In my experience the most successful salespeople are those who do these two things consistently well: they help their clients learn about their solutions by asking a lot of questions; and they help their clients learn by telling great stories. This is the polar opposite of the “show up and throw up” approach used by too many salespeople, also known as rookies.
By great stories I mean that they always explain things in the context of how another client was successful using their specific products and or services in solving something, but they do this without actually mentioning the product or service. Why does this matter? Talking about the product or service ensures the salesperson comes across as making a pitch or talking about their own company when, in fact, they should be talking about how their company solved problems for their clients. It’s all about perspective; it is about them, not us.
The base story early in the sales cycle should contain the following informative nuggets:
- The top challenge (business issue) that was solved for the example client
- 1-2 of the top connected problems that were also solved
- The financial ROI (value) the client received by leveraging your company to solve these challenges
That’s it, just these three things. What is missing from this? You got it, intentionally zero mention at this point about which products or services from your company were leveraged by this other client to solve their problems. Why are we not mentioning these things yet? During the initial discussions the decision makers are simply not interested, they just want to hear about what was solved and how valuable it was.
Telling the story in this way will have a huge impact in prospecting and for gaining access to the decision makers. In ValueSelling we call this form of the story your Credibility Introduction. One of the laws of the sales jungle says that you only have one chance to make a strong first impression and that the more senior the decision maker (power) the shorter the time he/she will give you to do this. How about 30 seconds, because that is really all we get.
For example, “Power, the reason I asked for time on your schedule is that while researching you and your company I was reminded of your counterpart at Company X. We helped them to solve a top challenge of __________ along with the problem of ________ and ________. They told us that solving these was worth $$$$$$ to them during the first year alone. Is this similar to your top challenges and can we discuss what those are please?” You’re telling a story as way of introduction and it adds context that they can associate with around what your company solves, not what your company sells.
They will respect this approach. It will resonate with them because you are describing problems you’ve already solved for others like them and what the payoff (value) was in dealing with you. Can you think of a better way to start your journey to achieving trusted advisor status with them (and proving you’re not a rookie, even though you may have started just last month)?
After you’ve qualified the problems this prospective client has, (remember you did this by asking questions that highlight problems your company solves better than your competitors), then you educate them about your company’s capabilities (remember, we’re not talking about specific products and services but the capabilities they enable) to best solve these problems, you’re ready for your next level of great story telling.
The value (aka financial ROI) that any client will realize by working with your company comes from exactly one thing, solving the specific problems that this prospective client agreed they had when you asked them. So how do we get them to understand value in a way that they will readily agree with the numbers we want them to agree with? Glad you asked, the answer is of course by telling them a story about how another client achieved this similar number. This value story is similar to the credibility story with one twist. While the credibility story talked about top challenge and 1-2 related big problems, the value story focuses on one of the specific problems the client agreed they have.
For example ,“ When we helped company Y solve that problem we discussed earlier of _________, they told us it was worth $$$$$$$ and here is the way they calculated it (insert simple algebraic formula here), would you expect to achieve similar results?”
By asking the value question in the context of what another client achieved you are telling a story which provides both context and gives the prospective client a chance to work the numbers with you so that they own it.
An example of the simple algebraic formula would be like this: Let’s say your example involved hours of labor saved so your calculation would be built around X number of total hours saved multiplied by what the cost is for that level of labor. They saved 800 hours ($40 per hour) and achieved $32,000 in savings. How do these numbers fit in your world and how should we adjust?
Credibility introductions and value reference stories are great tools for providing context and examples to prospects. Keep them simple, keep them real, and always provide them within the context of a great narrative.
Doug Von Koenig
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