It’s tricky isn’t it – I just don’t think there’s one winning way. If there is, it’s ‘adaptability’. What a cop out hey?!
Our clients in tech companies are often struggling to find the right approach to sales. Many adopt Miller Heiman, the Challenger Sale, TAS, Solution Selling, SPIN selling or one of the other sales systems. Most of these processes work well as a framework but they are readily abandoned only for the next VP of Sales to adopt another. The problem appears to be not with the processes themselves, or the sales skills of the individuals, but with the customers… why can’t the customers follow the process!
If you find yourself in that situation, your current approach might not be wrong at all. In fact, it might be spot on. Let’s take one example…
Enter the Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale: a great approach in the right situation, with some elements that are essential to winning. But if, hypothetically, the first thing we say to a prospect is something they disagree with, we’ve just dug a hole. If, hypothetically, the SECOND thing we say they also disagree with, we’re in… trouble. Even if what we said was true.
An alternative approach, one which gains trust and influence, is to ‘ride the horse in the direction it’s already going’. Then you can turn it later. So, I highly recommend that you lead with ‘statements of agreement’, NOT facts (some people won’t understand them as facts and may therefore disagree).
The beauty is that the more of these ‘paces’ you do, the more they warm to you and agree with you. You’re someone who makes total sense to them. So, you earn the right to then ‘lead’. This is called pacing and leading. You may have come across it before.
You could continue and then decide whether to lead subtly, after pacing, or go for a stronger ‘challenge’ since you’re someone who makes total sense to them. You can also very politely pre-frame a challenge with the right wording e.g. “there’s a common way of thinking that seems to make sense to many people in your position that I work with, that they later realise costs them significantly.” This way you disassociate yourselves and can deliver your challenge. And you have created a hook. You may do this sort of thing and don’t realise, but it’s worth planning and weaving into conversations.
Challenging, and telling them what to do, is the core of the ‘Challenger Sale’… Some people disagree with the approach (let’s dedicate 1 minute’s silence to the irony there……..) but in the right context it works.
Three steps in challenging their approach
You’ll have come across people that swear they only buy from providers who totally disagree with them, and tell them what to do (in their area of expertise). But if you haven’t earned their trust in the first place most would simply think you’re disagreeable and pushy; they need to be at the place where they accept they’re doing something wrong.
So, one approach to take is to:
- Complement rather than challenge their existing approach (because they do know it all)
- Suggest that they could do things more effectively and efficiently using our services since they are very busy; it’s not that they can’t do it just that they haven’t the time
- Demonstrate that our approach (method/process/experience) means that we can do this effectively and efficiently i.e. successfully and with a good ROI
That might sound too polite in the context of a challenger sale, but the key to making any sales process work is to adapt it to your environment rather than slavishly applying it regardless of the context.
Please comment if you have a better approach.
Thanks to Mark Moore of Help People Buy for the core content of this article.