What they’re hungry for are meaningful, collaborative conversations built on mutual value and trust, that result in a Win3 …where they, the seller, and the organization, achieve a winning outcome.
“Conversations That Sell” introduces sales professionals to the collaborative conversation skills they need to capture the buyer’s attention and secure business.
Based on the author’s five-step sales system, What’s in It for Them (WIIFT) – Wait, Initiate, Investigate, Facilitate, Then Consolidate – the book shows readers how to:
– Prepare for an effective sales call
– Identify sales opportunities and the factors that drive buyers to act
– Adjust their approach to the type of buyer-Achievers, Commanders, Reflectors, and Expressers
– Make conversations flow easily
– Address problems, opportunities, wants, and needs
– Work through objections
– Advance and close sales; and more.
Packed with valuable tools and examples, salespeople in all industries will discover how to increase their short- and long-term sales success by keeping the focus of every conversation where it belongs-on the buyer.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My passion is advancing the world of sales and customer service so that more people – on all sides of the transaction – get what they need from each conversation.
Collaborative Selling: Where Every Conversation Counts and Everyone Wins
Imagine this scenario. You’re in a conversation, sitting across from another party—maybe one person, a couple, or a business team—with a wide desk or kitchen table between you. The surface between you is covered with documents, a computer, a telephone, and stacks of paperwork. Your prospective buyer is avoiding direct eye contact, afraid that you’re there to sell them something or tell them something they have to do.
Now imagine a different scenario. You enter a conference room, office, or living room and your buyer smiles at you and greets you with a warm handshake. They invite you to sit next to them to share ideas and information. They are open when responding to your questions and engage with you collaboratively to discuss how you and your solution might help them, or provide something they want or need.
In which scenario do you have a better chance of succeeding? The second one, of course!
How do you make that happen? How do you create such a setting? You approach each sale using the collaborative selling approach you’ll learn in this book.
Why Collaborative Selling Works
Buyers and sellers often approach a sales situation as if they are on opposing sides of the table—or opposite sides of a negotiation. That’s what you saw in the first scenario.
Collaborative selling is about being on the same side, working side-by-side with your buyer to achieve something you both want. They want a solution; you want a sale. That’s what you saw in the second scenario.
How then do you achieve what you both want? By focusing on the buyer.
When you focus on helping your buyer solve a problem, capture an opportunity, or get what they want or need, you give them greater value, build a trusting relationship, earn their loyalty, and end up with more sales. That’s a situation where you both achieve what you want or need—short-term and long-term.
To help you remember the importance of focusing on your buyer throughout the selling process, I’ve developed an acronym—WiifT, pronounced “whiff-it” —which stands for “What’s in it for Them?” Them is your buyer. It’s spelled with a capital T because the focus is on Them.
The way you focus on the buyer is to make their problems, opportunities, wants, and needs the focus of your conversations and the reason for your solution. This leads us to another important acronym—POWNs, pronounced with the sound of the first o in opportunity. POWNs stands for problems, opportunities, wants, and needs—the items you work with your buyer to address or achieve. (I promise there are only three acronyms in this book for you to remember.)
Usually sellers are taught to find the buyer’s want or need, and that is a great place to start. Yet when you look beyond the obvious want or need and help your buyer capture opportunities and solve problems, you gain their respect, earn their trust, give greater value, and create a stronger sense of urgency for adopting your solution.
These desired or not-yet-capitalized-upon opportunities and known and unknown problems are often the areas you can provide the most value. In consumer sales, these may be life changers. Your solution may lead to less stress, healthier relationships, an improved quality of life, a more organized lifestyle or home, or a better work-life balance.
In corporate sales, they may be more complex, involve other departments, and help the company’s customers or benefit the overall organization. Your solution might help them avoid future replacement costs or reduce maintenance expenses. You might help them realize a high-level benefit, such as eliminating redundancy with another department or improving the company’s reputation. These are things your buyer may not have thought about, and yet addressing them benefits the buyer’s company and puts the buyer in a favorable light within their own company.
When you think beyond immediate wants and needs, you make a huge difference to your buyer. The impact makes you more valuable than someone who just provides a product or service.
There are some misunderstandings about what collaboration is. There is a perception that collaboration is an arduous process, involving large teams of people and long time lines. Yet collaborative selling can be as simple as a single conversation, or a string of conversations, between a buyer and a seller—two-way conversations where the discovery and dialogue are part of the value the buyer receives.
In a nutshell, collaborative selling involves a buyer and seller, working together, conversation by conversation, to address the buyer’s POWNs, with the outcome being that they both achieve something of value. The approach works whether your conversations take place face-to-face, over the phone, or through email.
Collaboration Is Consultation Plus
Consultative selling, which has been the norm for many years, positions you, the seller, as the expert in your field—the authority on your product or service. Your role has been to uncover your buyer’s wants and needs, go off in a silo and develop a solution, and then return to explain how your solution matches the buyer’s need. It’s a “them and us” mindset, not a “working together” approach. Although the approach has been extremely effective for decades, it only addresses wants and needs, and misses opportunities and problems. Collaborative selling provides an opportunity to add much more value, as I’ll explain later in this discussion.
Collaborative selling is also a more efficient sales process. Today’s buyers are faced with more challenges than ever before. They are faced with what I call a “More and Less” syndrome:
Today’s buyers face:
Information Decision-making authority
Sellers need an efficient, effective selling approach that doesn’t waste their buyer’s time or add to their “More and Less” challenges. You need to make every conversation count for your buyer, and that’s what happens when you focus on WiifT. It’s also what happens when your buyer becomes a part of the solution.
Remember the old saying that “two heads are better than one”? When you and the buyer bring your collective expertise and ideas together, you often come up with a solution that neither of you would have discovered alone.
A participant in one of my training sessions shared a situation where he was faced with a buyer’s objection. Rather than trying to identify a solution to the objection by himself, he asked the buyer for their suggestion. The buyer’s suggested solution was one the seller never would have thought of, leading the buyer to feel part of the solution and the seller to have a quicker decision with a committed buyer.
When you collaborate, your conversations are relevant for both you and the buyer, you reduce the buyer’s fear or irritation of being “sold to” or “told to,” better ideas are cultivated, and earlier buy-in is achieved, making the final sales decision much easier to secure. Sales close more quickly and both parties achieve their goals more efficiently, which is exactly what today’s “More and Less” buyer needs.
When You Collaborate, Everyone Wins
While we’ve established that collaborative selling focuses on the buyer and their POWNs, WiifT does not mean that the seller and the seller’s company are unimportant. Instead, the winning solution or outcome benefits everyone involved.
In a traditional win-win situation, the goal is for two stakeholders—typically the buyer and the selling company—to win. With collaborative selling, the salesperson is also an important stakeholder.
I often hear sellers talk about feeling unimportant, caught between their company and their buyers. They express frustrations about being pushed to sell certain products, when they know a different solution will fit their buyer’s POWNs better. This puts the seller in an uncomfortable situation where they can’t possibly win. (By the way, if you find yourself in a situation like this, you can use the collaborative selling skills you’ll learn throughout the pages of this book to also collaborate within your company to achieve a mutually beneficial result.)
When all parties work together, all the stakeholders win. It’s a win-win-win or Win3 (I always say “win-cubed”).
Figure 2–1 graphically represents the Win3, illustrating the interconnectivity of the stakeholders. The center components of the model are the means for accomplishing the triple win, Win3.
How does each of these stakeholders win? Let’s identify the possibilities when the sale is made and the buyer’s POWNs are successfully addressed.
Your customer wins by having a solution to their POWNs. They may benefit in any number of ways, including: more satisfaction in their work, less stress, more money or savings, more free time, peace of mind, an opportunity captured, an enhanced reputation, a problem resolved, a specific need or want fulfilled, and the ability to take on additional responsibilities and challenges.
Your company wins with increased revenue, additional sales, market share gains, customer retention, higher profit margins, higher employee retention, and a good reputation.
You, the seller, win by being gainfully employed and compensated, although that’s not unique to the collaborative selling approach. What makes collaborative selling unique is that stronger buyer relationships and value are provided that create loyalty and lead to more, and often larger, future sales. You also become a valuable part of the solution, as we discussed in Chapter 1, and that builds greater confidence and satisfaction. Now we’re talking Win3!
What’s more, the ripple effect of winning extends beyond the Win3. There are additional stakeholders who also win. These include the buyer’s company, your company’s shareholders, others in your company who build the product and deliver the service you sell, or those who simply keep their jobs because your sales contribute to the company’s bottom line. You can even add your personal stakeholders, including family and friends, because your well-being and financial success affect them, too. When a collaborative sale is made, and the buyer’s POWNs are addressed, it’s a string of wins all around.
About now you may be wondering, “Is it really possible for all the stakeholders to win?” It is possible when you focus on the components in the middle of the Win3 model.
Conversation by Conversation, What Collaboration Looks Like
While collaborative selling might sound good in theory, it may be hard for you to picture how it really works. Let me illustrate with an example from my own experience.
We began at the table—the buyer and I—engaged in a relevant conversation about his business problems and opportunities and his training wants and needs. After a high-level review of our training solution, he was interested in learning more. What he wanted was to know the final implementation recommendation and costs—now!
I could have gone back to my office to devise the plan for him; instead, recognizing his personality type (more about that in Chapter 4), I decided I needed to include him in the process right then and there. I asked if he wanted to build it with me.
Together we sketched out the implementation plan on a white board. I then added the investments while he observed and asked clarifying questions. He was able to see how each piece worked and how the costs were calculated. He was able to ask questions and get immediate responses.
The buyer was pleased, and yet I didn’t get a yes that day. He wanted to finish his review of other vendors to determine if mine was indeed the best solution. Because we had built the solution together, I was confident that he wouldn’t find a better fit.
It was a long thirty days before he called to say that he wanted to work with me, and that our collaborative process was the deciding factor. After seeing how other training consultants worked, he recognized he didn’t want his reps learning their techniques.
While not every selling situation requires the same level of collaboration, it was powerful in this case, and for this type of decision maker. If I had followed the typical path of taking in the information and then getting back to him later, I might not have earned his business, which I have now enjoyed for a productive—and remunerative—ten years.
And just in case you think collaborative selling only applies in B2B sales, here’s an example from a consumer sale. Kurt, a financial advisor, sat at the kitchen table with a couple discussing their retirement dreams, their plan for funding their children’s education and weddings, and the vacation they wanted to take for their twenty-fifth anniversary.
Kurt asked questions of both the husband and wife for clarity, and facilitated the dialogue between them to prioritize. He then began to explain how he might help them achieve these financial goals. Kurt asked for their thoughts and feelings about various options, working with their existing financial investments and budget, and their needs for insurance. He helped them get in sync on their goals and their overall approach.
At the end of the conversation, Kurt made a commitment to put together a plan to achieve what they had discussed. Unlike what happened in my example, Kurt did go away to develop the plan, in this case it was necessary to develop the correct plan after researching options. At their next appointment, he illustrated the plan and connected it back to their goals and earlier discussion. He asked for their input, comments, and questions, and then asked if they were ready to move forward. They were.
Is Collaborative Selling Worth the Effort?
There are potential challenges with any approach to selling, and collaborative selling is no different. My belief is that as you read through the tips and strategies outlined in the remaining chapters, you’ll decide that it’s in your best interest to adopt and adapt these collaborative and WiifT-focused strategies. And, as a client recently reminded me, they are also in the best interest of the buyer.
These strategies may seem like extra work at first, and I won’t say that collaborative selling is easier. What I have found, though, is that it’s a matter of transferring energies and actions, rather than adding more; it’s a matter of getting comfortable with the new techniques—and adapting them to make them your own.
If you believe that deep buyer relationships are important—relationships that lead to repeat business, referrals, and loyal customers—then you will find that the effort of collaborating is well worth it.
About the Author:
Nancy Bleeke is an author, professional trainer, speaker, and president of Sales Pro Insider, Inc. Her training courses and process help companies increase sales by 5-25%, strengthen employee retention and engagement, and drive customer loyalty.
Her education includes bachelor and master degrees in business management launched her 20+ years’ experience working with managers in the areas of sales, sales management, customer service training, and human resource development.
To learn more visit: www.conversationsthatsell.com
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