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].

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