s trust. Take the time to understand their business and the specific problems that matter most to them. Too many sellers front load their sales conversations with product features and services and neglect the buyer’s pain points. If you walk in the door spouting out product features, your words will fall on deaf ears. Your customers need to know that you understand their business needs. You’ll need to do some effective discovery to draw out these pains and determine what their biggest business issues are. Ask questions to first learn their business. Then, build up to the tougher questions to learn their problems are and the intensity of their needs.

Here are 4 Essential Questions to focus your business conversations and gain alignment with the customer’s needs:

  1. What customer problems do I solve?
  2. How do I solve these problems?
  3. How do I do it better than the competition?
  4. What relevant proof points can I use to show where I’ve done this before?

If you come prepared to ask and truly listen to the answers to these four questions, your customers will know that you’re not just trying to sell a product, but bringing true value to their business. Use the Mantra to repeat what you’ve heard and gain agreement with the customer. You will become a trusted advisor by working with the customer to help them to better understand their problem and identify a solution that is specific to their needs. People who trust you will let you drive, as long as you can help them get to a better future state, where they could not have gotten on their own.

2. Improve Your Qualification

Now that you’ve gained the buyer’s trust, it’s a done deal, right? Wrong.

One of the biggest reasons sellers lose control of the sale is because they haven’t fully qualified their deal. Have you ever left a meeting with a buyer feeling secure and confident the deal had been won, only to return and find the decision criteria had been changed without you? If you have, you may be missing some standard qualification criteria.

The number one reason deals slip is because they are not attached to the biggest business problem.

If the problem you’re aligned with is not large enough, you may face price negotiations, reduced resources, or even lose the opportunity altogether. Bigger business issues will be associated with larger titles, more resources and a bigger budget. You need to attach to the biggest problem to reach a level of urgency. Validate the consequences that the customer will suffer if this problem is left unresolved.  If the customer recognizes the magnitude of the problem, his hesitation will fade. Get his attention and get him committed.

Reaffirm all of what the customer has told you with qualification. Remind him of what has been said and why it is important. Help the customer redefine his original Decision Criteria to meet the Required Capabilities you’ve agreed upon together.

Use the acronym MEDDIC to help you ensure the critical criteria you’ve identified is still accurate:

  • Metrics: Quantifiable measurements of the business benefits of the solution.
  • Economic Buyer: Individual within the organization who has the final “yes.”
  • Decision Criteria: Formal solution requirements in which each decision maker will evaluate the solution.
  • Decision Process: How the customer will evaluate, select, and purchase a solution.
  • Identify Pain: Business pain that is the catalyst for the buyer to solve this problem within a set timeframe.
  • Champions: A person with influence in the buying organization who has an investment in your solution being selected.

Use MEDDIC to qualify your deals early and often. Identify any gaps where you may not be meeting the criteria and target those in your next meeting. Qualification is not only an internal checklist. Don’t be afraid to qualify with the customer as well. Ask questions like: Are you my champion? Do you meet these criteria?

If you use this criteria to qualify your deal both internally and externally, you will maintain alignment with the customer and avoid any uncomfortable surprises. Their job is not to buy your stuff. Your job is to provide them with a solution to their problem, not to make their problem your own.

Great sellers hold a mirror up to the customer to help him truly see the situation for what it is and then guide him through to his desired future state, gaining trust and establishing a long-term business partnership along the way.