Three Levels Down

If you want to sell more, more often, dig deep to unearth your buyer’s needs.

Generally stated Buyer needs are the problems your Buyer wants to resolve, and the resulting improved situation they desire. You knew that already, right? Where to from here?

For each sales opportunity there are in fact three levels of buyer needs to drill down into:

Level 1 needs: These are the basic needs your product or service meets by virtue of its features. For example if you sell industrial lighting, then illuminating a poorly lit work space is the Level 1 buyer need you meet.

Level 2 needs: These are the specific problems your buyer is facing as a result of his Level 1 need remaining un-met. In our lighting example your buyer is working in a dark space. His Level 1 need is illumination. His Level 2 need is the Pain(s) associated with the resultant poor quality work done due to the darkness.

Level 3 needs: This is the improved situation your buyer desires by fixing his problem situation. It can also be an overall improved situation he desires that is loosely connected with fixing his problems. In a word, Gains. In our lighting example the buyer’s Level 1 need is illumination, his Level 2 Need is to do good quality work, and his Level 3 Need is to do good quality work on this project and thus maintain his reputation as a quality home renovation contractor.

Navigating your sale down to Level 3 needs helps you sell more, more often, because of an interesting buyer phenomenon. That is that buyers will shop to meet their Level 1 needs, will make that purchase to meet their Level 2 needs, but will spend more money on that purchase if they can see that their Level 3 needs are also being met. This is because Level 3 needs are higher order needs. They represent the value the buyer is looking to realize by meeting his Level 2 needs. Buyers who recognize value are generally willing to pay for it.

If your goal is to merely meet your buyers Level 1 and Level 2 needs you will have satisfied, but not excited, buyers. You will also have buyers who are only willing to spend the minimum to meet those needs.

For our home renovation contractor, illuminating his dark work space is satisfying for him. Having a great reputation, being hired back, referred to others, and making more money? That’s exciting to him.

That’s Level 3 stuff.

Be Part of the 10%

Funny term, ‘Sales Velocity’. What does it mean, and why is so important to you as a person in business development?

Sales Velocity is the speed at which your deals close. Faster is better [I know, you figured that out already]. The more deals you can close in a week, month, quarter, or year, the more money you make. Increasing your Sales Velocity is crazy simple.

Let’s begin by understanding why Sales Velocity can slow in the first place.

You meet with a buyer. The meeting is awesome! You are engaged, tackle the issues, and generally have a grand old time. As you are driving away basking in the afterglow you realize “Oops, I forgot to ask about [insert the important thing you forgot to ask about here]. I’ll just call them back to get that answer.” You call or email. It takes several days for a reply to arrive. From the response you realize you need more detail. You email them back. They email you back, etc, etc. You get the picture. Your Sales Velocity now has no velocity.

The primary reasons behind a slow Sales Velocity is in fact a list of one. It is…

1. Not doing it right the first time*

*The ‘it’ I refer to is conducting highly productive customer facing sales interactions

Ninety percent of sales people do not do a written plan for the sales calls they conduct [I know this because I always ask salespeople if they do]. Thus they plan to forget to ask that important something that can unlock their sale and get it moving forward. They plan to neglect to cover off a small but vital point that will set the stage for the ‘Yes’ they are looking for.

Here is the most effective thing I have seen the other ten percent of salespeople do to improve their Sales Velocity…

1. They take 3 – 5 minutes to do a written pre-call plan for every sales interaction they conduct. They plan three things…

a. The sales call outcomes they desire. That is, the measureable things they want to accomplish in that call that will meaningfully move their sale forward
b. The questions they will ask of their buyer toward reaching those outcomes
c. The things they will relay to the buyer towards reaching those outcomes

2. After each call – while the car is still stationary – they compare the actual meeting outcomes against their list of desired outcomes and strategize their next steps

This ten percent of sales people generally have a higher Sales Velocity than their peers. They close more deals. They make more money. Crazy simple.

Be part of that ten percent.

You Have Everything to Gain

We are in the business of helping our buyers fix their problems. We do this by providing great solutions. A great solution is the currency of the realm in business development and an astute seller can artfully describe the richness of their capabilities in this domain. It would seem that those who can solve problems best should win all of the deals, but this is not always the case. How come?

The answer lies in the fact there are two sides to the buying equation, one of which is virtually ignored by most salespeople.

The traditional side of the buying equation is of course the desire of the buyer to fix their problems and relieve the ‘Pains’ those problems represent. The other side is the equally powerful desire to bridge the gap between their current overall situation and the improved overall situation they desire. This is the Gain side of the buying equation, and it is neglected by most salespeople. [How do I know this to be true? When I ask salespeople how they address the Gain side of the buying equation I most often get a blank stare in reply].

Helping a buyer achieve the improved overall situation they desire is an effective way to tip the decision making scales in your favour.

Your competitor is likely not engaging the buyer in ‘Gain’ conversations. They are not having enlightening and revelatory discourse with them in which the buyer is encouraged to talk at length about the improved overall situation they want to create. The buyer is not painting a vivid picture for them of improved state of their business they desire, above and beyond solving their current problems. Thus, the competition does not get the chance to clearly demonstrate their capability to both relieve the buyer’s Pains and make their desired Gains a reality too. Pity the competition.

So how, you ask, does one facilitate a conversation with a buyer about their desired Gains? After discussing your buyer’s problems and Pains do the following….

1. Learn their desired Gains by asking, “Can you please describe the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish within your business unit / Division / Region / Company?” 

2. Learn their view of the path to achieving their Gains by asking, “How will fixing your problems contribute to alleviating the Pains directly associated with them, and contribute toward making that big picture a reality? 

3. Clearly demonstrate your capability to relieve their Pains and make their desired Gains a reality

This approach to selling is sound and effective and should be a part of your sales process. It is particularly powerful in big ticket sales where senior level decision makers are involved. These individuals are in the business of making an improved future for their organization a reality, and possess the wherewithal and willingness to invest heartily in making it happen.

How effectively do you facilitate the Gain conversation with your buyers? Doing so requires sound preparation, a deft conversational touch, and practice. Much effort to be sure, but well worth the investment. Hey, you’ve got everything to gain.

Stop Selling and Start Helping People Buy

There is an old saying in sales that goes, “Your customer is not buying a power drill, they are buying the holes.” If old sayings become old sayings because they contain pithy wisdom, what is the wisdom here? It is that Buyers don’t buy features, they buy the benefits those features deliver. But I think there is more.

Revenue generation increases when a Buyer is given the chance to expand at length on the problems that drilling holes will fix for them, [their Pains], and the related good things that will happen when hole drilling is made possible or better, [their desired Gains]. It is further increased when they are helped to articulate the value to them of relieving those Pains and realizing those Gains. More than drills or holes, Buyers want to realize value.

When advising my clients I suggest they take this message to a level where beyond helping them sell more effectively, will help their Buyers buy more easily.

Understanding why people buy is the first step in helping them do so. They buy whatever it is they buy to satisfy one or a combination of the following Five Reasons. These are to…

Make Money – Generate top line revenue or improve bottom line profits

Save Money – Shrink the expense line

Save Time – Increase available hours to put towards other tasks

Increase Convenience – Make their life easier

Improve Competitive Position – Perform better than they did last year, or versus those chasing them

To improve your revenue generation results, start selling using The Five Reasons to help your Buyers buy. Here is how…

1. Before meeting with a Buyer consider your proposed or anticipated solution and ask yourself “what value does my solution bring for each of The Five Reasons?”

2. Meet your Buyer and ask them well thought out questions to discover their Needs

3. For each Need uncovered ask your Buyer to identify the associated Five Reasons value [M$, S$, ST, IC, ICP] they would like to realize by having that Need met

4. Maintain the dialogue to determine the ranked order of importance of their Needs and associated Five Reasons Value

5. Clearly articulate your capability to meet their Needs and deliver The Five Reasons value they desire [use the pre-call work done in Step 1 to help you here]

There. You have now effectively helped your Buyer get to a place where they can make a good decision around which drill to buy. Here’s hoping it is your drill!

What? You’re Not Selling Backward?

Ideas in this posting will help you: Make Money, and increase the ease with which you Close Business.

I am privileged to spend time chatting with many business people who carry a revenue generation responsibility. They range from Sr. Executives, to Managers, to Key Account sales professionals. I am infinitely curious to learn how they sell, and how things are going for them.

I ask “How do you go about selling your products/services today?” Invariably the response I hear is “Well, I usually start out talking about my company’s products/services. I tell the buyer about the cool features and all that. Then, we talk about how they might fit into their operation. You know, their needs.”

These people then proceed to share with me the inconsistent [and often below plan] sales and revenue results they have been achieving.

Now, everything I have experienced has shown that success in generating revenue comes from learning a buyer’s needs first, then talking about the capabilities of my product/ service to meet those needs second.

Apparently I am selling backward! I must tell you though that it works, consistently. Selling ‘backward’ works so well that I make it a point to teach it to all of my clients. They have found it works for them too [My approach is called The 5 Reasons Sales Method].

Here then, is a method you can follow to sell ‘backward’…

1. Learn about your buyer’s current situation as it relates to your product/service

2. Ask questions to learn about their Needs as they relate to your product/service, and the value they seek to realize by having those Needs met

3. Clearly demonstrate the capabilities of your product/service to meet those Needs and deliver that value

Try asking yourself/your team the questions “How do you go about selling your products/services today? Are you achieving consistently solid sales results?”

So, are you and your team selling ‘backward’? Selling backward is the new forward you know.

Eliminating Sales Peaks and Valleys

Ideas in this posting will help you: Make Money

Life in business is sooooo good when sales are happening. Why though does it seem that sales – and the precious revenue that they generate – often comes in peaks of activity and valley’s of inactivity? Let’s look at why this happens, and how to avoid it.

I was speaking to a colleague of mine the other day, a successful consultant with a thriving practice. He is well regarded and published regularly in one of the country’s largest newspapers. I was surprised to learn that his practice suffered from revenue peaks and valleys. How could this be?

Anyone with a revenue generation responsibility has seen this cycle before. Sales pick up, and things are great. So great in fact that the development of ‘net new’ business falls by the wayside as the intricacies of closing and implementing existing sales commands more and more time. Before you know it those deals have closed, and precious few new sales opportunities are behind them. Sales have peaked and you are now on a rocket ride down into a valley. This is a four ticket ride, but it sure isn’t any fun! How do you avoid this unpleasant journey?

Here are a few ways you and your team can solve the revenue peaks and valleys cycle:

Don’t stop selling. Ever
The jazz for most salespeople is in closing deals, full of high fives, adrenaline, and dollar signs. Prospecting, not so much. Ensure to book – and honour – an appointment with yourself every week for business development work. Even when at your busiest closing and implementing deals, set aside at least 10% of your work week for finding new sales opportunities. Keeping this appointment with yourself will ensure your sales follow a steady, rather than peaks and valleys, trajectory.

Watch your sales activity dashboard
Sometimes you don’t realize you are entering a revenue valley until you are in it. Do your best to predict your sales future by keeping an eye on the level of business development activity of you and your sales team. When activity levels of those things that cause sales to happen – prospecting phone calls, face to face sales calls, proposals presented – fall, you can bet that a few weeks or months later sales revenue will follow. Keep a keen eye on your dashboard. If you don’t have a dashboard, create one. Encourage and reward those on your team who maintain their business development focus in busy times. Remind those that don’t to book and keep that regular business development appointment.

Employ the ‘Mid-deal Next deal’ Strategy
The best place to develop new business is with existing customers who know and like you. The best time to sow those seeds is when implementing on an existing project or sale with them as you are already actively engaged with key decision makers and implementers. Use this opportunity to identify new ways you can help them related to the work you are currently doing. Developing new business ‘mid-deal’ rather than waiting until the end will set up the ‘next deal’ to close much sooner and shorten or eliminate a revenue valley.

Summer Sales Tempo

Summer time is traditionally perceived as a slack business time by many.  For the banks however, it is not.  They are as busy pulling mortgage payments out of your account in July as they are in October.  So, use your summer work time wisely.  Do those ‘working on the business’ things now that you have a hard time getting to during the busy times.

Catching your breath during summer down time is a great thing to do.  Falling asleep in the hammock for 2 months however is not.  Don’t allow your sales velocity to grind to halt.  When not on your well deserved vacation time keep a lively tempo to your sales and business development activities.

Here are a few high return investments in time and effort you can make in summer that will set you up for a great Fall selling season…

  1. Narrow Your Current Target List:  Focus your energies on connecting with and closing the sales opportunities for which summer is a slow time, and who have mind share to give you.
  2. Book Appointments With Key Decision Makers.  Even if they are 4- 6 weeks out due to vacations, call and get them booked now.  Your competitors are on vacation and aren’t calling them, so your decision makers probably have schedule room.
  3. Create And Vet Your Sales Target List For The Fall. Create your Sales Target List, identify who to call at which company, and web research those companies.  Do that leg work now so when you are back in September you hit the ground running with your prospecting.
  4. Reach Out to Your Referral Network ‘I’.  Once you have your Sales Target list, leverage your contact base and generate warm referrals into those opportunities.  Get those referrals flowing now so that after Labour Day you can be booking appointments for the month of September, rather than later in the Fall.
  5. Reach Out to Your Referral Network ‘II’.  A summer latte on a patio with your referral sources today will do great things for your business development activities in September.
  6. Do Your Strategic Planning.  Taking time to think strategically is very tough to do in your busy season.  Take that time now.  Develop new products, plan for opening new markets, and strategize how you will bring more value to existing customers.  Do this now so you can begin tactical execution immediately in the Fall
  7. Do Your IT Upgrades.  Any task related to upgrading your current systems or purchasing and installing new software always takes more time and mind share than you expect.  These upgrades do however often result in improved sales productivity and simplification of work flows.  Do your research and purchasing now.  There are plenty of sales people around with few customers to talk to so you will have easy access to help.