The competitive sales world continues to change faster now than any time in history. We were all taught in sales school 101 the key to success was based on how well we could differentiate our solution. That differentiation was typically expected to be “solution centric” – better fit, function, or features!
My personal coaching experience, especially for large IT opportunities, is that the pursuit teams are totally overinvested in their solutions… to the detriment of their competitiveness.
The buying executives’ lives continue to move and change faster than ever before. As a result, executives have less time for each project and frankly, they lose patience with any salesperson that talks all about their solution and company. Dramatic solution commoditization minimizes this approach. So, how do we differentiate in this new world?
In your sales call strategy, there are three key areas of differentiation which will set you apart from the competition.
The first differentiator is YOU. When making a first call to an executive, their first judgement call is about you! Within the first 60 seconds of your meeting, they will qualify you based upon their judgement of your credibility and whether they believe you are someone worth spending time with.
Their agreement to meet you is based upon their belief you are going to have a point of view that may be worth listening to. Several years ago, I was coaching a young Business Development Executive, and the motto she adopted for her sales call strategy was “never to execute any call without having a point of view.” The fact that she was prepared to take this risk has ensured her advancement into a world-class Business Development Executive and Account Manager.
In offering your point of view on the client’s marketplace, competition, their clients, and industry trends, the approach needs to be authentic and transparent. If the executive feels they are being “sold to” then they will not engage nor reciprocate the discussion. If your point of view is slightly off the mark, it is your authenticity that will encourage a dialogue and engagement about other subjects.
The second differentiator is your APPROACH. While your competitors will be focused on gaining interest in their solution, the new approach is to achieve interest in collaboration. The sole objective of a first executive call is to gain agreement they are prepared to commit their valuable resources to further explore your ideas together. The focus of this path is not to create a specific solution, but to engage around the potential business case. This ensures the collaborative path is kept at a business-level, allowing for the solution to be finalized after the business case has been approved.
The more structured the collaboration, the better. For example, ask the executive if s/he is prepared to commit a small team to investigate your ideas over a specific period, say 30 days, at which time the collaborative results would be presented back. Another rule some salespeople impose on themselves is to not discuss the solution for the first three meetings when creating demand. This can force you to talk about the client’s world, and in doing so, improves your probability of success.
The third area of differentiation is your COMPANY. Business executives are living in their own company’s fast, rapidly changing competitive environment. They are concerned by the time a “solution” is finally implemented, their world has already moved on and the solution may already be outpaced by new developments in the competitive marketplace. Therefore, they are focused on the company they are going to partner with, and what the nature of the buying journey is going to be. They are increasingly interested in your company’s attributes, ethics, culture, corporate responsibility, and flexibility. How will your company serve them when something inevitably goes wrong?
They know a company is only as good as its people, so even more importantly, they would like to meet and evaluate the actual people they would be working with. This way they can determine whether the company’s brand is continuing to be strong and attracting new high-caliber people, or if other companies are winning in the talent wars.
The key judgement for most business executives buying a solution or entering a business partnership is if your company will be a good partner to address their constantly changing needs. Will you help them remain successful in the years to come?
Incorporating these three core differentiators into your sales call strategy will enable you to create demand early in the sales cycle and set yourself apart from the competitor right from day one.
Be brave and take the risk of having a point of view and see if you can resist talking about your solution for three meetings!
Be bold and take up the challenge! Create a call plan for an executive contact using the Revenue Storm Encounter PlanTM Template. Develop a point of view and seek a collaborative path over a specific period of time. Paint the vision of how the journey might look and focus on your companies’ attributes for service as an assure.