Every so often, we like to highlight stories from front-line sellers and sales trainers to discuss the practical applications of ASLAN’s philosophy and methodology. I recently sat down with Chris White, speaker, sales expert, Founder of Tech Sales Advisors, and bestselling author of The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers, to unpack his own experience on the frontlines of selling.
Oh and full disclosure, I have known Chris a very long time (see picture above).
Other-CenteredⓇ Selling 101
Like so many of our former customers, Chris has his favorite concepts and key takeaways from ASLAN’s teachings.
The first of which is not so much a technique, but more of a mindset shift. Before every sales interaction, phone call, or virtual meeting, Chris makes a conscious decision to prioritize the other person (his prospect or customer) and go into the exchange with an Other-Centered mindset. His goal becomes to be sincerely interested in what they are trying to accomplish and how he can make that hour-long interaction of benefit to them. And of course, if there is an opportunity for him to make a recommendation that is in their best interest, he will. But selling has become about serving, not just closing deals. His sales interactions have in turn become much more fruitful, for both parties.
Chris told me, “In reverse, there have been a few meetings where, in hindsight, I realize that I didn’t make that conscious decision going into it… I was almost just waiting for my opportunity to recommend my solution. And those meetings have rarely, almost never, gone well.”
Being sincerely interested in his customers’ best interests has directly impacted those relationships and opportunities for the better. He has built genuine trust and rapport, with existing and potential customers alike. He says, “I know that when they’re ready, they’re going to hire me and my company to do business.” And the kicker is, even with those opportunities that haven’t yet generated revenue for Chris, he never has a problem getting a meeting. Those customers want to meet with him, they gain value from their time with him. They know that he has their best interest in mind and is there to support them. He is a trusted advisor for those prospects, because of his ability to shift his mindset and be truly Other-Centered.
“Our job is not to just get meetings, our job is to develop relationships and become a trusted partner.” – Chris White
Making the decision to be Other-Centered takes almost no effort, but pays dividends in both revenue and personal fulfillment in your role as a sales rep. The truth is, it’s an ongoing journey, to develop the habits of being truly Other-Centered, both in sales and in life.
Lead with the Customer’s Whiteboard
Continuing on along the vein of being an Other-Centered seller, this concept of “leading with the customer’s whiteboard” comes into play.
Because of his trusted partner status with so many of his prospects and customers, Chris has been able to have some very candid conversations with decision-makers about exactly what is on their whiteboard, what challenges they are facing and what their goals are. And because of these transparent conversations, he has been able to translate that knowledge into gaining access to decision-makers in similar roles, facing similar challenges. He’s made connections with completely cold prospects with whom he has no prior commitment or connection.
This is the power of leading with the customer’s whiteboard. It allows your message as a seller to cut through the noise and get through the filter, grabbing your customer’s attention. ASLAN’s training teaches sales reps to pair this problem (on their whiteboard) with a disruptive truth (some unknown insight) and a proprietary benefit (something unique your solution can offer).
Chris has seen this technique (we call it an Other-Centered Position) bring him more success in engaging prospects than anything else.
Let’s break down the OCP, comprised of the three elements listed above:
- Their Problem – or what’s on their whiteboard
- The Disruptive Truth – a creative, unique, unknown insight about how to solve that problem (some research or some statistic)
- Your Proprietary Benefit – something you do a little bit differently, that not everyone out there selling what you sell can offer
In simpler terms, for people less familiar with ASLAN, you should say something on their “To-Do list.” Marketing experts argue that we get anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 messages a day. Regardless of the number, it’s a lot. So our brains employ something called the Reticular Activation System (RAS) to act as a filter between your subconscious and conscious mind. The good news is, there are only 2 criteria the RAS uses to determine what messages get through: it contains something you know you need or something you don’t understand or is out of the ordinary.
Something on your prospect’s “To-Do list” or whiteboard will get through the RAS, because it is important to them. If you don’t know exactly what is on their whiteboard, go back to the drawing board and do your homework. You can use challenges that other customers in similar roles/ industries are facing. It can be an educated hypothesis, but don’t ask your prospect to explain their goals and/or challenges to you right off the bat. It’s your job, as an expert who works in this space, to use your experience with other decision-makers in the industry to hone in on a potential challenge that you can help solve.
Remember, this 30 second piece is not your value proposition or your sales pitch. This is just an Other-Centered reason for why they should even agree to a conversation. At this point, you aren’t selling your solution, you’re selling the discovery conversation you want to have with your potential customer.
Drop the RopeⓇ
This is another fan favorite for most folks who have been through an ASLAN sales training workshop, Chris included. It’s based on the following truth: people resist any pressure to think or act differently if they feel that their freedom to choose is not respected.
There is a natural tension that often exists between buyers and sellers. In order to have an open and productive conversation, it is the seller’s job to remove that tension or pressure.
Think about a game of tug-of-war – when one person pulls on the rope, the other’s natural instinct tells them to pull back. This creates tension. Instead, to remove that tension, we teach something called “Drop the Rope.” It’s a way for sellers to interact with potential buyers, where they clearly and intentionally communicate messages that reduce or remove the tension from the relationship with the seller.
A few examples:
“Our solution might not be the best fit for you. Would you be open to…?”
“Can we discuss your objectives to see if this might be of help to you?”
We use this method because as sellers, our goal is simple: we want to create an environment in which buyers don’t feel threatened. Why? When buyers don’t feel the tension of the sale, they are able to relax and have an honest conversation about their objectives and their challenges. But as long as the buyer has their hands in a death grip on that rope, poised for any sign of pressure from the seller, the opportunity for any kind of meaningful interaction is gone.
At its core, Drop the Rope is about acknowledging and respecting that the other person has the right and the freedom to choose. It comes from a place of being truly Other-Centered – and it feels good. It’s fulfilling to serve your customers well.
Summing It Up
The goal of being Other-Centered is not to sell – but that is a very common side effect. It benefits both you and your customer. Your mindset, your position, and Drop the Rope are core components of being an Other-Centered salesperson.
Because the truth is, we know we are never more fulfilled than when we are serving others.