Many people think of selling as relationship management or demand fulfillment. But it’s much more than that. Selling is about serving, it’s about changing beliefs, and it’s about influence – all with your customer’s best interest at heart.
It can be a challenge to influence someone and change their beliefs, even if it is in their best interest.
How can sellers go about this in an Other-Centered way? The approach is simple but effective: it’s about using all the “tools” in your sales “belt” to actually serve.
Hopefully, these insights will make your role as a seller more successful, but also more enjoyable and rewarding.
If you’d prefer to listen to a podcast on this topic, check out the Duct Tape Marketing podcast featuring our CEO Tom Stanfill.
Use the Full Capacity of Your Role as a Sales Rep
Sales reps have an “ace” up their sleeve that can help navigate even the most difficult of sales situations.
Sellers, how many decision makers/ customers are you talking to in a month?
When you think about it, sales reps have access to dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of customers each month. With this access comes real insight on their varied challenges, goals, insights, ideas, and solution methods.
You have a built in database of information there, if you choose to take advantage of it.
If you asked one or two questions of each of these people about a unique or unknown way they have solved the problems they have, you could build an arsenal of disruptive, insightful information to help grab the attention of new prospects and decision makers.
This is a resource that sellers have that customers do not. It’s one way you can bring value to them.
You have a breadth of information and experience that you can tap into to help you speak to actual problems your prospects have and demonstrate your expertise by sharing what you’ve learned from others you’ve worked with or spoken to.
Even better, you may be able to point out a problem that your prospect didn’t even realize they had. One of the best ways to earn trust with your potential customer is by helping them understand a problem they don’t recognize or don’t fully grasp.
As a sales rep, you have the ability to ask questions and take utilize the insight you gain. With that kind of experience and information at your disposal, you become a resource to new clients – you become someone worthy of their time and their trust.
And remember, that is the best way to grab a customer’s attention: by leading with something that is on their whiteboard. Every decision maker has a list of problems, goals, or initiatives that are important to them – this is what we mean by “whiteboard.” This whiteboard is your ticket to entry. If you can speak eloquently and intelligently about something on their whiteboard, you will get their attention – and most likely, their business.
This gathering of information can help you prepare to do that. Take advantage of the opportunity you have as a sales rep to speak with many different people in similar roles. What you will learn is invaluable.
Sales reps are often too focused on their own solution (features and benefits) to provide real value to their prospects by intelligently discussing the problem first. The goal is to synthesize the information about their challenges, distill it down articulately, and share it with your potential customers. It’s a huge win for both of you.
Listen So that You Can Validate Them
Let’s talk about the importance of listening.
I know, you’re probably thinking… yes, obviously listening is important. We all get it. What’s the big deal?
The truth is, even though almost everyone recognizes the importance of listening, it’s an area that many of us still struggle with. It’s common sense, but not always common practice.
Let’s start by setting up the importance of listening with some context.
We talk a lot about receptivity here at ASLAN, because it really is the key to finding success in sales. If your prospect or customer is not receptive, you’re wasting your time. It’s crucial that sellers learn to cultivate receptivity before trying to sell.
So what does this have to do with listening?
Receptivity hinges on two things:
1 – An Invitation – If you haven’t already, check out this blog for the full breakdown on how to get the invitation (to meet, to give your recommendation, etc.) from your customer.
2 – Validating the Customer’s Point of View
You cannot validate your customer’s perspective unless you first understand it. This quote from the Dalai Lama encompasses the idea:
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
When speaking with a customer, you will gain so much more influence by validating their point of view than sharing your own.
To do this, you have to “Take the Trip.” When we’re talking about influence, there are always two points of view: theirs and yours, customer and rep, buyer and seller. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s simply about seeing the situation through different lenses. Taking the Trip is about leaving behind your own point of view and journeying to see the customer’s perspective.
“Tell me why you think/believe…”
If you can leave your position, understand theirs, and then articulate it back to them, you will cultivate receptivity.
“So what I hear you saying is, the reason that you____ is because…”
Be able to articulate their perspective, as well or better than they can. Because the truth is, validating their point of view is actually more powerful than sharing your point of view.
When you articulate their perspective, the goal is to have your customer say, “Exactly.” That’s the magic word, when the door to influence opens.
Until that moment occurs, your customer will be unlikely to Take the Trip back to see your perspective (and invest in your solution). Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
So what’s the key to it all? You guessed it, accurate listening.
Listening is a statement of value.
And the fundamental of accurate listening is to clear your cache. What does that mean? Think about a computer cache – it stores all kinds of information, images, etc. to make your online experience more efficient. As people, we function similarly. Our brain, in its desire for efficiency, works against us when it comes to listening. Once we’ve heard or experienced something multiple times, our brain does not want to “download” it all over again.
But this inhibits our ability to effectively listen. By “clearing our cache,” we wipe out all previous memories and experiences that might cloud our understanding, in order to download new information fresh. Only then can we truly hear what our customer is telling us and be able to Take the Trip with them.
That’s why listening, actually listening, is so critical to your success in sales – and of course, as a human being.
Summing it Up
The Other-Centered approach to selling is the foundation of everything in sales. It’s about using your role as a sales rep, and all the tools in your belt, to make a difference. The goal is to help your customers by improving your relationship with them as well their business. It’s a life skill, not just a sales skill.
The decision you make before every interaction with a customer ultimately determines what will happen in that meeting. Either you will be the hero of the story, or your customer will be. Shift your mindset and make your customer the priority.
Because remember, your motive is transparent. If you have your customer’s best interest at heart, that truth will show in your words and your actions. You will find more success, and more fulfillment, in your role as a seller (which is, of course, to serve).
If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the Other-Centered selling philosophy, we invite you to check out Tom Stanfill’s new book, UnReceptive, at unreceptivebook.com.