Why is selling inappropriate?

No pitch

 

This is the first of three blog posts which will explain why the sales pitch has been banished to Room 101, is a thing of the past, and is no longer the way to grow your business. There will be three posts because there are three reasons why the ‘sell something’ approach is now inappropriate.

Don' sell 2

Let’s start in this post with the world as we buyers experience it today, compared with the world of yesteryear. I want to explain why the old adage ‘caveat emptor’ has been supplemented by the new adage ‘caveat venditor’. Why nowadays ‘seller beware’ is just as appropriate as ‘buyer beware’.

In previous times the balance of power between buyer and seller favoured the seller. Sellers knew the features and benefits of their products and services. They also knew their shortcomings and limitations. They had a good understanding of the salient characteristics of the products and services available from their competitors. Buyers on the other hand were relatively powerless as the information they wanted in order to make their decision about what to buy (and how much to pay) could only be obtained from the sellers.

In the corporate world this meant buyers would invite in a number of sellers of the things they were interested in purchasing. I remember well the various ‘dog and pony’ shows I attended as the various vendors came to my office to present their wares. It was like pulling teeth to get the information I needed; and when I eventually dragged as much as possible out of each of them, I was left with the task (and commercial risk) of trying to make sense of all the data which was almost certainly in different formats. It really was like comparing apples with pears; ‘buyer beware’ indeed!

Just think how different my procurement life would have been if I had the access to information that we all have nowadays. In the world today information is far more freely available. Indeed, we have the potential of the opposite problem – too much information.

Later in my career I actually became the seller rather than the buyer. Sales training was intense and regular and we were taught how to sell snow to the Eskimos. My world was ABC – Always Be Closing! If my product or service only delivered 80% of the solution desired by the buyer, that was fine because 80% is better than nothing, is better than what the buyer was current receiving, is better for me because my remuneration was based on the sale, not on the customer satisfaction, which was the responsibility of Operations.

einstein-always-be-closingThe availability of information has fundamentally changed the balance of power between buyer and seller. Buyers use their search engines to get internet access to all the information about the product or service they are considering. A lot of this information is provided by the suppliers of the products or services, so they retain some power in the sense they control what is presented and how it is presented. However, they have almost no control over the myriad of web pages providing information about their products or services that are published by independent reviewers that buyers can easily access. Even worse for sellers, user reviews are also widely available as sources of information for buyers giving sometimes brutally frank feedback (when did you last book a hotel room without checking out the feedback given by previous visitors?)

In days long gone there was information asymmetry, an imbalance of information between sellers and buyers. Nowadays, there is information parity – meaning ‘caveat emptor’ and ‘caveat venditor’ both apply. This is the first reason why the sales pitch is now inappropriate.

With information parity comes a need for each party to develop a deep understanding of the other party, to respect the information each party has, and to focus on finding the right questions to ask.

Right questions_DemingIf you are not a natural sales person, feel discomfort when assuming the sales role and would like to remain true to who you really are as a professional trying to grow their business, I commend my alternative to you. The ALIGNED framework and the Cialdini materials are now available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the Congruent Client Attraction System™ respectively. These can be delivered into your business through a variety of mechanisms – let’s discuss what would be the ideal solution for your business – contact me here piw@wttresults.co.uk

Don't sell

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Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – final post of series

We have reached the final post in this series covering the ALIGNED framework that enables clients enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with us without us needing to be expert in the (nowadays inappropriate) ways of Sales. It will be brief because it is a very simple point simply put. The final stage of the ALIGNED framework is ‘Decide or die’.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

Alignment_MandhyanBy this I mean that the prospective client should make a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision. As the professional, you should confidently ask for a decision. Don’t permit the option of thinking about it because, if you allow them to defer their decision, the opportunity is dead to you. Mourn if you must, but move on elegantly, having built a greater connection with your prospective customer. You have had the opportunity to deploy effectively several ‘Weapons of Influence’. You should have used all six of them in a very skilled and engaging way. You will have strengthened the person’s propensity to buy from you in the future.

no or yesThere is no right or wrong here, just reality. There is no failure here, only feedback. If they say ‘no’ you won’t waste time chasing the currently unachievable, but you will have strengthened a relationship. In my experience, a ‘no’ can turn into a subsequent ‘yes’ without me expending any more effort.

By doing your job well, you have substantially improved the likelihood that they will enthusiastically say ‘Yes!’ to you. They will be so enthusiastic that they will become a fan and want to tell others about how great their experience has been. In this case, remember to celebrate!

Remember the words of the old song, ‘don’t you mess with Mister In-Between!’ Any response that is neither ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ is Mister In-Between!

accentuate scriptThe seven stages of the ALIGNED framework are available as the Congruent Business Development System™ and the precursor materials based on Robert Cialdini’s ‘Weapons of Influence’ are available as the Congruent Client Attraction System™. Both systems can be delivered into your business in a variety of ways that are tailored to your specific desires, needs and situation. Unsurprisingly, I work with you to use the ALIGNED framework to enable us to determine the best solution for your business. If either system or both prove not to be the ideal solution then I will try to help you find an alternative from another source. I certainly won’t be messing with Mister In-Between!

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from www.dancewiththeelephants.com

 

 

Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – post 6 of 7

So here we are at last, you are going to be able to fulfil that natural desire to problem-solve, to finally construct your solution, to meet all the needs of your prospective client. We are at the penultimate stage of the ALIGNED framework – ‘Elegant Solutions’.

 

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

aligned posture

Once you have permission to move to the next stage, pause to explain briefly what will happen next. You are going to take a moment to consider everything that has been discussed and will now, for the first time, think about whether or not you can provide the solution that is the best for them. Remind them of what was discussed right at the beginning of your conversation with them – that you will only have them as a client if you have the best solutions for them, and that you will try to find an alternative if you and your company do not have the best solutions for them. At this stage, I may choose to also remind them of my commitment to them (that is, to enable them to be the best they want to be).

Now take some time to weigh up everything you now know. Be creative in building your possible solutions for them. Don’t just trot out in your mind the ‘same old, same old’ for you to consider using. Honour and respect your prospective client by diligently answering the questions ‘Can I provide the perfect fit?’, ‘Can I truly delight them as a client?’, ‘Can this client become one of my fans?’ Ensure your solution is elegant in form, that it enables them to achieve their nirvana and that it addresses any barriers to success you discovered earlier. This is the most important moment in determining whether they will say an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ to you.

Don't sellIn crafting your solution, give them what they want or graciously decline their business. It is time for a congruence check before you outline your proposed solutions. Are you absolutely certain you are the best fit? Have you truly taken into account everything you know? On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you? If you do not have the best solution, the perfect way of addressing all their needs and desires, that which will make them an ardent fan and advocate, tell them that and agree that you are not the best provider for them at this time.

If you rate 10, then it’s time to present your proposed solution. How you present your proposal must be congruent with you, so you must develop a way of presenting it that shows your genuine sincerity and your congruence. This is another learnable skill.

What you present should cover your proposed solution, how it will solve the problem and what consequences it will have for your prospective client. Bear in mind your ‘Weapons of Influence’ when presenting your ‘what’. For example, emphasise the scarcity of the totally bespoke solution you have crafted and honed for them alone, if that is what you have done. Explain how the Well-Formed Outcome will be achieved, what life will be like for them as a result and the value they will get, from the least valuable to the highest. (In our previous example, that would be everything from saving time in unproductive conversations, through more sales and more profits, and everything else leading to the more highly valued quality time with their loved ones.) You should also cover the pain that will be taken away and the value that will be created for them as your client. You should outline how your solution elegantly avoids any of the potential obstacles identified earlier. Outline your proposal using appropriate and collaborative language (‘you’, ‘your’, ‘our’, ‘we’ and so on).

jigsawDon’t rush when presenting your solution. Make sure you do so at a pace that is comfortable for your client. Remember to match their words and their body language. Allow them sufficient opportunity to assimilate your solution so that it can become your joint commitment. Then ask if they think they fully understand the solution and the consequent impacts on their pain (using their words) and the value that will be created for them (in their words). If they indicate they do fully understand, and you agree that they do, tell them you know they understand. Specific and explicit agreements should be verbalised, honoured and celebrated.

The next post is the last in this series – ‘Decide or die’.

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from www.dancewiththeelephants.com

Enabling clients and prospects enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ – post 5 of 7

We have reached the fifth stage of the ALIGNED framework for enabling clients enthusiastically to say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with us. To manage expectations right from the beginning, we are still not yet at the point of identifying what our solution might be, although we are getting close. So stay focused on the prospective client, and guard against thinking about possible solutions for a little while longer.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

 Alignment_Mandhyan

Nirvana: the Well-Formed Outcome

The next logical step is to build the Well-Formed Outcome with your prospective client in order to create their nirvana, their state of perfection. The Well-Formed Outcome is their Big Dream, Crafted Well, Engaging All, as outlined in ‘Dance with the Elephants’. Building the Well-Formed Outcome with potential clients is a learnable skill that improves with practice. Remember to get them to express their Well-Formed Outcome using all of their senses – hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting and smelling.

 WFO_1

Over time, you will form your own unique and congruent way of building the Well-Formed Outcome with prospective clients. I am deliberately not giving you the words, questions and interventions that work for me as these are only congruent with me. You must find a way of building the Well-Formed Outcome with prospective clients that is congruent with you.

At the same time, help your prospective client to discover those things that might stop them going ahead. It is far better to recognise these things at this stage. The more skilled you are at building the Well-Formed Outcome, the more committed your client will be to getting around the obstacles that could prevent them achieving their Big Dreams. The bigger the Well-Formed Outcome, the more trivial the potential obstacles seem to the client.

Dream-Big

When you and the client have finished building the Well-Formed Outcome, summarise and reprise it, playing their exact words back to them. Tell the client you think you have fully understood everything. If there is anything at all that you are not totally clear about, resolve that lack of clarity with the client now. Don’t be tempted to proceed based on the 90% you do understand. You must be congruent here – if you have not really understood it all, you won’t be able to decide whether or not you can provide the perfect solution that will truly delight your prospective client and enable them to attain their Well-Formed Outcome. When you are certain you have understood it all and are ready to decide, question them to find out whether they think that you have understood everything. It is important for you to obtain their permission to decide whether or not you have the perfect solution. I might ask questions such as ‘Are you as sure as you can be that I understand?’ or ‘Is there any doubt in your mind?’ When you have their permission, you can move to the penultimate and most important stage. Only now are you finally about to be freed from the confines of staying on task, focusing on them.

We will explore how you can use your newly-found freedom in the next post as we examine the next stage in the ALIGNED framework – ‘Elegant Solutions’.

There is greater detail about the ALIGNED framework in the book ‘Dance with the Elephants’ available from www.dancewiththeelephants.com

 

 

 

Helping clients and prospects to say ‘Yes!’ – 3rd post of 7

In this series of posts, I am outlining the ALIGNED framework for enabling people to enthusiastically say ‘Yes!’ to doing business with you. This third post will cover ‘Injuries and Pains’ – the third of the seven stages of ALIGNED.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

From the second stage, your prospective customer now has a very clear grasp of what they want, and what the value of having it is to them. At the moment, though, they have neither the solution nor the value. So it’s time to connect them with their injuries and pains. The principles in this stage are the same as in the previous stage. The quality of your listening will affect the quality of their thinking. Listen and understand their pain(s) and don’t let any part of your brain start working on solutions.

Good ListeningBuild the value with them – albeit negative value this time. In the last stage of ALIGNED we had the Value Escalator; in this phase it is time for the Pain Spiral. Try to understand not only the symptoms but also the impact. Understand they are wasting time (how much?) in unproductive conversations with prospective customers, but also understand the pain of not spending enough quality time with their loved ones as a result. Do not do what I just did: I went from wasted time to insufficient time with their loved ones in one step. Tease out all the intervening steps (they don’t have enough sales, they don’t have enough profits, they don’t have a stress-free life and so on). Build the (negative) value – their real pain. It is just as important as in the last stage that you give time to the process of discovering just how significant their injuries and pains are.

Pain scale

Your language and body language again need to demonstrate your sincerity, empathy and compassion. Do not diminish your focus on their pain by starting to think about your solutions! Instead give them your time and full attention, and allow them to see that you understand both their injuries and pain and their Big Dreams equally.

Take time to understand what they have tried in the past. Be curious not judgemental, as judgement will conflict with building empathy and rapport. Remember to acknowledge their partial successes as their failures are part of their pain. ‘Failures’ are the way we humans learn best and helping them to understand the feedback their experiences offer them will build deep rapport between you.

It may be useful to contrast and compare their injuries and pains (and the negative pain associated with them) with the benefits of their Big Dreams that you discussed in the second stage, however beware the danger of wallowing in the misery and balance it with the positives of their Big Dreams.

One more reminder, do not think solutions at the stage. Focus instead on them, not on you.

Next time, we’ll move on to stage 4 – the ‘G’ of ALIGNED.

Helping clients and prospects to say ‘Yes!’ – part 2 of 7

In the second post in this series covering the ALIGNED framework for growing your business I will cover the second stage ‘Learn their situation and desires’.

A Assume control
L Learn their situation and desires
I Injuries and pains
G Get commitment
N Nirvana – the Well-Formed Outcome
E Elegant solutions
D Decide or die

You know your prospective customer has identified that they want a solution, but you don’t have enough information yet. It may be that they don’t have enough information yet either. The ALIGNED process is designed to enable both of you to really understand what the ideal solution would be. The process of jointly identifying the desired solution, the full benefits it will bring, and the pain it will take away is the basis of building a strong and mutual commitment to a solution. If the process leads to a mutual understanding that you cannot provide the best solution on this occasion, you will still have built a stronger relationship which may deliver benefits later.

Magic wand

It may be that your prospective customer hasn’t given the time to think through the result they really want. If they had a magic wand, how would they use it? If their wildest dreams came true, how would that be for them? Encourage them to remove all the practicalities that might limit their imagination about what they would really want. Allow and encourage them to dream big. Your focus should be on connecting them with what they would really like to hear, see and feel (and possibly taste and smell) in the future. Do not rush here; rather let them build and build and build. Make sure you are really listening. Clear your mind of any other thoughts than what they are telling you through their words and body language. It is important to use the exact words they use as it really demonstrates you are listening and understanding as if you were in their shoes, and not translating their words into your language. Subtle matching of their body language is also useful, if it remains imperceptible.

While building their Big Dream with them, tease out what they have tried and what the results have been. At this stage, don’t go into too much detail in establishing their problems; and keep well away from presenting, or even formulating, your solution. Focus on them and what they want. Focus on building the rapport and relationship you have with them. Focus on being interested and curious. The quality of your listening will improve the quality of their thinking. Really! Try it.

Listening_Krishnamurth1

While building their Big Dream with them, tease out what will become possible for them when their Big Dream becomes reality. What is the value to them? Again, build this value with them. If they could solve this problem, how would their lives be? Don’t just focus on the removal of problems; in the ‘L’ of ALIGNED, encourage them to describe what positive things they could be doing instead. For example, they might have a problem with the number of great conversations they have with their customers that don’t lead to the customer ordering from them. They feel they waste too much of their time in those conversations. If they could solve that problem, they would not only save wasted time (the problem) but they would also make more sales (value to them). This means they would make more profits (value). That would mean they could have a less stressful time in their business (value). A less stressful time would mean more quality time with their loved ones (value). They would be a better parent (value). They would feel good about themselves, they would be seen as successful and others would envy their quality of life. (I hope you get what is going on here – a process of identifying and building value to them – this is the Value Escalator.)

While building their Big Dream with them, express things in the positive and, by modelling this positive outlook, encourage them to also express things in the positive. Their statements of what they want should be positive, not negative. Negativity can, and will, come later. In this part of the conversation you want to emphasise movement towards a positive goal with high value, not movement away from a problem.

When they are finished building and describing their Big Dream(s), summarise and recap using their words and phrases. Ask them if they think you have expressed things exactly as they intended. Don’t rush, don’t overly summarise and do not destroy the value you have created through having taken the time to build value, by helping them to express what they truly want. You have taken the time and considerable effort to understand them, so let them have the opportunity to appreciate your efforts.

In the next post, we’ll cover ‘Injuries and Pains’.

Helping clients and prospects to say ‘Yes!’

In this first in a series of 7 posts, I offer you an alternative approach to getting the clients you really want for your business. It’s an alternative seven-stage approach to them saying ‘yes’ to you heartily, eagerly and joyfully. The seven stages become relevant after you have attracted them to considering doing business with you by deploying Cialdini’s six ‘Weapons of Influence’ Influence’ which were covered in an earlier series of posts. They are considering buying from you, and so you now have the opportunity for them to say ‘yes’ to you and your business. Use the ALIGNED framework:

A        Assume control

L        Learn their situation and desires

I         Injuries and pains

G       Get commitment

N       Nirvana – their Well-Formed Outcome

E       Elegant Solutions

D       Decide or Die

Aligned

In this series of posts, I will go through each step in turn, starting with Assume Control. The prospective client has indicated that they want you to provide a solution, be it in the form of a product, a service or a combination of the two. They have an identified need, quite possibly a problem, that is causing them pain, and they want a professional to resolve it for them. They expect you to assume control, to take charge and to demonstrate authority and competence.

So assume control and tell them the process that your interaction with them will follow. Explain that you wish to fully understand what they want and their current situation. Tell them it is only when you reach a full understanding that you will be able to tell them whether you can help – and mean it! Do not have a pre-prepared solution in mind that you are looking to persuade them to buy from you. Congruence is all!

The quality of your listening needs to be outstandingly high. The quality of your listening will affect the quality of their thinking. It is quite often the case that they have not fully thought through their situation, and quality listening from you will help them do so.

Be prepared to not make the sale if your solution is not the perfect fit for them. You will not regret it. You want your customers to be delighted, not merely satisfied. Only delighted customers can become your fan club. Tell them that you will only work with them if you have a solution or solutions that are perfect for them. Tell them that you will not do business with them unless you can provide what is best for them (and mean it!). Tell them that, if there is not a ‘best fit’ you will try to suggest an alternative other than you or your company – so they know the conversation will not be entirely wasted if you don’t do business together, and so they know you care.

monologue_Shakespeare

This first stage will sound almost like a monologue from you. This is because you are taking control, as expected. While it resembles a monologue, there are two elements that will ease the process and build confidence within your prospective client. First, make it very clear that they have your full attention, using body language. Direct eye contact is key, demonstrating your sincerity, integrity and commitment.

The second element that eases this stage is the words that you use. It is a monologue that you should practise many times to make it perfect. Practise it with a friend or colleague, and record it so you can play it back and learn from it. Your monologue is designed explicitly to outline the process. The implicit messages are just as important, if not more so. You are demonstrating your sincerity, integrity and commitment. Make explicit your commitment to the person receiving the monologue – ‘My commitment to you is ….’ (Mine is ‘My commitment to you is to enable you to be the best you want to be’.) Implicitly demonstrate your commitment to them by focusing your language on them. For every use of the words ‘I’, ‘My’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Our’ (where it refers to your company, not to you and the client), there should be at least one ‘You’, ‘Your’, ‘Yours’.

Implementing the ALIGNED framework in your business requires diligence, determination and a systematic approach. The Congruent Business Development System™ http://bit.ly/1pSMfCH provides the framework you need to implement effective business development to get your business the clients you want saying ‘Yes!’ by making the most of you and the least of sales techniques.

In the next post, I will go through the ‘L’ of ALIGNED.