We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us!
I was fortunate enough to have grown up with some great cartoon strips and along with Charles Schultz’s Peanuts, the little opossum Pogo, often provided us some insights into our own lives.
I personally have used this quote many times to reflect on different situations in my life, causing me to take a deeper look in the mirror and take an honest look at myself.
So, as I recently had the chance to work with some really experienced and knowledgeable people, and as I was talking about what my company does and our solutions, they helped me take a painful look in the mirror. What I saw was the enemy in my sales approach was none other than ME!
The people who led me to that realization were Judy Mod, Founder & CEO of Social Gastronomy and Mike Hunter, CEO of Hunter Wells International. What I discovered was that when I spoke to people about Compendian®, I was leading with the solution, rather than their problem. According to the research that both Judy and Mike have done, this is how most sales people sell today. This is a real issue for buyers, because most salespeople show up and talk about how great their company and products are and how they are this, this and this in the marketplace, hoping all along that the buyer will connect the dots to some problem they have and will say I need that!
The problem with that logic is that from what we know about how buyers react today, they don’t even call a salesperson in to talk to them, until they are about 70% down the road with knowing what they want. When salespeople do come in, they tend to talk about the solution side of the process, without first getting agreement about: what the buyer’s problem is, why they have that problem, why do they want to fix it now, as opposed to why they haven’t fixed it before, and then why they can’t or don’t want to fix it themselves? The reason may be because they may not have the time, people, technology, money or resources to do it themselves and want someone else to take ownership of the problem to help them fix it.
So, salespeople tend to talk about themselves, their company, their products and solutions, which is on the left side of the selling equation. But buyers are on the right side of the equation, which is all about the problem that they have and need to have solved. Businesses today are aligning with companies based on what problems they have the ability to solve not based on what solutions those companies sell. You might be saying, but yes Chuck, isn’t that semantics and saying the same thing? Well no, we understand that as vendors, we are all based on what solutions we can sell, because that’s how we get paid. But from the buyer’s point of view that is secondary. The fact that they have to buy something is secondary. What’s primary is what problem do they have that you can help them solve? So, by going in and approaching it from the buyer’s point of view, around the problem they have, that they need to solve; you are able to connect with that buyer on a totally different level. And hopefully, if you are able to get in early enough in the problem identification stage, while the specifications are still being defined, then you will be in a stronger position to become involved in the outcome.
If a buyer identifies that she has a problem, then she will probably go out to her social network and see how her counterparts in other companies are solving it. Then she will determine whether she wants to use their methods to try and solve it or seek outside help. So, the earlier you can become involved in the problem identification process and help define what’s broken, the better chance you will have of being part of the solution.
The sales enemy in us revolves around going in and talking about the solution and not talking about what’s broken. So, the buyers are left often times to figure out how your solution is anchored to their problem. No matter how great it sounds and what it does, it doesn’t matter to the buyer because all they hear is the same sales noise that they hear from everyone else.
For those sales people who sell a technical solution, they often are talking about the technology and that drives the discussion down to the techies who often times can’t make the final decision, and the real buyer doesn’t really care about any of that. They really want to know that you understand their problem and can help them identify, validate and qualify the problem and then help them build a decision support process that will take it from end to end for alignment and approval. When sales people talk about technical solutions they become part of the noise and are placed in a category where they are talking about features, and that’s when they get beat up over pricing.
So, I have met the enemy and he is us no more! I have been enlightened not to talk about the solution, because unless it is anchored to a strategic business problem, it doesn’t matter. Instead, I need to help them identify, validate and qualify their problem, so that once I get agreement that they have a problem, and it is a big enough problem that they need to fix and fix it now, and they can’t fix it on their own, and they need my help to fix it; then and only then are they at a place where they can hear about how I am going to fix it. It really doesn’t matter what the fix is, as long as they believe that I can fix it, because the value proposition is in fixing the problem, not in the product. At least that’s the way I see it. What say you?