“In this world of dramatically changing customer buying behavior…… your sales approach must evolve, or you will be left behind.”
– The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
The Idea: The Corporate Executive Board discovered that 53 percent of customer loyalty is due to the sales experience. Compare this to company and brand relevance (19%), product and service solutions (19%), and the price/value relationship (9%). The sales process is that essential to organizational success. And if your sales organization is not uncovering, discovering or introducing new value, you are vulnerable.
Very few organizations understand their customer’s unstated agendas (and hidden risks) or honestly challenge the strategy and mindset of the customer.
We are operating in a world of nano-differentiation. Most companies are playing follow the leader– introducing products that knock off their competitors and lack interest or imagination.
Sales organizations must understand their customer’s business at both a strategic and granular level. The customer already knows your product offering; new value occurs when you teach them how to operate their business better. How are you at sharing transformational insights with your customer or helping them understand competitive threats or emerging risks in their business?
Building healthy relationships in a B-to-B world is vital to longer-term success. The goal is not just creating healthy partnerships but to become “memorable.”
I recently was re-reading a very insightful book called “The Challenger Sale” by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. This brought to mind three ideas worth considering to be memorable in your customers’ eyes.
- Teach. Memorable partners share customized “insight led” conversations. To quote the authors “Differentiate yourself by showing your customer something new about their industry that they didn’t know or provide them with a different view.” The best “teach” by conveying fresh viewpoints that include advanced philosophies, growth strategies, or new models.
- Tension. The top sales organizations are highly relational; they are candid, forthright, and honest about business challenges. The authors state that the most valuable customer engagements cause slight discomfort. When one’s views are challenged, discomfort can follow; but often one will reassess their views. Each challenging discussion should be tailored to the customer’s strategic agenda and personal buying preference.
- Courage: Most sales organizations are fearful to create tension in a customer discussion. Think about it: your most intimate connections occasionally have moments of strain and debate. Should your top customer relationships be any different? Don’t be timid to share how similar companies took a wrong turn, opening themselves up to competitive threats. The best sales organizations confront the root challenges that hinder their customer’s growth. They are courageous.
What are you doing to build an organizational mindset that “challenges” your customers? Research by Neil Rackham has shown that 87 percent of sales training content is forgotten by sales organizations within thirty days. A challenger mentality must be modeled and rewarded within the organization by every level of leadership.
Sales success in this new world is much less about sharing your expertise and much more about uncovering what the client does not know. How are you at uncovering and discussing risks, threats and potential landmines with your top customers?
Are you memorable, or just agreeable?