Show ‘Em You Know ‘Em

Given the vast resources you have on-hand—search engines, websites, social media—buyers expect that you’ll come to every sales call fully prepared.

For instance, when someone calls on me, I expect them to know that I run a sales training company and that we’re a global business. If they haven’t taken the time to do some basic research and prepare ideas to support why we should even have a conversation, then I’m not interested. And since time is such a valuable resource, I expect them to use the time I have set aside wisely and efficiently.

Personalizing your message is the key to engaging buyers.

One of the fastest ways to engage with buyers is to “show ‘em you know ‘em.” Whether the vehicle is by way of a phone call, in-person appointment or email, pre-plan your sales calls and make the most of the time you have in front of a decision-maker by following these three tips:

  1. Make the topic relevant. Don’t make buyers bring you “up-to-speed.” Gone are the days when you could start the conversation by saying, “Tell me about what you do and what keeps you up at night.”Instead, do your homework. Prepare by researching their role, their business, and their industry, and make that knowledge evident right out of the gate. Not only will this earn you credibility, but it will also set the stage to expand the conversation on uncovering the business issues – and the measurable impact that these issues are creating. 

    What barriers are they facing to achieve the business’ revenue, cost, quality, or compliance goals? Then connect your solution to their business issue and, suddenly, what you have to say will become relevant quickly.
  2. Include valuable content. Ever go to the hardware store, looking for a particular gadget to fix a leak? Getting advice from somebody who knows what they’re talking about makes the trip worthwhile. It makes you feel good about spending money with that business. 

    Likewise, any objective or outside insight you can provide into a buyer’s situation adds value to your communication. To pique their interest, be prepared to share a scenario of a client with a similar issue and most important, share why that problem was worth solving. Let the outcome of the story set the context for how working together will generate results.Bonus: it boosts your credibility. (Credibility is a common thread to be cultivated at all stages in building a business relationship.) 

  3. Use emotional triggers. What’s your reaction when you read a mass email? If I can tell that the same email went to a broad audience and had nothing to do with me as an individual, I’ll delete it. It’s a gut response.

    So tailor your message to each. Carefully think about who you’re reaching out to. What would motivate them—from a business or personal value perspective—to stop and take notice? What internal or external customer, supplier or peer can you reference in the initial communication?

    Include multiple emotional triggers to create anxiety, influence and motivation. This will increase the likelihood that one of the triggers will resonate with the buyer and prompt them to engage in the discussion for more information.

Every sales professional seeks a productive conversation that moves prospects further along in the sales cycle. To speed the process, discuss relevant topics, include valuable content and use emotional triggers. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate your expertise and more important; you’ll show ‘em you know ‘em – which is the key to engaging buyers and building a credible relationship to earn their business.

The Art of the Confirming Question

An integral part of the ValueSelling Framework® is holding meaningful conversations through the O-P-C line of questioning-open, probing and confirming questions. Let me take this opportunity to focus on the importance of the confirming question. At first glance, it would seem that confirming questions are easy. After all, how hard is it to repeat what somebody has told you?

But there’s an art to asking confirming questions without sounding like a parrot; that is, without simply repeating what is said without any thought. To ask solid, confirming questions like a pro, keep these four tips in mind:

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1. Document what the buyer says. Knowing in advance that you’re going to be asking confirming questions, prepare yourself to listen attentively. Capture the salient points the buyer brings up and jot down the key points. Taking notes helps you recall the words they use and it is subtle validation that what they said was important enough to write down.

While you’re taking written notes, the buyer is taking mental notes and this bodes well to their perception that this meeting and their business issue is very important to you.

2. Match the key terms. Reflect back the actual words your customer uses and offer them the opportunity to elaborate. Don’t assume you understand their meaning. Always ask for understanding to minimize the risk of a mismatch with the buyer.

Sample reflective questions:

A. “So, what you’re saying is…?”
B. “Is it correct to say that…?”
C. “Did I hear that…?”

3. Open by confirming. At ValueSelling, we use confirming questions throughout the entire sales process. Sometimes that means a confirming question might be the opening question.

“The last time you and I met, we discussed ABC and you told me DEF. Does that still stand?” This allows you to open, summarize and re-establish rapport. We trust people who “get” us and care enough to understand us. By using confirming questions thoughtfully, your buyers will get the sense you “get” them.

4. Let the conversation evolve. Successful salespeople are often the most curious and they integrate purposeful questions into the conversation. In honing your confirming questioning skills, you are able to influence the conversation and demonstrate credibility and knowledge at all stages in the sales process.

Prepare to engage:

A. “Tell me about your role?”
B. “What are your challenges?”
C. “What does the ideal solution involve?”

With confirming questions, you reiterate what you heard. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what your understanding is. Better yet, it gives the buyer a chance to clarify, embellish, add to or change what they said.

At times, the buyer may say, “Yes, that’s what I said. But what I really meant was this.” Confirming questions are a powerful way to deepen your understanding so you don’t waste your time addressing something that wasn’t the real issue at hand.

Build trust, clarify meaning and validate your buyer’s concerns by crafting on-point confirming questions.

Transform Yourself from Vendor to Business Advisor

It’s a common quandary. Customers consider you to be just a vendor. Sometimes one of many. Meanwhile, you know you’ve got a lot more skills, information and advice to share with them. So how do you make the leap in their minds from vendor to business advisor?

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  1. Communicate with care: The number one way to positively influence how people see you is by communicating in a way that proves you’ve got their best interests at heart. Put them first. Instead of being self-serving, be sure your approach exudes:
  • Credibility—That means presenting yourself—what you say and how you say it—in a way that demonstrates you have knowledge relevant to the person you’re working with and to their particular situation. First impressions are lasting so make your initial 30-second intro count. Learn how to craft a Credibility Introduction that gets you noticed.
  • Experience—People turn to advisors because they bring a wealth of experience with the challenge that a prospect is facing. Think about similar scenarios where you’ve helped clients that are in the same pickle your customer is in. Share the results. Gather the common steps and solutions into best practices. And offer these insights to your customer.
  • Success—Not every engagement is successful. In fact, success comes on the heels of several attempts that were misses. Instead of failures, think of these instances as ways to learn what doesn’t work and how to do things better. Present those experiences and save your customer even more time and money.
  • Professionalism—Business casual doesn’t mean unprofessional. Whether you’re showing up in a jacket or a “nice” t-shirt, a prospect will think you’re professional when you show up on time, prepared and neatly dressed. Need we say more?
  • Believability—One of the most charming traits is when a person is genuine. Hopefully, you’re following a proven sales process that you believe in and is inherent in your communication style. Along with that, it’s important to infuse your true personality—quirky, nerdy or just plain funny—into the mix. Be real.
  1. Build rapport: When you build rapport, you and your customer become like-minded. You’ve demonstrated empathy toward them and their situation. You’re communicating effectively together. Totally natural. In flow. Rapport goes beyond the small talk, getting you to common ground where you can establish a working relationship.
  1. Develop trust: Trust happens over time. Do you consistently do what you say? Are you curious about the customer? Do you listen? A relationship, personal or business, is a pathway to trust. As a colleague once said, “I might like you. But if I don’t trust you, I won’t buy from you.” Once trust is broken, it’s time intensive and time-consuming to repair. So stay vigilant in keeping your word and developing trust.

Rather than pitching and pushing products and services, a trusted advisor helps customers accurately diagnose problems and then collaborates around the solutions. A trusted advisor is also the first person to tell a customer if the product or service isn’t a fit. They don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. You will find this honesty goes a long way, perhaps even prompting a referral.

Remember the scene in Miracle on 34th Street where Kris Kringle advises a woman to go to a different department store to find the Christmas present she’s looking for? Suddenly, Macy’s was the place to get advice on the best place to find and buy gifts. In the movie, Kris Kringle and Macy’s became trusted advisors.

Be attentive to communicating with care, building rapport and developing trust, and you’ll transform yourself in the eyes of your customers into a trusted advisor.