It’s critical to spend time with customers beyond the initial transaction, providing value and building engagement and alignment.
Still, most customers devote less than 2% of their time dealing with the salespeople who supply the goods or services they buy.
The way to stand out
Because customers today are under pressure to accomplish more objectives using fewer resources, a growing number rely on salespeople to help them make effective buying decisions.
This is one of the greatest challenges salespeople face today. To add value to their customers, salespeople need to know a significant amount about customers’ businesses before making the first presentation.
Doing research helps
Find out where your customers are coming from, how they view your products or services and why they should be doing business with you. Use this information to position your product or service and build a customer profile.
This information will also help you become known as an idea person. If you develop a strong reputation as a person who can be counted on for new, innovative ideas, you’ll be in demand by customers and prospects. Knowledge is your most important product.
To win the battle of “customer mindshare,” you want to occupy more space in your customers’ minds.
Here are 10 proven strategies that will help:
- Research the organization. What’s going on with the customer that’s significant? How does the firm deliver value to its buyers? What firms are its strategic allies? What companies are its rivals? How does your customer handle purchasing? Who makes purchasing decisions?
- Explore the possibilities. Your customers have no time to waste, so your timing is crucial. Your research should tell you what matters most to them. Think about the goals and problems that dominate their attention. Discuss these issues knowledgeably to engage them in a distinctive, memorable way.
- Visualize the success. Instead of taking about a sale, help create a vision that makes things better for the customer. Help the customer visualize future success, and discuss how to make that vision a reality. The vision should include how you and your product or service will add genuine value to the customer.
- Elevate the conversation. Engage in a higher level strategic conversation about helping your customers create value. Focus on what the customers care about and not on what you care about. Route the conversation to what your customers want to accomplish, why it matters to them and how you can help them achieve this goal. Prioritize the customers’ targets and the needs they want to fill.
- Discover the drivers. Gather information about the external drivers that compel your customers to adapt their operations and objectives. External drivers are circumstances that your customers can’t control and that affect their companies. Ask value-focused questions to uncover the customers’ drivers.
- Differentiate the value. Break down the elements of your product or service’s unique differentiable value. Your value difference represents more than product features and benefits. It must fulfill the customer’s goals and be sustainable over time. Even if products are nearly the same, there are always ways to differentiate, such as service, delivery, product durability, and company reputation.
- Meet and exceed customer expectations. Customers don’t want salespeople to vanish after the sale. Once you close the sale, leverage your momentum to grow with the customer. Develop the strongest possible connections and extend your success to new opportunities. Customers expect you to deliver the value you promised and to maintain the relationships you’ve built.
- Apply lessons learned with your customers. A customer’s circumstances after the sale will be different than at the time of the sale. Adapt to the changed situation to maintain a viable relationship. Streamline your systems to resolve any customer problems. Engage strategically with the customer and make any future course corrections.
- Expand the relationship. Summarize how your customer secured value by buying from you. Try to help your customer attain additional success over time.
- Discover the leverage points. Salespeople have more leverage than they think. Customers usually won’t tell you about scheduling problems or quality issues with competitive products. Salespeople need to be patient and probe for solutions that have nothing to do with price concessions.
Adapted from: Beyond the Sales Process, by Steve Anderson and Dave Stein. Anderson founded Performance Methods Inc., which provides customized sales management solutions. Stein is the author of How Winners Sell.