If you read this blog regularly (and why wouldn’t you), you know that I put a lot of emphasis on understanding and selling to a prospect’s Objectives, a much better area of focus than pains or needs. One of the positive elements of Objectives is that they are generally long term, and they continuously evolve. This provides with a number of opportunities to succeed, but it needs to executed right and in the right sequence.
Many sales people I speak to are always in a hurry, looking to short cut things. You can’t blame them, every time they go “Home”, they are asked, what did you close? As old as time, the tribe sends out their hunters, and they expect that hunter to come home with a kill, not “progress”, a “next step”, or any intangible gains. This drives a certain behavior that limits focus on the buyers’ long term, in favour of the seller’s immediate focus of quota.
I recently had a rep tell me that they would rather focus on the prospect’s priorities than their objectives, his reason being that priorities “paid off quicker than anything long term like objectives.” Well maybe.
Sure you are more likely to have short term gains with helping people with priorities, what they see as their immediate burning issue. But what I have seen is that priorities, or series of priorities are part of an overall plan, an overarching Objective, eventually success will be measured in not how well you accomplished any given priority on route to the Objective, but how well the Objective was achieved, and did that in turn drive the impacts and results the business was looking for.
Many sales people will opt to service the priorities because working on the whole Objective may take work and time. After all, the company may not realize their Objectives for some time, but may buy the first piece now. The challenge with that is that servicing their immediate purchases without aligning it with Objectives will often leave vendors exposed to the next flash or discounter who comes along. But if you can focus and sell to Objectives, it does not preclude you from servicing some of the steps along the way.
In addition, there is the question of influencing and shaping their Objectives and means of achieving. It is the familiar posture in sales, one where you would prefer to be a “trusted advisor” rather than a “supplier” or “vendor”. Keep your focus on what they are trying to achieve and why, not what they need to buy. There may well be alternative means of achieving their Objectives, ones you can introduce by virtue of being a Subject Matter Expert, picking off smaller projects along the way will not give you that. As well, if you are not aligned to their Objectives, any vendor who delivers a priority can come along and displace you. It is also OK to not win every small project along the way, as long as you are the one they look to for validation of the work, and further direction. The best sales people will win both priorities and Objectives by focusing more on the latter than the former.