Everyone says selling has changed, and they’re right. When I started out as a seller, so much of my day was about presenting information in a convincing, one-way manner. These days, however, my job as a seller is to engage and inspire my customers with insights and in the process, drive revenues for my employer. Today, selling is conversational. In this piece, I’ll briefly review how to shift your thinking around the modern way to sell, as well as review some common snags.
Don’t deliver insights like a pizza
The need to deliver insights to prospects is more crucial than ever, and given all the data and information bombarding the average buyer, these insights not only need to be unique, but they also need to take the prospect beyond their current thinking. This is not an easy task, especially with new prospects who might have different views and agendas. While many in sales and marketing have taken steps to update and adjust their pitches, most of the focus has been purely on the messaging, not on other elements that differentiate insights and make them easy to consume, integrate and assimilate.
Insights should not be delivered by the vendor to a prospect like a pizza—instead, they are mutually crafted via a process that allows the prospect to add to and alter the discussion in a way that makes the insight special to them. This is not to say that each prospect will have a totally different views or conclusions, it means each prospect will take it on at their own pace, with their own interpretation and added spices that in turn take a widely-used core concept and make it specific to them and their objectives.
Linear tools don’t cut it
Insights evolve as a result of a true conversation. One party (in this case the seller) introduces a concept, the prospect responds, questions, adjusts, or extends the concept, and through an iterative process, the initial vision becomes distinct to each prospect going through the process. This is why even the best insights are sometimes lost in the way they are delivered.
One of the biggest mistakes many make is trying to facilitate a conversation—which is not a linear expression—with something very linear, like PowerPoint or Google Slides. While many will say that you can maneuver around those apps, the reality is that they almost always lead to a linear exchange: seller presents a concept, elaborates, and looks for prospect feedback or response. When prospects want to explore something that is “further on in the presentation”, the rep is either forced to say “I will cover that later”, true but usually a bit of a turn off for the buyer, and certainly a silent way of saying that the prospect’s agenda is secondary to the rep’s; or the rep has to fumble through the slides to skip forward, then skip back. This process often takes the rep off script, kills the flow, and diminishes the conversation. This is further compounded when the prospect wants to explore something that is not in the deck, or the discussion meanders in an unexpected direction. From a sales success point of view, these are good developments, as they indicate strong prospect engagement—so why let a tool limit the opportunity?
Supportive tools are key
All good sellers are subject matter experts, able to speak to the subject from a number of different angles, entry points, and follow the conversation in any direction the prospect needs to go to make the right decision. To do that, sales professionals need to leverage tools that, instead of limiting their ability to express things, actually encourage and support a multi-level conversation, with parallel concepts contributing to moving the sale forward. A linear, limiting tool will no doubt limit their success. Their ability to express themselves is enhanced, allowing them to differentiate themselves from the competition.
One of the reasons I like Prezi is that it gives me the ability to move from concept to concept based on the buyer’s areas of engagement. I have the ability to drill down on topics that resonate, to ask questions, and to allow the prospect take the conversation to where they want to, while still being in a position to communicate salient facts and concepts. Better yet, I can ignore whole areas that are of no interest to a given prospect. Rather than saying “Ah, well we’ll just skip these 10 slides, they’re probably not relevant to you,” (then why have them there, dude?) I can instead just leave the irrelevant section unused without the prospect being aware or wondering what and why I am not sharing something with them.
It’s time to stop being a presenter, and be a subject matter expert. It’s time to update to tools that will enhance how you do that.
Tibor Shanto will join us for a webinar, “Why Sales Teams Should Forget Presenting and Start Engaging,” on June 9 at 10am PT/1pm ET. Reserve your spot here.