Monday, March 16, 2009

LEADERSHIP Series: Mastering Communication

The Professional Sales Representatives role is to provide a compelling solution that meets a prospect’s need. Assuming that you have discovered a prospect’s pain, what they currently like best about the current solution and solution provider, what they like least, and what the ideal solution would look like, you should be able to share how the value you deliver directly addresses the need they have not yet adequately filled.

The following are quick reminders of the process.

Research – Some of this is accomplished before you ever make your first contact with a prospect. The Internet was been a blessing to the sales rep since s/he may more easily discover published needs, attitudes and assumptions the prospect makes. You should get insight into the values, the drivers the way they treat their customers. These insights may help you in describing how your solution will help best them meet their customer needs.

The sales call is yet another step in the research process since one of its goals is discovery – discovery of need or pain or problems you can solve. You are using exploratory questions – open-ended questions – to assess the current situation. You are identifying goals and objectives the prospect expresses about generalized business environments. The sales call will help you validate their need and their decision-making criteria. Now you are arming yourself to tackle differentiation from competitive offering and the unique value you deliver.

Role - Understanding what metaphorical role to play comes from this research. Prospects each are on different steps in terms of acquiring information about solutions, weight alternative offerings and arriving at optimum choices. Your task is to determine if they are looking to change and then determining the motivation behind the change. Perhaps, they are discontented. Or they are simply doing research. Maybe they have done their homework and are comparing solutions. Perhaps, they are been hurt by promises made in the past and have fear of change. No matter the step, your metaphorical role is different. Sometimes you are a student with them. Other times you are the doctor diagnosing the pain. Sometimes you are a therapist pulling out their fears. Know your role.

Respect - Often the hardest part of selling is simply showing respect for past decisions about solutions experienced. You may hear wrong assumptions, bad premises, and inconsistent conclusions in answer to your open-ended questions. You must respect their right to be wrong (from your perspective). You may not agree with their view of the world, but as a “sales professional,” you must respect their right to hold that view. Your goal may be to change it; but can only begin when you make the journey together. If you take the role of teacher or expert, you may create a barrier to change that will not be overcome. Listen. Learn. Ask questions that show respect.

Reflect - Building rapport begins with a conscious effort to “be just like them” in terms of body language. If they speak quickly and vividly, so must you. If they are reflective in their speech pattern, and you are quick and vivid, you are not “just like them” and people like people who are just like them. Understanding what drives them, and reflecting back in the wording of your questions, establishes rapport. If “we” and “believe” are words they often use, be certain to reflect fairness, and idealism and not be ridiculing or unhelpful. If “I” or “know” are words they often use, they will respond to opportunity, new ideas, quick pace. If “it” and “think” are their key words, reflect an unemotional approach to data, practical thoughts, and the trade offs. Reflecting what drives a prospects behavior will help develop communication pathways to solving problems.

Restate - A call for clarification will clear up confusion. Simply restating what you think you have understood, often will expose nuances that will be important to understanding customer need (pain) before you venture with a “trial close.” You want to demonstrate that you have listened. You might say something like: “So, it (looks-seems-feels or sounds) like ____ and ____ are really important to you and that you are looking for ______.” Your choice of the words in ( ) is important as it must reflect their communication pattern and the words they chose when talking with you.

To learn more about any of these 5 Rs, click here.