Seek the Truth for Better or for Worse, for Richer or for Poorer
"Sales people of yesterday are at risk of being extinct today," says Brett Clay. Everyday sales people are plunged into a world where nothing is what it seems. They struggle trying to make sense of the complexity and confusion that surrounds them and to understand their role in all of it.
Customers seem to make such arbitrary decisions today, and sales people respond in kind by having to arbitrarily decide who to follow up with and who not to follow up with, who to prioritize and who not to prioritize. To put it mildly it's a big cluster mess. Traditional seller's best strategy is to just hope for the best.
Tina Brown the famed magazine editor said, "We will focus only on things the Internet doesn't have time to explain. This isn't a bad strategy for companies to embrace, because the Internet has taken away one of the major advantages and monopolies sales people have always had (bringing information to the table). Sales people are being forced to reevaluate their own unique value proposition.
Since sales people are a news source just like TV, magazines, Internet and newspapers, they will be ultimately forced into providing information to customers that they can't get anywhere else too remain fresh and relevant. This is the essence of the change-agent sales strategy. The change-agent provides insight that is gleaned only by personal one-on-one interaction that can't be gleaned by brochures, websites or product information. This is the future of selling and you better get used to.
The change-agent is all about helping customers through the maze of their problems and dilemmas. They anticipate customer's needs through their questions and help them recognize things that they had never considered before, or things that were totally overlooked. They bring a real-world perspective and a shared awareness to the consideration of change. It's a simple natural selection process that's linear and basically selling by numbers, or connecting the dots.
Customers are so busy they don't have time to stop and reflect. They're often on autopilot. They don't see beyond the trees. They can't see the forest. They're often so emotionally wrapped up in other decisions.
Your job is to help them prioritize and understand what their most pressing issues are and help them balance it with knowing all the options, hurdles and the things that they have to give up to change. Help them understand what works best for them now, what works best for them in the future. Help them know thyself. Help them understand what is practical and doable based on their issues. As corny as it may sound, you need to try to be one with your customer, walk in their shoes. Notice that there's very little selling going on and very little discussion about product/service. This is your added-value and the way you create trust.
Conventional sales people hedge their bets poorly by putting off the obvious questions everyone at the table is avoiding and fearing. The purpose of the change-agent sales strategy is to get customers to confront hard truths; they're less interested than they think, or they have deeper problems than they initially anticipated. This helps prevent false starts and ultimately in the end prevents a trail of tears due to poorly qualified deals. If you aren't using the change-agent sales strategy, or the equivalent, you'll need to apply for hardship pay for all the hassles and headaches that you'll eventually experience due to senseless follow up on low probability opportunities.
You'll find a lot of customers are in a perpetual state of nirvana. Their interest is genuine. Their intents are real. They're just so out of tune with the reality of the costs of change. You need to professionally take the wind out of their sails and bring them down to earth. It's not as if they're being deceptive to you, it's just their positive nature. Often you'll find that asking the equivalent of three thought-provoking questions will get you to the core of their motivation to change and you'll help them to realize that their initiative to change was a half baked idea. And the irony is they weren't even aware of it. And that's again the value-add that you bring to the table; being the voice of reason, being willing to second guess your customer to their advantage.
Your pragmatic attitude is better safe than sorry. When you cover all your bases and you error on the side of caution, you're generally bringing value to the customer's awareness of their issues in a way that they aren't getting from any other sources. Traditional sales people on the other hand error on the side of over optimism. Because they look and sound like stereotypical, enthusiastic sales people, they're treated like stereotypical sales people. And we all know how ugly that can be. The change-agent sales strategy is the equivalent of the unfussy, efficient Berkeshire Hathaway method of selling: No fuss no muss, simple and to the point.
"Be a seeker. Be the prospector looking for gold, not the alchemist who desperately tries to turn everything into gold. Look in the likely places, and move on when they don't pan out. Respect that the buying decision is up to the prospect, not up to you. Think of how you feel when the salesperson tries to make your purchase decision for you, especially when you know that you are the one who has to deal with the outcome," says Jacques Werth. This is the epitomy of the change-agent mentality.
Doing the work of a change-agent is hard work. "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like work," said Thomas Edison. If you're looking for a quick fix, this sales strategy is not the right one for you. However, if you're comfortable ruling out all negative contingencies before you put your heart and soul into a deal, then this pragmatic sales approach will be right up your alley.