Ask Spex

Q: I want to do more social selling, but how can I when my prospects won’t cooperate? Most of them haven’t caught on to business uses of social media yet.

A: If they haven’t caught on to social, they have an unrecognized need that you can help with. Try offering social insights in your prospecting messages. Give examples of how business buyers are using social channels to improve their leverage with vendors. This could be a great way for you to apply the principle of “offer something before you ask for something.” Huthwaite and many others have been telling anyone who’ll listen about the rise of the “newly empowered buyer.” If you can show your prospects how to become empowered themselves, you will have created value for them very early in your... more

Q: I am moving a tenured "old school" sales team to focus more on the buyer. Could you recommend an exercise that would help me get them to focus more on buyer problems and implications? Thanks.

A: One simple and effective exercise, which the salespeople can do individually or as a group, is to fill in a “value matrix.” Begin by listing a feature of your product or service, and then the capabilities the feature gives the buyer: “It has X, which means you can do Y.” If your sales reps are really old school, features and capabilities may be the core of their current messaging. The next column in the matrix is for listing problems the buyer may experience in the absence of the capabilities you offer: “If you can’t do Y, you’re faced with Z.” Then list the implications that are likely to... more

Q. You guys keep saying “buyer focus” like it’s something new. How is it different from the “customer-centric” selling I’ve been doing for 15 years?

A.  Customer-centricity is an essential principle. It stipulates that the salesperson’s orientation must be the buyer’s needs rather than the seller’s offering, and that customer satisfaction is as important a criterion of success as sales numbers. It is a principle that remains as valid now as it was in the distant past. What’s new is that buyer behavior is changing. We’re in a transitional period where many sales and marketing organizations have not changed as quickly as their customers have. “Focus on the buyer” is a strategy for adapting to the buyer-empowered world. For more on this... more

Q: We sell a software solution that helps companies automate their internal processes. Our sales reps are top-notch, product experts. We spend a lot of time teaching them about our software, and we make a big investment in them. What type of sales training complements product training?

A: After a lot of expensive product training, your reps may see the products as being what the sale is “about.” From the buyer’s point of view, the purchasing decision is about solving a problem. Look for a training program that will give the reps the skills to 1) reach a shared understanding with the customer of the problem, and 2) show how your company’s solution solves the problem. Meanwhile, make all the sales reps memorize this phrase: “Listen more than talk.”Ask Spex a question here. 

Q: I am constantly getting beaten up about price. We provide the best solutions to our customers in our industry, there’s no doubt about it, but we’re still being compared to the lowest bidder and losing out on business. Last week, I lost a client that has used us for six years, and I’m fed up! Can you give me some advice that I can put into practice today?

A: Let’s think about the client who left you after six years. They apparently found your price acceptable in past years, but not now. What changed that made your solution less attractive? Did you raise your price? Do you have new competitors, or is an existing competitor using a new strategy? Does the client have new needs? My “advice to put into practice today” is to find an unflinching answer to this question: If you were just joining the industry today, and went to work for your strongest competitor, how would you grab market share from your current company? Someone else has already... more

Q: My sales manager has told me to prospect at a firm where our toughest competitor is already entrenched. This competitor is just as good as we are―in fact, better in some ways―and they already have the business. If it were up to me, I’d spend my time on opportunities where I have a better chance of winning, but I have to go after this one. How do you think I should tackle it?

A: Self-help books will tell you: Whatever you believe yourself to be, you are. Fortunately for you, this isn’t true. You believe you’re a second-place contender. But what matters is the client’s perception. They may be happy with their current arrangements, or they may be very dissatisfied. Vendors often get replaced simply because their billing department made too many mistakes. You have to find out what the real situation is. Look for someone who is willing to talk to you in general terms about what is going on inside the company―someone who will be what Huthwaite calls a focus of... more