I was talking to a friend of mine who’s in sales, and he was frustrated. He shared with me that he continues to see the same pattern. He talks to a client, and he leaves them interested, but in the next meeting they tell him that they are no longer interested or worse than that, they do not even keep that scheduled meeting. He is not in a one-step type sale. So, it is not that he cannot close. In fact, he is closing for the next appointment. I asked him what’s happening between those meetings. He responded with “Tim, they perform their due diligence and determine what we are not.” What piece is missing? In his case, the organization is not a strong national brand and they have little market presence in the area he is working in.
I was able to draw on some personal experience from just about twenty years ago. I was with an organization that was not a household name. In fact, they had international presence, but the network for the most part was weak. The company wanted to change its image and decided to target much larger clients going forward. This would be like raising the Titanic. It may have seemed like a daunting task, but I began to re-write the companies record books. My book of business was five years ahead of projections. I simply identified people who did not need the household brand name awareness but had needs that matched up with our strengths. One of those strengths was our royalty structure. Later,the company was sold and they eliminated that competitive advantage, as well as many of the proprietary tools. I simply did not sell around our weakness, but stated what we were and what we were not. This worked. My clients were among the top five percent quartile of our membership upon affiliation.
So, my advice was simple. I suggested after the needs analysis, share what you are not, which may or may not be obvious. Rather than the client discovering this, be honest and upfront. Focus them on the needs that they have agreed on and that you have solutions for those challenges. If you truly cannot match your value proposition to their need, you must move on. Even if you can sell around it, they will probably end up miserable. Soon, you will be too. There is nothing worse than an unhappy customer. They will not say, “It is not working for me.” They will say “It just does not work.”
Over 50 years ago a movie was released called Miracle on 34 street, by now you probably have seen it a hundred times. The main plot in the story surrounds the concept of Santa Claus and if he does exist. Once agreed that he did exist,the question became was the man on trial the one and only Santa Claus? In the early part of the movie you may recall that Macy’s sent customers to Gimbals,which was all started by the Santa in question. As the publicity mounted, both stores ultimately embraced the concept. Soon, competition broke out to put the customer needs first. While you can say 'well that may be good in theory or only the movies," we all appreciate an honest salesperson sending us someplace else to find what we really need. Progressive Insurance even made a marketing campaign out sharing other’s rates. At the root of consultative selling isn’t that at the very core? I stopped asking people during an interview, “What is your approach to selling?” I always received the same answer and that was consultative selling. A consultant does not keep asking questions until they find an opening. They identify an agreed upon problem and then help find a solution. Sometimes, we do not have a fit. Or we may have some of what they need, but it still does not match the client’s real challenge. It is like having the right size shoe for the customer, but in the wrong color. They have to choose the shoe or the exact match. In somecases, they may be willing to adapt or make a change to make that product work. So my advice is to find the right fit. There is no one size fits all. Do not be afraid of saying “That is not us.”