Much of the discussion around social selling vs. traditional selling, or even old school selling like cold calling, has distracted many from the central issue, successful selling. When was the last time someone congratulated you on landing a big account and asked you “BTW, Ann, did you use social or other selling to win this deal?”. It is more likely that someone would ask about the steps and techniques that could be repeated to deliver similar results consistently.
There is one tried and true approach, that when executed properly can help you and the buyer in a number of ways to come to the right decision in a shorter and less painful time frame and atmosphere. No magic or silver bullet, but a series of questions framed around two simple words and concepts:
Using these two in a one – two combination helps you resolve a number of potential hurdles but avoid some as well.
One common example is when you have worked a sale in accordance to your process. You have interviewed the buyer(s), qualified them, understood their objectives, and then validated them for good measure. You deliver your proposal, expecting to have some discussion, shall we call this ritual “negotiations”, leading to a decision (preferably a buy decision, but at times any decision will do). Only to be told that they need to take it to someone who has not been part of the process to date (owner, boss…). None of us can pretend this has not happened to us. Using the Why > How early in the cycle can reduce or eliminate this, but only if you leave the product out of it, and focus on the buyer’s objectives; and by buyer, I am talking about the individuals and the collective organization.
Start by asking Why they chose the product or process now in place. No pre-bias or agenda, just an honest question as to “why that”? If they are able to clearly articulate why they chose the product/provider, and this should be in detail, and that means you needing to be ready with a number of follow-through questions in order to fully explore specifics. What were they trying to achieve, why didn’t like some of the common alternatives? Why automate instead of outsource? Why on premise vs. cloud? Go deep, don’t just skim the surface. Many will be able to provide answers that are really talking points, but to get real answers, answers that give insight into the situation and the person’s role in the situation, you will need to have at least three follow up questions.
- Why that objective?
- How do they measure that?
- Upside of achieving the objective
- Implications of a miss; etc.
If they can go into detail about these, contrasting the choices they had to deal with and why they landed where they did, then you are more likely dealing with someone who was involved in the decision, vs. someone who cannot, and therefore was not likely core to the decision, clear signal you’ll need to engage someone else, and now.
Along with the Why questions, you need to introduce How questions. “Great, I understand why you went with that route (product service, provider, etc.), tell me How you went about selecting Vendor X?” The goal here is to get a step by step of the How, giving you a window into how they make decisions. Again, if they can detail How the decision was made, you’re in the right place heading in the right direction. If not, and it is clear that they were secondary in the process, then it is clear that you need to engage others. The goal is to do this really early in the discovery phase, where curiosity and interest are rewarded with information, especially as the questions you are asking relate to them, but provide you with multi level insights.
Again, if you are ready with your follow through questions, then you will also be in a position to learn who was involved in the decision, and is likely necessary to get a decision now. The great thing is that once you make this Why > How combo part of your routine, you’ll discover that it is a very conversational and inclusionary approach, where buyers are allowed to reflect and share info rather than interrogating or pitching.
They Why > How works on almost any element of the sale, but it does require practice and preparation. In the next post, we’ll go deeper and wider with this proven and easily implemented one-two punch.