Selling at its best consists of a series of conversations with buyers. During these conversations, the salesperson's objective is to uncover and understand the buyer's needs, problems, desires, and goals. As the salesperson learns about the buyer's circumstances, he or she also begins to position the company's offerings. An additional benefit of a competent diagnosis is that the root causes of why the buyer cannot achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need are clarified.
Selling organizations would dearly love to influence and steer these conversations. But this seems like an impossibly ambitious and far-reaching objective—so ambitious, in fact, that most such organizations that have considered it have dismissed it out of hand. In this chapter, we lay out a strategy to accomplish that goal.
No, you can't anticipate all potential interactions with buyers at all levels. You can't "boil the ocean," as the saying goes. (And most likely, the salesperson who went in with the boiled ocean crammed into his head would be a poor conversationalist.) So our approach is to help the salesperson orchestrate conversations with targeted decision makers and influencers about specific business issues addressable with their offering. After having such a buyer share a goal, we help the salesperson follow one of a number of flexible scenarios.
Looking at this issue from another perspective, companies that fail to step up to the challenge of influencing sales conversations are abdicating an enormous degree of responsibility to their salespeople. They are asking their salespeople to interpret and communicate the capabilities of their products single-handedly.
So let's begin with the three conditions that must exist in order to have an effective sales conversation about an offering:
The buyer's title (or function) and vertical industry must be known.
The buyer must share a business goal or admit a business problem.
The seller's offerings must have capabilities that a targeted buyer can use to achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need—and, of course, the seller must understand and articulate those capabilities.
Given these three conditions, we believe, organizations can help their traditional salespeople have these kinds of sales conversations. They can create Sales-Primed Communications—a way of approaching a conversation that greatly increases the chances of success.