EP Huddle #42
Solution selling is the type of selling that involves building rapport with a customer, understanding their true needs and challenges, and being able to match a service or product to help them improve.
In solution sales, it's critical to understand the customer's pain and be able to truly identify the correct path to resolve the issues. It may be your product, it may not be. It may be a customized job you can do for them, it may not be. Regardless, in many businesses today, it's important to have the opportunity to talk with your prospect and have an honest conversation to understand what their problems are and what they think they need. Then, you can see if what you do can help them.
Here's the challenge though. It's of the utmost importance that a salesperson is able to effectively ask questions and truly listen to the responses given by a customer. Not just expect a certain answer and then move on to the next question. I mean, the dialogue has to be very open and the salesperson needs to truly understand every word that a prospective buyer is saying. If this isn't done properly, the entire idea of solution selling goes away and now the salesperson is simply trying to sell whatever product or service he/she typically sells.
Here's a silly example from myself while growing up. I've always been an effective communicator with adults. As a teenager, I would be around my family and the guys would be talking about various things. i can remember an example of my uncles telling each other golf stories. They'd say things like, "and then I found myself behind an oak tree, but I was only 90 yards from the pin so I grabbed my pitching wedge and swung as hard as I could to bend it around the tree. You know how that played out..." Everyone laughed and said, "we sure do". What we meant was, we figured the ball hit the tree, or didn't bend, or something.
But, did we really know the exact outcome of the story? No. In fact, I think we were nicely agreeing with the storyteller because we wanted to share in his agony and "fit-in". But, as a teenager who didn't golf much, I didn't actually know what happened, other than the same assumptions the other uncles were making.
In sales, this is a big mistake. Too often we find ourselves agreeing with someone just to fit-in and make it look like "we've been there". But, this does the opposite of what we're trying to accomplish. We want to listen for any signal that we might not know exactly what the person is saying. And, then ask a follow-up question based on that comment. So, 20 years ago I should have asked what happened to the ball. Did he par the whole or take a bogey or double bogey? What lessons can I learn from his shot selection mistake?
Truly listen, don't just amicably agree that you "understand" what they're saying. You don't, and you shouldn't pretend like it or else you're risking the opportunity have amazing clarity, and in-turn provide amazing service and truly sell a valuable solution.
As a team:
Talk about examples of times when you've made assumptions or not thoroughly listened to prospects. How did that hurt your ability to sell? Maybe you don't know, but you'll most likely come up with a few possibilities. Also talk about common ways that relationship driven extroverts typically stop listening to try and fit-in with the crowd. How can you prevent this in the future when talking with potential customers about their challenges? Remember, though you've talked with people who might have similar challenges, every single prospect will have a different story and thoroughly listening is the only way to understand their unique perspective.
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