I recently introduced my 14-year-old daughter to the movie City Slickers, the movie about a mid-life crisis plagued man, played by Billy Crystal, who was searching for purpose in his life. One of the characters in the movie, Curly, advised him to focus on “one thing” to give him purpose.
When I work with b2b salespeople, I often think of Curly’s advice. While it certainly takes a lot of focus and work to find the right clients to approach and the right valid business reason to secure an appointment, I often find that when the salesperson gets in front of the prospect they come away empty handed, not understanding the “one thing” his or her client needed. I coach these salespeople to go into a meeting with a desired outcome in mind.
Finding That "One Thing"
The “one thing” is to understand the prospect's or client’s key business challenge. I explain that the key business challenge is the foundation for developing a solution. Without it the client and salesperson are both guessing and it is nearly impossible to develop an impactful solution.
When I am dealing with my clients that sell marketing solutions for a living, I encourage them to uncover the following:
- A need or opportunity
- A goal or expectation
- A timeline of when the goal or expectation will happen
- Who the prospect or client is trying to reach
If you were selling end-aisle displays to packaged goods companies, you might want to uncover things like this:
- A need or opportunity
- A goal for product movement
- A timeline for this goal
- Who is the target consumer for the product in question
You can make your own list of things to uncover depending on your business—an exercise that is worth doing.
I’ve seen salespeople satisfied by learning that a client wants to “increase sales”, or ”generate more leads.” They leave the meeting, rush to put a proposal together only to find that it stalls. “Increasing sales” and “generating more leads” are not key business challenges. They are opportunities to ask more questions. Ask questions until your client discovers their “one thing." Depending on the type of sales you are in you might hear a variety of things but don’t get seduced by the vague need…. Dig deep until you find one where you can develop a solution.
What are some questions you would ask if you heard one of those clichés?
If the prospect is looking for increased sales, try asking these questions :
- What do your most profitable customers have in common with each other?
- Which products or services will generate the biggest growth in the year ahead?
- I’m curious how your sales compare with those of your competitors.
- How do you know or estimate whether your share of market is growing or shrinking?
And if the prospect is looking for more leads, consider these questions:
- What sources generate the best leads for you now and why?
- How would you describe an ideal lead?
Heed the advice of Curly and find your prospect's or client’s “one thing." Go into your next appointment with a desired outcome in mind, then think about the questions you would ask. Help your client or prospect uncover their key business challenge so you can build a solution that will make a lasting impact on their business.