The # 1 competitor you face today isn’t another company. It’s the customer’s decision to do nothing, to make no change at all.
You can hear your #1 competitor talking, every time a prospect voices a value objection. Objections like “I can’t afford it,” “It’s not a priority,” It’s not in our budget, “ “We have bigger problems,” or “We’re doing OK with what we have.” Or, worse, the customer goes silent even if you had a great first conversation.
With objections like this, the customer is telling you that the value they perceive that you offer isn’t big enough to offset what they think it will cost to implement something new.
To win against this most difficult of all competitors you have to help the customer appreciate the value in taking action. And the best way to do that is to widen the gap between where the customer thinks they are now versus where they could be. The wider the gap, the bigger the value they will perceive in making a change.
In the spirit of trying to create a sales process which is user friendly, easy to remember, tactical, and increases adoption rates post training, I have created different visual metaphors which represent the sales consulting roles for each step of the buying process. The sales role for defining customer needs is that of a “doctor”. A doctor helps the patient diagnose the cause of his or her own discontent. A doctor helps you understand potential complications which could develop – how things will get worse – if you don’t do anything now to cure an ailment.
Here are two tips that will help you widen this gap and overcome the customer’s inertia to do nothing by adopting the sales role of a doctor:
Tip 1: Identify more customer needs. Too often, we as salespeople take the first need the customer talks about for granted. While that is the issue of greatest concern for the prospect at that time, you don’t know why they think that need is their biggest issue. And it may not be. For all you know, the first need they mention may be something identified by one of your competitors in a meeting the day before.
So don’t stop with talking about only the first need you discuss with a prospective client. Use your knowledge of what similar customers have needed in the past to explore additional problems or needs the customer hadn’t previously considered.
Tip 2: Diagnose the cause and impact of each problem. One reason customers frequently under-value the possibility of making a change is because they haven’t evaluated the true costs of their problems. Here’s a sequence of questions that can expose the full impact of a problem:
- What is the history? — This sets a baseline for the customer, and will give you valuable background information.
- What symptoms have surfaced? — What has the customer noticed that doesn’t seem right, or could be improved upon?
- What do they think is causing the problem? — Many salespeople skip over this step, which is a mistake. Often, an underlying cause will have more than one symptom. You simply cannot make a compelling sales presentation if you don’t know the underlying causes of the customer’s problems. By getting the customer to think about causes, you’re setting them for the next question…
- What complications have they’ve noticed?— What other problems are caused by the first one? Ask about the impact on customer relationships, efficiency, quality, revenue, or any other outcome the customer could observe or measure.
Whether you are a sales professional or a sales manager, think of a current opportunity and ask yourself, “do we know the answers to these questions?” If we don’t know the answers how can we expect the customer to know the value of our solution?
When customers perceive they have more and larger needs than they previously thought, they will recognize the urgency of taking action. That’s how you can defeat your # 1 competitor – and motivate your customers to buy now!
Adapted from “Slow Down, Sell Faster! : Understand Your Customer’s Buying Process” by Kevin Davis. Mr. Davis, president of TopLine Leadership, is a sales & sales management trainer.