Who couldn’t use an arsenal of effective selling techniques? But there is a lot of “conventional wisdom” out there that, in reality, doesn’t help you make the sale. Here are five selling techniques that really work, as well as five classic go-to techniques that may, in fact, be hurting your sales efforts.
Selling Techniques that Work
1. Challenging the Status Quo
Most salespeople see the sales process as a linear process. At some point, it has an end – the prospect will choose either you or your competitor. The truth is that those are not the only two end points. There’s another option – no decision – which is chosen all too often. Studies show that 20 to 60 percent of deals in the pipeline are lost to “no decision” rather than to competitors. It’s only by challenging the status quo that you can get your prospects to see that change – i.e., adopting your solution – is necessary.
2. Finding Your Value Wedge
How much overlap is there between what you can provide to your prospects and what your competition can provide? Most B2B salespeople admit that overlap is 70 percent or higher. So rather than focusing on that “parity area,” you should focus on what you can do for the customer that is different from what the competition can do – this is your “value wedge.” Your value wedge must be unique to you, important to the customer, and defensible.
3. Telling Stories with Contrast
Messaging is about telling your company’s story in a way that attracts prospects to your doors and turns them into customers. The challenge is that, if you’re like most companies, you tell your story in a way that doesn’t differentiate you much, if at all. But to create a powerful perception of value, you need to tell both the “before” story and the “after” story – you need to tell customer stories with contrast. When you tell customer stories, don’t be afraid to link data with emotion. Often the best way to do that is to talk about the people who were affected by the challenging environment they were working in. Then talk about how their lives became better, easier, more fun, or less stressful after using your solution.
4. Making the Customer the Hero
Every story has a hero. Who is the hero of your story? Is it your company and/or solution? If the answer is yes, then you need to rework your story – and make the customer the hero. The customer is the one who needs to save the day, not you. Your role is that of the mentor. You are there to help your customers see what has changed in their world and how they can adapt and better survive and thrive.
5. Using 3D Props
There are many ways to tell a story. But one extremely effective – and underutilized – technique is to use 3D props. Props break the pattern of what’s expected – and can make the prospect sit up and pay attention. Props make a metaphor or analogy tangible. Props create a physical reminder, and can continue selling even when you’ve left the room.
Selling Techniques that Don’t Work
1. Selling Benefits
Everyone knows you need to sell benefits not features, right? Well, no. If you start your customer conversation with benefits, you’re jumping the gun when it comes to how most prospects are looking at their first interactions with you and your company. Remember that 20 to 60 percent of pipeline deals are lost to the status quo. That means that you need to establish a buying vision – the case for why the prospect needs to change – before your solution’s benefits will resonate. That means you need to effectively challenge the status quo and show how the prospect’s world can change for the better (see Selling Techniques that Work #1).
2. Competing in a Bake-Off
When you position yourself against your competitors, you’re competing in a vendor bake-off. It’s a “spec war” and you might gain the upper hand with one feature, but then the competition meets your feature and raises another. In the process, you and your competition are often having a very similar dialogue with the prospect, leading to the dreaded “no decision.” Instead of talking to the prospect about “why us,” focus instead on challenging the status quo by getting the prospect to think about “why change” and “why now,” and demonstrate the truly unique value of your solution (see Selling Techniques That Work #2).
3. Marketing to Personas
Many marketers use personas to develop messaging. And, on the face of it, it seems to makes sense: defining the profile of your prospect will enable you to develop messages targeted to that profile. The problem is that personas are typically defined by who the prospect is – demographics and behaviors. But the need to change is not driven by a persona. The fact that a prospect shares similar characteristics with the persona isn’t what causes them to re-think their current approach and consider your solution as a new way to solve their problems. Instead of developing messages based on personas, focus on how to convince prospects that the status quo they are standing on is “unsafe,” then show them how life is better with your solution (see Selling Techniques that Work #3).
4. Relying on the Standard Elevator Pitch
According to Wikipedia, an elevator pitch is “a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.” And just about every sales organization under the sun spends a lot of time trying to perfect that pitch. The problem is that the standard elevator pitch tells your story – not your prospect’s story. So instead of spending time refining your elevator pitch, focus on building the story that features your customer as the hero (see Selling Techniques That Work #4).
5. Delivering PowerPoint Presentations
The PowerPoint presentation has become the de facto go-to approach for sales meetings. Marketing churns out slides, then salespeople turn out the lights and rely on logo slides, bullet points, and animations to do the selling for them. The problem isn’t with PowerPoint itself but with how it’s used – and there is a time and place for it. But when you’re in intimate, executive conversations, use visual techniques that can really make an impact. Instead of spending time refining your slide deck, focus on telling a compelling story and using props to pique your prospect’s interest (see Selling Techniques that Work #5).
Corporate Visions has developed a portfolio of solutions to help your sales organization develop, refine, and use the sales techniques that will be most effective for your business.
Learn more about this topic
Check out these resources to help you ensure your organization is using the most effective sales techniques to close more deals faster:
- Report: Sales & Marketing Messaging Report Q3 2009 – State of the Sales Call
- On-demand webinar: Growth Gap: Breaking the Status Quo Barrier
- Executive briefing: Experience our solutions for yourself in a three-hour, executive briefing session near you