Strategy versus Implementation
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Have you ever competed in an athletic event totally convinced that your game plan was “right on” but as it turned out your execution was dreadful? You repeatedly hear highly successful coaches, after a disappointing defeat, say that they had a great game plan but their players and coaches didn’t execute. This not only happens in sports but in business as well; a well thought out business plan can’t be implemented if the staff is not in alignment, lacks the knowledge, discipline and essential skills to carry out the great plan.
Sales organizations and sales professionals have been searching for decades to discover innovative approaches to strategically position their companies, products and services as the best or only choice. Selling organizations attempt to position their offerings as valuable solutions to current problems while buying organizations attempt to commoditize those same offerings. With the significant growth in technology that provides endless sources of information for buyers, an increasing number of products and services are readily available through e-commerce alternatives. When buyers have access to the necessary information and there are clear, simple choices, transactional business is definitely the way to go for both sellers and buyers. Everybody can win!
But what happens when the circumstances are more complex? When just presenting the features and benefits of a product or service doesn’t really enable the client to make an intelligent buying decision? Enter Relationship, Solution or Consultative Selling. While not new approaches, they are getting a great deal of press lately.
So, here’s the rub. If this is just a new marketing story while sales people continue to behave the same old way, forget it. Too many companies approach new selling strategies this way and quite frankly, clients are not buying it. If sales people simply describe their products as solutions without appropriately diagnosing the state of affairs, clients will see right through the strategy. A great strategy, poorly executed or implemented will result in lack-luster performance and continue to promote the negative bias that clients have about sales people. Think about it; don’t you often react to sales people that way?
If you truly want to transition yourself or your team, give serious thought to the steps that must be taken to create a team of professional business advisors.
Your company must change its focus from concentrating on your product or service and become immersed in your clients’ business. Learn everything you can about their business and industry; how they create value for their clients, produce revenue and generate profits. Your team must also learn all about their clients’ business so that they can strategically position themselves as trusted advisors. I refer to that as selling through rather than selling to.
In a transactional sales strategy, the primary contact is the buyer (cost manager) and/or the consumers of your product or service. Their primary focus is on establishing price and performance criteria. If you’ve decided to develop a more consultative, solutions sales approach, you must develop multiple relationships at every level in your clients’ organization. And that includes the folks in the “C” Suite (profit managers).
Most sales people are uncomfortable at this level; they don’t have the business savvy or the understanding of the business’ financial building blocks. “C’ level contacts don’t want to hear about your products; they are interested in how you can assist them in addressing the critical issues involved in building a sustainable business.
Finally, ask most sales people to describe their relationship building process and you will get a blank stare or they’ll say, “I just do it.” Well, that’s not good enough. The skills involved in building influential relationships are crucial to any effort in becoming a trusted business advisor to your clients. It is clearly a process and not just an event.
In a transactional approach, the focus is on product presentations, uncovering and handling objections and skillfully closing the sales. This approach has worked for years and has enabled companies and their sales people to become big earners. Nevertheless, in this era, when clients have so much accessible information, so many first-class choices, and a desire to reduce the number of companies with which they’re willing to do business, the sales process has become far more complex.
To actually be recognized as a consultative sales professional one must be knowledgeable about business. They have to be well trained in interpersonal communications with the ability to be an active listener and skilled in the art of asking questions. Consultants are great diagnosticians! They assist their clients in identifying the primary issues that are causing pain and help them to confirm and prioritize their clients’ focus and efforts. They assist their clients in identifying the most effective solutions even when it’s not a solution they can provide. They are truly a business advisor and if they execute this behavior professionally, they will earn the respect, trust, loyalty and in the end, all of the business.
If you are seriously considering transitioning towards a solution or consultative sales approach, begin by assessing overall selling skills and determine how you will properly prepare your team for this winning sales strategy. Remember, nothing hurts more than a great game plan poorly executed.
Want more information? Visit www.peakfocuscoach.com