In an earlier blog post, I had introduced the “SIMPLE” framework to increase your sales effectiveness.
The first step in the process is to be able to “Surprise” your customers with an insight or point-of-view that they are not yet aware of.
This step is essential in improving the sales effectiveness as this enables the sales teams to initiate the process rather than wait for their customers to come to them with a requirement.
There are three ways that sales teams can come up with insights that can truly surprise the customer. Some of them are as below:
- Network: One of my mentors, who was a CEO of a 100 Million USD manufacturing business, used to spend a considerable amount of time with a specific sales executive from one of his suppliers. When I asked him the reason for this special treatment for that particular sales executive, he explained to me the reason. That specific sales executive always ensured that he met the warehouse manager to know the current stock level of his SKU’s; met the manufacturing head to check if the quality of his material was as required; met the sales head to understand the sales forecast trend and then came to meet him. My mentor would then talk to him about what his impressions were about the business and get an outside-in perspective about what is happening inside his own organization. This helped him uncover things that he could have never come to know, even if he asked his team directly, due to a variety of reasons. Most organizations suffer with complexity and silos. If sales teams are able to network across the various silos will be able to identify blind spots which the leaders themselves would not be able to identify themselves. Some of these insights can serve as a great starting point to initiate a discussion. This also provides you options about which insight do you use to initiate the discussion, based on where you could add the most value.
- Customer Journey Maps: Use customer journey mapping to understand their customers and key partners. Customer Journey maps enable you to understand the business of your customer from the perspective of their customers and partners. This view is also unique as not many organizations cultivate this outlook voluntarily. Even if they do, they would truly appreciate the effort that you put in to understand their business from their customers perspective. They would then want to explore if your findings are similar to theirs. In both the cases, this always results in a dialogue about what are some of the unmet challenges that could be holding your customer back from achieving the kind of success they are aspiring for. In both the cases, you have initiated a high value conversation with not just the key decision makers but the larger team.
- Connect & Combine: Another way to gain insights is for you to be able to connect and combine seemingly disparate things and apply them to a specific situation. Can you connect & combine ideas from different industries, which can be adapted in a way to help your customer address the challenges that they are facing in pursuit of their aspirations.
These ideas are powerful in and by themselves to help you uncover truly surprising insights that will enable you to start an interesting engagement with your customers. However, the true power of this approach comes when you apply all the three together to come up with not just an insight that you could share with you customer but also different perspectives of the same insight (their customer perspective, internal stake holder perspective & your perspective).
All said and done, this is hard work for the sales teams to engage in. However, if you are selling a product that is high value and complex to sell, this approach will get you a strategic advantage in the entire sales process, as you now not only participate in the sales process, but are leading the process. This is a BIG difference from responding to RFQ’s and RFP’s and trying to play catch-up with your competitors.
This is the first step in the SIMPLE framework to improve your sales effectiveness.
Have you ever been able to surprise your customers? If yes, how? Did that lead to an opportunity? Were you able to close the sale? How easy/difficult was that in comparision to your other deals?
Do share your feedback so that we can all learn.
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In the recent past, there has been a lot written about the fact that the entire buying process has undergone a sea change and due to which selling is becoming more and more difficult.
I am herewith suggesting a process if when followed can still help sales teams succeed and improve their sales effectiveness dramatically.
S — Surprise: This is the first step in the process and also the most important step. In order to be able to do this, you need to understand your customers business better than they themselves know and find an insight which will surprise them. You can uncover these insights by any one of the below steps:
- Network across layers of the organization: Most organizations are really complex and it is almost impossible for CxO’s to have access to their own front-line staff. If you are able to connect with both and the folks in-between, you have a good possibility to uncover insights that the CxO’s might not otherwise find.
- Talk to their customers or suppliers or partners: Depending upon the stated objectives of your customer, go talk to their customers or suppliers or partners. For example, if your customer is focused on top line growth and has taken up agressive revenue growths, you could go and talk to their customer/prospects. Try and understand from their perspective, what is their expectations from their supplier and see if you are able to uncover a blindspot for your customers.
- Industry Swaps: Think if there is something that they could learn from other industries, which when adapted in their organizations could give them an edge over their competitors.
I — Inspire:
- Paint a picture for your customer about what their future could be, if they act on the insight that you have uncovered for them.
- At this stage, average or good sales people build a business case to support whatever they are trying to sell and start pushing for a close. However, Great sales people will not do that yet. They will paint a bigger picture of the future. They will try and inspire their customers to go after that future.
M — Motivate:
- Once, they have inspired their customers about the possibilities in the future, they will motivate their customers to act on the insight.
- In most cases (if not in all), this involves getting your customers to set-up internal meetings, sharing the insight with their colleagues and start discussions internally about the insight and by doing so, own the vision. This ownership keeps them motivated to build consensus within their organization to act on the insight.
- It is the role of the sales executive to ensure that the level of motivation does not go down.
P — Position:
- Once there is consensus built within the customer organization, great sales executives will them position themselves to be the best partner to help their customers to realize their vision.
- This is the time when they actually start talking about their product or service or solution and how they can help realize the vision.
L — Lead:
- Once they have positioned themselves well, they will then lead their customers during the discussions around the negotiations.
- Instead of negotiating with their customers, they will consistently lead their customers to a situation wherein everyone is happy with what they got.
- This is when they close the deal and get the order.
E — Engage:
- Great sales people do not stop there. They will continue to work with their customers to ensure that the execution of the product or service or strategy is executed so that their customers realize their vision of the future they had started out with.
- This one step along increases their value and trust on them so much that the next round of sales becomes much easier and faster. This is also the step where most of the average or good sales executives falter.
At the engage phase, they again start looking at ways to surprise their customers again and re-start the cycle.
Now, if you follow the SIMPLE framework, I think you will end up not only meeting your sales quotas but exceeding your quotas, year-after-year. You will also have a list of customers who might even give you a chance by going out of their way, just to do business with you.
What do you think about this framework? Do you think this will work for you? Share your thoughts and comments.
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