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Solving vs. Selling

Are you solving a problem, or selling a product?

Solving vs. Selling

Which is it?

You know, in reality, selling a product is not all that bad. You can focus really hard on the sale, create a tight sales process/cycle, and follow it ruthlessly. Doing this well will yield results. Doing it great can lead to outstanding results.

So why bother working on solving your prospect’s problems, when selling can be so effective?

One, it can make deals come down faster and with less effort, believe it or not. If the customer feels you are firmly in their camp, helping them solve problems, and that you will not steer them in the wrong direction, then they will trust you and follow your advice. Not a bad place to be as a salesperson. But, you have to earn this right. If you are not the solution they need, you have to be willing to admit this to the prospect and walk away from the deal.

There is another advantage to this kind of selling. Your size of contract is usually bigger and your margins fatter. Why? Because you did not go into the deal with a fixed focus. You are willing to look at the customer’s problems, through their eyes, and see what they see. When doing this, you often see a synergistic relationship between several of your products and their myriad problems.

These are not just words, selling vs. solving. They are a way of life – a strategic play in a tactical world. It takes fortitude to do this kind of selling. You really need to take the time and visit with the prospect to find out what exactly they are trying to solve. What are their goals, or business initiatives? Explore this with them. Be a consultant to them. Treat them like you would a great friend in the same spot. Do not throw away their trust by trying to force a solution on them. Really explore their world. Then, when you understand the full magnitude of their problems, explore what your company can do for them. If there is a fit, and you believe it is a great fit, then share this with them. Show them exactly what you can do. Dramatize what is unique about you, and what value it creates for them. Be of service to them. Make your sales story come alive. Remember, Samurai means: “One Who Serves.” Now you are Samurai!

By Chuck Laughlin, Founder, Corporate Visions Inc.


Objection Handling – It’s All in Your Mind

Over the years, Corporate Visions® has recorded salespeople going through various parts of the sales process. One thing that you would see on those videotapes is that when you get an objection, you start backing up as you try to handle it. Now, why do you backup? It all has to do with your mindset and preparation.

Many salespeople view selling as a win/lose proposition. When you see selling in that way, any threat to your ability to close a deal, for example, an objection, causes your flight or fight systems to engage. When these systems take over, you do things you wouldn’t do if you were in your normal state of mind, such as backing up.

In his beautifully written book “Blink” Malcolm Gladwell shows that when you reach that heightened state of stress, particularly combined with time pressure, your judgment becomes impaired. This is why objection handling is so challenging for some people. You hear an objection. You feel like you are being attacked. Your pulse accelerates as your survival instincts take control of your system. You physically backup to put space between you and your “attacker.”  You feel time pressure to answer the objection without hesitation. And what happens next? You either handle the objection weakly, because you are in a defensive mindset looking for a way out, or, you handle the objection too aggressively and the customer feels you are attacking them back.

The bad news is this is a natural reaction. The good news is you can change this dynamic. The way to do that is to approach selling not as a win/lose proposition, but instead in the way of the Samurai.

The word Samurai is Japanese for “one who serves.” It does not mean to be a servant. It does, however, mean to do everything in your power to help those you are serving make the right decisions, which should include buying your services (if that would be a bad decision, find a different customer). When your mindset is to be “one who serves,” you are no longer viewing objections as a direct attack on yourself. Instead, objections are simply signals that you need to do a better job of serving your customer by helping them understand how your product will help them.

Being Samurai also relieves the issue of time pressure. A Samurai prepares ahead of time for any imaginable event. A Samurai salesperson does this by anticipating possible objections and the exact way in which he/she will handle them when they arise. When you get an objection that you thoroughly prepared for, you won’t feel time pressure to make up an answer on the fly because you will already know what you need to say. Finally, being Samurai also requires a commitment to the “Beginner’s Mind,” the Samurai idea that whenever confronting a new situation, you should not bring your assumptions with you.  When you approach selling this way, objections won’t cause your fight/flight systems to spike, and you will be able to answer objections in the way that is most effective for your customer.

By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.


Voice and Body Language in Sales

“Who you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I can’t hear what you are saying.”
– Ralph Emerson

As a salesperson, you often spend an enormous amount of time and energy picking the words you use to sell your products and services – but is that where your focus should be?

Studies show that your audience receives just 7% of your message through the words you use – 38% is received through your voice. The remaining 55% is received through your body language.  Surprised by those numbers?  Most people are at first, until they take the time to think about them.

Can you hear and see if a person lacks confidence in what they are selling?  Certainly. Usually though, it’s not the words they use that reveals this lack of confidence, it’s their tone of voice and their body language. Why is the majority of information communicated through voice and body language? Most people consciously choose their words, but they do not consciously choose their tone of voice or their body language. Voice and body language are simply part of the aura that is surrounding them. Samurai warriors had a word for this aura. They called it Ki (key).

Strong Ki is a powerful tool for salespeople. Ki comes from an alignment of your inner beliefs and outward representation. When you believe strongly in what you are doing, your voice and body language will naturally align with your words. The caution here is that strong Ki is not something you put on like a coat. Strong Ki is developed through learning your solution’s strengths so well that you can explain them to anyone. Strong Ki is developed by making a commitment to serve your customers in every possible way, even if that means walking away from an opportunity because your solution simply isn’t right for them. Lastly, strong Ki is developed through a constant exercise of fearlessness.

It is fearlessness above all that expresses strong Ki. The salesperson that welcomes questions and challenges from his/her prospect is a force to be reckoned with. The salesperson who can confidently move off the agenda, when the prospect needs it; or with equal confidence can bring a customer back to the agenda when they are off in the weeds; is one who can carry a message. A salesperson that is ready for anything is the salesperson who is going to win.

By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.


Poor Past Experience

Do you ever get the objection that the prospect/customer had a bad service experience with your company in the past?  For some salespeople, it’s an occasional objection.  For others, it’s a daily challenge. What do you do if your business delivered bad service to a broad swath of customers in the recent past?

First, let’s assume that your company has made investments in fixing your service group (if your company won’t address an obvious deficiency, you may want to look for an employer who will). You could then try to provide your customers/prospects with data around how your company has improved service (i.e. customer satisfaction ratings, industry reports, etc).  In many cases though, that data won’t be enough to convince a person to trust your company again, especially if they were personally burned by your company in the past.

What you need to do is Reframe the Objection.  Get the customer to see the situation in a different light.  Here is a Reframe to which most people can relate.

(Acknowledge the Problem) I understand that it must have been frustrating to have had that experience with our company.

(State the Truth)  Unfortunately, your experience wasn’t unique.  A couple of years ago, we had problems in our service area, and it impacted a lot of customers.  However, since then, we’ve made changes to the management of that group, and it’s made a big impact on our overall service levels.

(Reframe the Objection)  Have you ever gone to a new restaurant in your neighborhood and had a bad experience and decide you weren’t going to eat there again?  And then, a couple of years later, you hear from a bunch of friends that new management has taken over and it’s a really great place to eat now?  After hearing it enough, you decide to check it out for yourself, and you have a great meal and great service.  What’s different?  It’s the same restaurant name, same menu, same prices, same building.  What’s different is the management.  That’s the same thing that has happened at our company.  We recognized that we had a problem, and we realized the way to fix it was by bringing in new management.

(Give Proof)  You know… Jane Doe over at XYZ Company has been with us through the good times and the bad.  She’d love to talk to you about how much things have improved since we made these changes.  Would you like me to put you in touch with her?

The above Objection Reframe is powerful, IF delivered effectively.  The key to delivering it effectively is your own personal beliefs.  Have you had an experience at a restaurant similar to the one described above?  Is it a good analogy to the changes you’ve seen happen within your own company?  If you can answer yes to both of those questions, you will see this Reframe do powerful things for you.

-Erik Peterson
Corporate Visions Inc.


An Experience They Can Feel!

While preparing for my upcoming sales meeting, I felt more intimidated about coming up with a Grabber for my alumni team than if I was presenting to a new prospect.

I wanted to stress the power of service and how keeping the watermark high was the most critical factor in gaining and retaining our clients (we service surgical equipment).

A CVi Client Services coaching session helped bring ideas to the surface.

One I particularly liked was what life would be like without services we depend on. Since the session was held early Saturday morning, I asked our cleaning crew not to clean one of the meeting rooms. When the team filed in they found chairs on their side, old coffee, used cups, trash on the floor and tables. Shocked they grumbled about the cleaning crew’s incompetence while I stood by silently and watched for three minutes.

As their attention shifted I asked, “What does it feel like when the service we take for granted is missing? Would you ever want one of our surgeons to feel this way? How critical is it that this never happens to them, especially when people’s lives are on the line?” The silence in the room answered best.

I then announced the meeting would move down the hall. As the team entered a clean, organized room with fresh coffee, food, clean tables and floors, the contrast became riveting. The Grabber worked.