Sales Strategy 101: Selling by Helping

Written by Rob Malec

Are your salespeople selling to close business, or are they selling to help their prospects? It might seem like these two are one and the same. Yet this subtle shift in mindset and focus when it comes to sales strategy profoundly affects the tenor of your company’s sales and marketing, outbound communications, and interactions.

Why Is a ‘Selling by Helping’ Sales Strategy Important?

When you sell to help, it shifts your team’s focus from “winning” new business to “becoming the partner of choice” for your prospects. It elevates your team in the eyes of your customers and prospects from being mere sales representatives to Trusted Advisors.

Differentiating your products and services from those of your competition can be a zero-sum game.  You have bells and whistles they don’t. Conversely, they have some that you don’t. The key differentiator in 99% of sales is your company and your people.

If your sales team is out there with a focus on selling rather than helping, they are likely pitting your products against those of the competition and trying to “sell” prospects. This focus on winning the business can alienate buyers. No one likes to be sold to. Employing a helping mindset will not go unnoticed by your potential buyers. This is a sales strategy that allows everyone to win and results in greater sales success than trying to close them.

How to Establish a ‘Selling to Help’ Mindset and Sales Strategy

Objectivity on the part of the salesperson is the key to making a helping mindset possible in sales. When a seller is singularly focused on winning, they will attempt to overcome buyer objections and close the sale.

When a salesperson is genuinely focused on helping, if the products and solutions they represent don’t solve the problems a prospect is looking to tackle, they will refer them to ones that will. Does this mean they may well lose the sale at hand? Sure. While this is true, this is often only in the short run.

A prospect who truly feels understood and helped will appreciate it, remember it, and very likely come back to your company when they have needs that you can meet.

4 Key Questions Your Salespeople Should Be Asking Prospects

After all my years as a Fractional VP of Sales in Vancouver, I’m still amazed at the frequency with which I’m confronted by sellers who ask precious few questions and are more excited to hear themselves speak than to hear me speak. Which camp does your team fall into?

A sales process aimed at facilitating a ‘selling by helping’ approach is fundamentally different than one that is aimed at closing business. This sales process involves your team asking four key questions of buyers and intently listening to the answers. The questions are:

  1. Tell me about your current situation…
  2. How are things going with that – what problems or sticking points are you encountering?
  3. If you could get unstuck and resolve those problems, what would you like your improved situation to look like?
  4. Based on all of this, what value or ROI are you looking to get by investing in fixing your problems?

That’s it. The answers to these four straightforward questions will give your sellers all the information they need to best position their solutions and recommendations as an effective way to help the buyer. Done well, this increases the probability that a sale will happen.

Embed the ‘Selling by Helping’ Sales Strategy in Your CRM

Have a conversation with your sales team about why this sales strategy is a wise approach to take, and then make it as easy as possible for them to follow it. You can do this by embedding the four key questions above in your CRM as a notetaking template to ensure they are asked of every buyer.

Make it clear to your team that if they don’t know what problems their buyers are facing, then the likelihood of a sale occurring is extremely low.

Throw Other Sales Strategies Out the Window and Sell More by Selling Less

At the end of the day, selling by helping is all about having a genuine conversation with your prospects and hearing what they say. In my book, Sell More by Selling Less, I outline everything you need to know to master the conversational sales method that will transform your team’s ability to convert buyers into customers.

As with all things, there’s a great deal of nuance around how to shift a team into a ‘sales by helping’ approach. If you would like to discuss this with me further, please feel free to reach out at [email protected].

The Not-so-Secret Way to Make Easy Money

Written by Rob Malec

The other day, I asked a business owner, “How many existing customers are in your database?”

Their answer was 2500.

“Other than your top 25 customers, how often do you touch base with the rest?”

Their answer? “We haven’t touched base with them in years”.

When it comes to easy money from sales, there is no mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is an actual pot of gold and it is sitting inside of your existing customer base in the form of uncovered and unaddressed pain points and needs.

Mining Your Existing Customer Database is the Key to Easy Money

Some business owners get so focused on bringing on new customers (which is expensive and slow) that they forget to mine their current customer database for new revenue (much cheaper and faster).

The Customer Success function of today is the Account Management function of yesteryear. Where the two differ is that the Customer Success function exists not only to maintain current customers and keep them happy but also to serve a purposeful revenue generation function.

Account Management used to involve a few dedicated staff focused on handling inbound customer service requests. Every now and then a customer would call with a burning need and something additional would get sold to them, but otherwise it was a reactive job role.

True Customer Success involves several core proactive process components that, when followed, transform your department from a headcount expense into a profit centre. Here are 5 important strategies to make easy sales…

  1. Get the Right People in the Right Seats on the Bus

The best candidate for a Customer Success Representative is a person who both loves to serve clients and is comfortable with making outbound calls to current customers. The purpose of these calls is to ensure that customers are happy and probe for new sales opportunities.

A person who is only comfortable fielding inbound calls and loses sleep at the thought of having to make outbound calls will not be successful as a Customer Success Representative. Assess the competencies of your team and ensure that your Customer Success Representatives are fit for their roles. If you find gaps, reshuffle your team or bring on staff as necessary to ensure this function is filled.

  1. Make it Clear to the Customer Success Team Where the Bus is Going, and Where it’s Not

The job role of the Customer Success Representative is to a) handle inbound customer requests and resolve any service concerns and, b) systematically reach out to existing customers to determine their satisfaction level and whether they have unmet pain points or needs that the company can address.

When unmet pain points and/or needs are identified, this opportunity is then handed back to the sales team to lead the customer through the sales process and close the business. The role of the Customer Success Representative is only to identify sales opportunities and then hand them off to sales, not to conduct a sales process and close the deal themselves.

  1. Provide Your People With a Roadmap to Get to Where You Need Them to Go

The process flow for your Customer Success function is not complex. The best systems are simple, making them easy to follow and get the results you want. The process flow can be as simple as this:

  • Segment your current customer base by size or strategic importance into the categories of A, B, C, and D. Decide on the frequency with which each category of customer will be contacted.
  • Prepare a list of questions aimed at understanding the customers’ current level of satisfaction with your company and then uncover any unmet pain points and needs they are interested to have addressed by your company.
  • Use your CRM to schedule and track the outcomes of these conversations. Set up a simple process by which any sales opportunities identified can be seamlessly handed over to the sales department.
  1. Track the Journey and Measure Progress

Set up KPIs to track all Customer Success meetings conducted and the outcomes.  The no-brainers to begin with are Net Promoter Scores (NPS), new sales opportunities uncovered, and revenue closed. Depending on your specific goals, you may want to track additional KPIs to see how your team is doing.

  1. Provide Your Team With the Tools They Need for Success

Your Customer Success team will need a CRM to remind them when to reach out to existing customers and capture notes on those interactions. They may need a project management application to help them track any problem-resolution projects that arise out of these calls. You will also need a mechanism to capture NPS scores and a dashboard to share the results among stakeholders.

With these steps in mind, there is some nuance to setting up a productive Customer Success function so you can ensure you don’t miss out on easy money. If you’d like to learn more about how to do this in your business, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

Cultivating a Success Mindset for Your Business

Written by Rob Malec

To be a successful business owner, mindset is everything. I have worked with thousands of business professionals over my 21 years as a Fractional VP of Sales, and the common thread amongst those who have achieved peak performance is having a success mindset.

What Is Mindset?

Having a success mindset is not simply about adhering to a series of trite, sunshiny slogans and phrases aimed to pump you up. Nor is it a collection of pithy aphorisms that point out obvious truisms about the merits of remaining diligent and focused.

Rather, mindset is a system of attitudes and beliefs put into purposeful action each and every day. A business mindset, then, is an approach to the way a person conducts their business. It’s how feeling, intuition, knowledge, skill, and wisdom are applied toward an identified challenge.

The Benefits of a Successful Business Mindset

Mindset manifests itself as actions and activities aimed at turning ideas into reality and making the difficult or seemingly impossible, possible. The right business mindset can make a bad day better (or prevent a bad day from happening in the first place). It can take a seemingly calamitous event and turn it into an unforeseen opportunity. It can take a person from a low-energy, unproductive state to one of high energy and productivity.

Mindset can straighten out a circuitous journey and make the path to a destination crystal clear. When you and your team share a business mindset, it can help you all converge on a path toward achieving your company goals. So how then do you develop the right business mindset for success?

Cultivating a Success Mindset

It has been my experience as a Fractional VP Sales that there are very few select individuals out there who possess a success mindset based solely upon biological disposition. They just came into the world with it.

The rest of us mere mortals need to cultivate and nurture a business mindset over time. This is a daily practice requiring purposeful focus. It’s a garden that needs regular watering. Here are a few ways to do so.

Cultivate a Success Mindset by Reading Often

We’ve all seen the statistics that say the most successful business people read X [insert seemingly unreasonable number of books] per year. Regardless of the number of books your Google search tells you successful people read, the message is clear: consistently filling your brain with fresh ideas is the best way to broaden your thinking and sharpen your focus. Note that ‘fresh’ here means new ideas for you. The ideas may have been around for centuries, such as those contained in books that are thousands of years old, but they could very well be new to you.

Remember That Inspiration to Help Cultivate a Success Mindset Can Come From Anywhere

The reading path to developing a successful business mindset can begin just about anywhere. The journey begins when you, the student, realize you have a desire to learn. As the saying goes, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear’.

It may be that “how to” focused business books are the best place for you to start. For others, reading about mindfulness makes more sense. For still others reading a book on how to improve their tennis game may have obvious applications in the business realm. The key is to start with your interest and go from there. Be sure to examine how what you read applies to your business.

Initiate A Successful Business Mindset Within Your Team

The journey of initiating a success mindset within a team begins with a conversation. It may be one that you’ve never had with your team. Many leaders are so busy focusing on having their team handle the issues of the day that they don’t set aside time to have higher-level conversations. It’s important to peel the onion and get to the heart of how your team shows up to their job roles and what could be done to elevate their performance.

If peeling the onion and starting down this path makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Many CEOs and business owners I’ve worked with have felt the same way. If you would like to discuss how you might tackle this challenge feel free to reach out to me.