The 4 I’s of successful selling
Insight, Interaction, Innovation, Incentives
In the past 10+ years the pace of technology has changed everything we do. If you don’t recognize that in how you coach and build your sales organization you will never achieve the results you could and should. It is clear that all of the interaction between the “buy side” and the “sell side” are both more virtual and more dynamics in this ever changing world. How can you achieve better results as a manager or a sales leader. It starts with building insight, that will lead to a better interaction. Then thinking about what the customer really wants and innovating ideas around the need with the right incentives in place, on both sides, will make happy customers and sales reps.
Insight - What we can do today to develop insight compared to years past is astonishing, how do you take advantage of that every day? Social media, blogs, and big data platforms need to be leveraged, along with information that is readily available but rarely used. An example, how many people selling take the time to listen to a quarterly earnings call (it is all online), a youtube video, a blog post, or review a LinkedIn profile to gain a “deep intuitive understanding” of who you are selling to? On the “buy side” research is easy, it should be that easy on the “sell side” as well. Corporate Executive Board studies show that “nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—happen before they ever talk to a live person”. You need to know what your customers have already done, and build insight so you can educate them as buyers. That means research and listen! Think about what you do personally before you consider buying something, and then think about that when you build insight to sell to your potential customer. Customers are way ahead of the “sales people” in many situations, so building the right level of research can initiate a valuable first interaction. This needs to be managed from field marketing to virtual interactions to the direct sales team.
Net, net, do your homework and dig into the person the company and use the resources out there and you will be amazed at how much easier it is to engage.
Article for good source “HBR – The End of Solution Sales”.
Interaction - This is the second step in the journey, and again this should be very different today than years past. We all know first impressions are critical, but first interactions are even more critical because they may happen without you knowing it. Linkedin, Facebook, Blogs and websites need to “behave” consistently so they can help educate the potential customer on who YOU are, what YOU are all about. How does your LinkedIn profile describe you and what you do? How does that compare to your Facebook or Twitter persona? What message gets sent via a “virtual interaction” between you and your customer every day? This interaction needs to be thought out and managed daily. People buy from people, and that won’t change with many products sold today! Then, the next set of interactions requires sales reps to solve the “why?”. What is your customer considering a change, is the time really right for them, who are the right set of stakeholders and are they really the right ones (I would prefer skeptical change agents over friendly informants)? The key is to coach those change agents on how to buy (educate and consensus build), especially in selling disruptive products or solutions that drive change.
Net, net, stop quizzing them about their company’s purchasing process and “what keeps them up at night?” and start making sure the right strategy is in place to rationalize, justify and minimize the risk of the solution while at the same time driving is alignment between buy side and sell side. This is also the time for the to establish trust. Set honest and realistic expectations. This means you need to be creative and innovative on creating a great solution offering.
Book for good source of insight “Radical Candor”
Innovation – There is so much innovation happening in our daily lives, the old strategy of “establishing demand” is dead! If this is the way sales is expected to execute, good luck, other than in a commodity sale. Customers are coming to the table armed with a deep understanding of their problem and a well-scoped solution. Don’t turn creative and insightful sales conversations into fulfillment conversations, it does not work. Sales reps need to transform from a clearing understand of the problem to a creative solution based on a business case. Sounds simple, and if could be if you think like that. Due to “freemium and try before you buy” in our personal lives, the buyer behavior has changed. Creative deals where the seller assumes the risk is expected (dropbox, google, appstore, etc). This could be shorter term license or service deals with creative deal structure that triggers payments based on speed, accuracy and go to market opportunities created. IT Services companies have been trying to do this for years, now software and hardware companies are doing the same. With deals like this, there is also always an element of “proof” on both sides. Proof could come in many forms, innovation enables fast and accurate proof.
Net, net, great deals benefit the buyer and the seller and innovation drives great deals.
Book for source and good ideas “Play Bigger”
Incentives – Any time a great deal is pulled together it has incentives for both parties to achieve the best results for each other. Typically, due to cost cutting initiatives and the constant need to drive more value, IT deals with customers should start with a business case. Business cases should have an ROI model with quantitative and qualitative elements. Once the framework is put together the buyer needs to own the business case and decide what the important elements are. Cost saving and revenue increase are typical to quantitative business case elements. Reduction of risk, better customer experience, better quality, and better employee satisfaction are typical qualitative elements.
Net, net, clear alignment starts here. Once the business case model is established, gainshare, revenue share or even joint venture deals are able to be formed. More risk, more upside is key for the buyer and seller to remember.
Take the time to brainstorm and build on the 4 I’s above with your sales reps and teams in your next big deal review or quarterly review. You will be amazed at the improvement in results and speed. Discipline is key here, because we all know how easy it is to resist change and fall back to old habits, and that will not win.