Want to get you or your people more effective at selling? Check how consistently you/they are following steps 1-3. Even small improvements in any of these can help establish you as Trusted Advisor early on in sales conversations
1 Gather more information than you give
Or listen more than you talk. Ideally your prospective client should be talking 70% of the time and you 30%. How can we do that? By asking questions, really listening to the answers and probing the answers in more detail.
I profile a lot of people who sell (sales people, business owners, professional services) and one of the behaviours I look at is how effective they are at listening. On a scale of 1-9 (1 being low, 9 being high) the vast majority of people score between 2-4. Even if we think we are listening, are we really? Or are we listening some of the time, sometimes getting distracted by our own thoughts and mentally preparing the things we want to say?
There are a lot of very smart questions we could be asking, but often the simpler ones are just, if not more, effective.
Can you be more specific? Could you give me an example? Which means…? And what impact does that have?
The advantage of asking lots of questions, not talking much and listening well is that it stops us talking too much (too soon) about us, how wonderful we are and how we can solve their problem. Instead it means we can gather information on pains, their budget and decision-making process to work out how real an opportunity this is before talking about us.
2 Be challenging
This is not about being awkward, or challenging just for the sake of it. I see our role as a Trusted Advisor to get to the crux of the clients issues and sometimes we need to help our prospective clients work that out too, which ties back to tip 1.
Trusted Advisors ask tough questions that make their prospects think differently about their situation. Equally they are prepared to have tough conversations if necessary – if you don’t think what the prospective client is asking for is in their best interests I believe its better to tell them rather than avoiding it.
3 Be prepared to say no
Honesty and selling don’t often appear in the same sentence, but if we want to be seen as a Trusted Advisor then that means we have to give our prospective clients the truth, rather than what they want to hear.
If you are not best placed to help them for whatever reason I think it’s far more powerful to say that and refer them to someone else if you can. In my experience they will really respect you for that and as a result are more likely to come back to you further down the line.