Simply: Selling is the act of convincing.
I assume, since you are interested in reading this, you must also be familiar with the myriad of documented techniques of selling.
This is not a repeat of those.
This is simply a method discovered that matches the exact natural and innate sales cycle. It is one that occurs with or without you.
This approach allows you to convince based on the exact sequence in which people decide to buy.
It’s not Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We have found that sequence lacking in that there are too many exceptions to his rules, especially since 4 decades have passed since his discovery and we as a society have moved on.
It was discovered both during the author’s own sales career as a straight commissioned sales representative and later while coaching and training sales representatives selling products from the Yellow Pages to Magazine Ads, TV shows to Advertising agency Creative work, Strategic Advertising and Brand plans to Media plans, Pharmaceuticals, Insecticides, Oil, Cars, Financial Services, Commodities and Farm Equipment.
One of the most fascinating and revelatory insights discovered was that independent of what was being sold, the sales cycle stays the same – always – case after case.
This was the breakthrough that led to the development of Discovery Selling©, for which this series of blogs is being devoted.
If you progress through the sales cycle with the same alacrity we do in converting a customer from awareness through purchase, you end up with two very happy campers where you and the buyer will swear all seemed to have been effortless, efficient and productive.
Is this just another form of Consultative Selling?
I am often asked if this is just a renamed “consultative selling” approach, one that gained tremendous traction in the 80’s and 90’s.
Consultative selling has its place. It works well for the likes of the consulting, aerospace, legal, oil and gas businesses, and the like where time was abundant.
It essentially practices the art of probing sufficiently deep to identify the buyer’s needs and then show how the seller’s product or service fulfills those needs.
Often it is taught based on finding the “pain need” and showing how the seller’s product makes the pain go away – or – shows that if the buyer does not buy, the pain will intensify.
It was easily sold as an approach since it allowed sales representatives to believe they were now consulting vs. hard selling, a role many gravitated towards as seemingly it was less strenuous and more easily executed.
The author knows it well as this was the approach we very successfully used it to train all of Exxon Mobil’s International Aviation Fuel managers, 100’s of the old Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) consultants, Booz Allen & Hamilton consultants, Coopers and Lybrand business and management consultants, and Kidder Peabody deal makers.
However, it works well only when you have very large contracts entailing multiple integrated components, divisions and decision points and a long tail sales cycle – typically 12+ months.
However, as we know, the 21st Century buying cycle dramatically shortened and with it brought the demise of the long tail consultative approach.
A New Approach
Discovery Selling© is an approach and rigor where one must appear to consult but close the sale quickly and efficiently, while simultaneously being highly competitive, allowing the buyer to have much interaction and ownership in and of the sales process.
It then focuses on reselling, keeping the business for the long haul.
It was named Discovery Selling© as this is its exact purpose and how the sale is managed and the sales process performed.
First you discover what to sell and how to sell it. Not against a pain, but instead against both the immediate and foreseeable goals (expectations of your product or service) of the buyer.
By default, you are assuming you never stop discovering even after the sale has concluded, thus the approach also assumes a long-term continuum of sales.
This unique approach has been captured visually through the use of an 8-runged ladder simply called the Louws’ Sales Ladder©.
Each “rung” represents a specific stage of the buying cycle for which practical sales techniques have been developed to naturally help the seller move the buyer along to closure.
This sales ladder can be viewed here.
This blog will be written in a series of 9, with this first blog addressing the foundation upon which the ladder rests.
The Winning Attitude
One’s attitude, especially early on in the sales process, is one of the most impactful and consistent elements under your control.
In sports many practice the skill of imaging. Seeing the race from beginning to end.
Similarly, if one imagines a meeting going well, chances are it will.
On the other hand, imagining you will have a tough time of it has potentially unfortunate consequences.
You must be willing to come to grips with the fact that your attitude will unequivocally affect your performance and importantly how the buyer responds to and engages with you.
So what attitude works best?
First, what attitudes do not work?
1) Solicitousness – Pretending interest for self serving ends.
This is by far the most commonly taught.
Put on a smile. Make the customer believe you are interested. (Note the subtle but obvious implication that you don’t have to really be interested)
2) Ask before selling.
In some cases this works well. However with time limitations and more and more communications occurring remotely without much direct interaction with the buyer, it tends to run into all sorts of roadblocks.
In worst case scenarios you are better off giving a 60″ introduction that clearly establishes your potential value to the buyer before asking your first question.
This is a wonderful personality trait for those buyers who appreciate high energy sales representatives.
However, and this is more common than not, this can be misperceived as being overbearing and anxious.
What then works?
Simply: A Can – Do attitude.
This is perceived by a buyer as one of the most productive of all.
The seller comes across as proactive, interested in accomplishing the goals of the buyer, providing only what the buyer is interested in without trying to oversell them and most importantly appears as a genuine attempt by the seller to satisfy what the buyer wants.
Case in point:
Advertising Manager of a CPG company wants the first credentials/capabilities presentation sent to them by PDF.
Instead of trying to convince the Advertising Manager to see the agency in person, the agency asks: “Would you like an additional copy in Word so that you can make notes to pass on to others?”
Note: This opens the door to productive dialogue dealing with the interests of the buyer not the seller. Inevitably, this opens the door to insights about the buyer for the benefit of the seller.
Another Case in point:
Buyer of databases wants the cost of each lead to be reduced from .30c per lead to .24c.
Typical way reps are taught to respond to this type of objection: “I do not think my management will approve this, but I will run it by them if you will agree to increasing your purchase from 5,000 names to 10,000.” (real case as experienced by this author when trying to negotiate this deal as the buyer)
Result? Conflict, right off the bat.
The Can-Do attitude approach:
“I will certainly look at getting the list for 24c a lead. Give me a few hours. Where can I contact you back?”
The difference is that the buyer believes you are attempting first to do what they are asking.
This and this alone eases the pain of your coming back and telling them you cannot do it for 24c without raising the number of leads to 10,000.
Think about the simple process of buying a car and telling the sales rep you want the car for invoice.
Remember the typical response. I don’t think my manager will go for that.
And what is your immediate response?
Get the point?
1) Envision your interactions will go well.
2) Evaluate your going in attitude to every interaction with a client/buyer/prospect and ensure it is supportive of a real Can-Do attitude as will be experienced and perceived by the buyer.
3) Eradicate any form of pretended interest – it’s as obvious to others as the odious smell of a skunk.
Rung 1 of the Discovery Sales Ladder© – Strategically Planning how to position one’s offerings to match a buyer’s natural instinct to evaluate and compare.
Louws – CEO & Founder
About the author:
Over the past 34 years, Toni Louw has trained, coached and consulted with over 480 Brand advertising, promotion, direct marketing, digital, interactive, social, media and public relations agencies worldwide. This has also included over 50 of the top 150 brands internationally.
Toni has recently re-constructed and updated, for 21st Century business application, 18 different business critical subjects that has made Louws one of the most ubiquitous leader of innovative performance based training, coaching and consulting services worldwide.
Click on the link provided: Discovery Selling© for more information on Sales Consulting, Training and Coaching.