The reality of our world today is that people are overwhelmed and distracted by the amount of information coming at them every single day. This poses a problem, in particular for sellers, because it has become increasingly harder to break through that noise and deliver a message. People, especially customers, are unreceptive.
Naturally, the focus of many sellers has been to try to create better/ more effective messages designed to be louder than all the other “noise” out there in the industry. But those new techniques intended to “win over the customer” only work on those who are already open. They don’t work on the growing number of unreceptive or closed off customers.
So, what can sellers do to overcome the amount of noise and make a real connection with their customers? It all begins with creating receptivity before attempting to deliver your message.
That is what sellers should focus on and it’s what we’ll discuss in this blog.
If you’d prefer to listen to a podcast on this topic, check out the Duct Tape Marketing podcast featuring Tom Stanfill.
The Importance of Receptivity
Receptivity is where we begin the sales conversatIon, but it also carries us throughout the entire process – from the first sentence of an outreach email, all the way through the signing of a purchase agreement.
Sellers are taught to make their business case, communicate their value proposition, differentiate their solution… and those things are important. But if the customer is unreceptive, those elements won’t help you sell.
Here’s the truth: when customers are unreceptive, the traditional approach to selling fails.
We need to shift the focus from selling, to cultivating receptivity. That is how sellers can truly serve their customers.
One easy way to think about this concept is to make an analogy to farming. There are two elements a farmer needs to consider when planting a crop: the seed and the soil. If the soil is not fertile, the quality of the seed doesn’t matter – it will not grow. The same idea applies in sales: if the customer is not receptive, your value proposition doesn’t matter.
Now let’s look at some ways to cultivate receptivity.
How to Cultivate Receptivity
The best way to get the attention of a customer/prospect (and also cultivate receptivity) is to talk about what’s on their whiteboard, not about your solution.
Most sellers approach prospecting by leading with their solution. It’s natural – sales reps are comfortable talking about their solution, they’re experts on it. They often begin introductory calls or emails by listing off the features and benefits of their solution, hoping something catches the customer’s attention.
But this approach diminishes receptivity. The customer assumes it’s all about you, the seller. There’s nothing in it for them.
That’s why we teach sellers to lead with the customer or decision maker’s whiteboard. Start with their problems, challenges, goals, or barriers to getting what they want. This is how you can actually create receptivity and interest in order to (eventually) deliver your sales message.
If you can accurately describe the problem your customer has, you will get their attention and you will create receptivity. Only then can you talk about your products and/or services.
Now this begs the questions, how do you know what’s on the decision maker’s whiteboard?
Leading with the Decision Maker’s Whiteboard
How can sellers figure out what is on the decision maker’s whiteboard (what they really care about)?
If it’s a strategic account, you’ll need to do a little bit of research – invest the time it takes to uncover their problems, initiatives, goals, etc., before reaching out. One of the best ways is to ask an insider. We talk about political structure in this blog. The point is, do your homework to gain the insight you need to make your outreach message about them.
If it’s not a strategic account, you can look at the profile of that particular customer. Recall other customers or prospects in that same role that you’ve worked with – what were their challenges and goals? If you typically work with VPs of Manufacturing, you should have a pretty good idea of the problems that VPs of Manufacturing usually deal with and the goals on their whiteboard. If you study and understand the profile of that type of customer, you’ll be able to make an educated guess about your new prospect who has the same or similar role.
Either way, sellers should lead with something that is important to the customer.
There are clues everywhere. On company websites, employee’s LinkedIn pages, industry publications, etc. Putting in a little extra effort to understand your customer and their specific challenges will go a long way. Study your customers and prospects, change your approach, and you will find that many more doors open to you.
We just need to stop “selling” and start by focusing on the customer’s problem before we push our solution.
How to Craft an Effective Introduction
There are really three elements to how you effectively position a meeting request with a new customer. We call this framework an Other-Centered position:
- Their Problem – lead with the customer’s whiteboard, i.e. their challenges/goals which we’ve just discussed.
- A Disruptive Truth – an unknown insight, statistic, principle or fact related to their problem. This element is actually critically important. If you think about it, one of the reasons that real decision makers typically don’t meet with sales reps is because they assume they have nothing to say. They assume sellers will just pitch the benefits of their product or service, which is information that anyone can find online or have someone else collect and synthesize for them. They don’t want to waste time talking with reps who aren’t bringing something new and different to the table. By communicating a disruptive truth, you’re demonstrating thought leadership. Decision makers want a partner to think strategically about their problem and how to approach solving it.
- The Proprietary Benefit – What do you offer that is unique? What do you do that is different from anyone else? How can you uniquely solve their problem?
This is all about giving your prospective customer a reason to engage with you. What’s in it for them? Why should they spend their valuable time meeting with you?
We’ve tested this approach and seen a 366% increase in response rate. When you lead with the customer, they are much more likely to pay attention to you.
Summing it Up
When sellers embrace the importance of receptivity and spend the time to make every interaction about the customer, results skyrocket. It works.
If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the concepts we covered, check out Tom’s new book, UnReceptive, at unreceptivebook.com.