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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Problem Based Selling is not the only way!

I enjoy The Inflexion-Point Blog, they often address current issues in Sales and Marketing and are well written. However, on The 10 Key Questions your Business Model Must Address.

We disagreed on the first one.

1: What business critical problems do you solve for your customers?

Why this is important: because unless your prospect acknowledges a clear and compelling business problem, you have little opportunity to sell them a solution.

This, 'Problem Solving', is still being offered as a holy grail, and certainly Prospects with a “compelling business problem” are likely to buy. But, I will not wait to find these nuggets. We have to include in the Sales spectrum Prospects that don’t have compelling business problems. Instead I also have to search for prospects that would be interested in an opportunity!

We label Prospects with 'compelling business problems' as “Opportunities”, but we mean THEY have a problem.
And, WE have a Sales Opportunity.

In “Opportunistic” Selling we invert this.
We look for Prospects with Opportunities then we have the Problem of delivering on it!

Prospects do signal their ‘opportunities’ to us,
with key phrases “If only…..” or
“What we really could use would be….”

Sales don’t listen because they are not
compelling business problems”, and
they seldom fit our standard product offer!

What is the key ‘quality’ in Opportunistic Selling? Imagination!

Both Seller and Buyer need Imagination.

The rudimentary skills were initially described in Miller, Heiman and Tuleja’s “Conceptual Selling”(1987), however, in my opinion, this has now been diluted with an emphasis on 'Finding Problems' and using a Sales Process based on 'Problem Solving'.

In the original text P.280 they outline the concept of Valid Business Reason,
and in Ch. 12 they give as one Criteria of Valid Business Reason:

“Related to their business (not necessarily to your Product)”

It’s worth defining the Two Selling Styles to clarify and distinguish between them:

“Problem/Solution” Selling is based upon Problem Solving where the Prospect has
an unfavourable set of circumstances which, if not addressed, will damage their business.

Opportunistic” Selling is based on uncovering an opportunity,
a favourable set of circumstances in the Prospect’s business environment,
which if taken advantage of will improve their Business.

This is not semantics;

it IS semantics to argue that a Customer’s "Problem" is also their "Opportunity".

Here is a Harvard Business Review article saying the same thing, but SPIN® based!

A concrete example:

A client is ordering a small incremental data storage upgrade.
They still have a single point of failure. (Which is NOT perceived by the Client as a Compelling Business Problem as the MTBF is 10 years and they have had no issues for last 3 years).

The Salesperson engages the Buyer’s imagination by asking:
“What their ‘Ideal’ Data Storage System would be, if they had no legacy system or cost constraints?”

The Prospect imaginatively describes a ‘Mirrored’ Data Storage System,
with Geographical and Mains Power separation, a truly 'no single point of failure' Data Storage System.

Now, the Prospect has an Opportunity and the Seller has a Problem,
how to overcome the Cost and Legacy constraints and take the Prospect to their “Ideal” solution.

Or, they can just take the order for the small incremental upgrade and
hope that an Opportunistic Sales Competitor doesn’t ask the same question and solve the Problems!

Top Performers 'Engage Emotionally' with Prospects


In looking at what makes a great salesperson, I would include a factor,
which is that: “They ‘Engage Emotionally’ with the Prospect.”

This manifests itself in that, Sales Top Performers Understand their Prospects “substantive” Issues.

Further, they are able to discern their Customer/Prospect’s “Emotional Issues”;
anxieties, fears, uncertainties and doubts,
which will often be expressed as
“Pseudo-substantive issues”.




These are the “Pseudo-substantive” issues that often cause the conflict
between Seller and Buyer.

The Seller “Behaviour”, which is significantly different in Top Performers,
is their ability to confront and to reconcile, reaching an agreement or harmony with the Prospect.

These conciliatory gestures may take the form of either Questions or Statements, are based on openness, which makes the Salesperson Vulnerable.  Expressions of sorrow or regret may be used for past occurrences (even if the salesperson held no direct responsibility or liability).

Top Sales Performers show a marked increase in personal disclosure;

of their thoughts, feelings, motivation and past history.

They also seek feedback and accept direct personal responsibility for the outcomes.
They are able, appropriately, to express positive feelings towards the Prospect
including affection, admiration and respect.
This is the emotional basis upon which they build, to initiate a search for mutual-gain outcomes.

Although these appear to be ‘soft skills’,
their execution and use is in ‘hard’ Interpersonal Behaviour usage.

Top Performers have a Behavioural range including Questions, Statements, Suggestions, Checking Understanding and Comment Summaries which enable a Prospect’s conversation
to encompass their Emotional Issues, comfortably.

Emotional Engagement, as I am describing it, is improvised in real time.
The Process, which is not story telling, attempts to limit 3 key factors:

· Ambivalence,
· Projection and
· Polarisation.

Buyers feel ‘Ambivalence’ about Sales People, they are both attracted and repelled at the same time,
and this is Cognitive Dissonance.  Un-aided the Buyer will adjust their perception to
Sellers cannot be trusted” or “I trust this Person”.

Since it is the second condition, which we as sales people desire,
then we behave in a manner that engenders trust,
i.e. sincerity, truthfulness and open disclosure.

The Buyer will often ‘Project’ either their own “undesirable characteristics” onto the Seller,
or the “undesirable characteristics” of previous Salespeople  onto the Seller.

“I am economical with the truth, therefore this salesperson will also be economical with the truth”.

They do this again to reduce their Cognitive Dissonance,
we should not validate “Projected” Characteristics, and instead we establish Trustworthy Characteristics.

Finally, ‘Polarisation’ is to be avoided.
The sales person believes that they are truthful and sincere, whereas the Buyer believes sales people are inherently untruthful and insincere. Reaching agreement with Polarised views, can be impossible.
Tolerating the ambivalence can enable agreement.

Hence to move the Buyer position to:
“Sales people are inherently untruthful (their belief), but on this occasion, this seller appears truthful”.
Is congruent with their belief but allows latitude in behaviour.
The salesperson has to “accept” the Buyer’s view that “Sellers are inherently untruthful”.
Yet, exhibit behaviours that will show the Buyer’s belief ‘unjustified’ on this occasion with this Seller.

“Emotional Engagement” is for both parties Buyer and Seller, an Intra-Personal and an Inter-Personal Process. Whether we acknowledge it, or not, it is present during every Complex Choice,
and as Sellers we ignore it at our peril.

Just as an aside, this is all from Mainstream ‘Regular’ Psychology, mainly Behavioural Psychology,
i.e. the ‘SPIN’ School. However, it includes some Cognitive Psychology from CBT,
especially the view that emotions (feelings) stem from thoughts and beliefs.

It is not, “New Wave” or ‘pseudo’ Psych, or NLP,

or EI (‘Emotional Intelligence’).

Sales Emotional Engagement is Sales Skills based.

Behavioural Modification (B.Mod.), in our Own Behaviour to achieve an appropriate Modification in our Buyer’s Behaviour. It is akin to pre-call Questioning Preparation to identify Buyer’s needs or pain points.
The difference is this preparation is to minimise Ambivalence, Projection and Polarisation.
It used to be called “Empathy”, except we couldn’t measure or compare empathy.