In true solution selling, you can’t win a deal on the first or second call, but you can certainly lose it.  

To ensure success early on, there are a couple of things that sales professionals can do to set themselves apart from the rest of the hacks out there. I always say it’s usually the best salesperson that wins. In that vein, here are some repeatable habits of the best I’ve seen.

Start with selflessness and curiosity 
People hate being sold to. Prospects will put their guard up when they feel like you’re trying to push something on them. The second they do that, you’ve all but lost them. The simplest way to start off on the right foot is to avoid self-serving questions. Instead, ask questions about the prospect.  

Care about their business
Learn about how you can help them, not just bring the deal to a close. One begets the other, of course, but that’s not how many salespeople approach the relationship.

Prospects are human – they can see through that stuff easily. If they get even the slightest feeling that you are pushing them into something that is just going to benefit you, they rightfully put their guard up. The trick here is (and this is important to get right – you can’t fake this): actually be interested in their business,their problems, and how you can help them.

The best suggestion that I can offer up here is to use empathy. Really try to understand the problems of the organization and of the person specifically. Put yourself in their shoes.  

Do research
By this, I don’t mean asking the question, “What keeps you up at night?” This isn’t 1999. Get more specific, and lead with insights. Your prospects will respond in kind and start to trust you are someone they can do business with.

The most important thing to get to here is visceral pain. If you don’t find the pain, you won’t sell anything (or you’ll just be relegated to commodity status). Nobody buys a feature; they buy a solution to a problem they have. If you can find out what that problem is, you can sell a solution to it.  

Start to build your eventual business case in the discovery call. My reps and managers hear me say this all the time: “Quantify that sh*t.” There is no better way to get buy in for evaluation and purchase of new technology than to show the prospect how big their problem is in numbers – with their own data.  

You can’t easily do this after the fact. If you start getting into quantification when you’re already halfway through the sales cycle, prospects see right through why you want to do this and, again, their guard goes up – because they feel like you’re trying to show why you shouldn’t have to give them a discount. If done early on, it comes across as you trying to help them understand how big of a problem they have and whether they should take action at all.   

You also need to find out what it will take internally to implement your solution. New software often requires a process change (especially if you have disruptive technology), as well as internal resources, like employees’ time. Knowing this early will help you direct the sales cycle in the right direction.  

The bottom line
You need to sit on the same side of the table as your prospect as a collaborator in the sales process. But also remember your role as a facilitator in getting a deal done. I’ve seen reps be too soft on progressing a deal towards purchase, to their detriment. If a prospect interacts with you in the sales cycle, remember, it’s just that: a sales cycle.

Set up the deal with the prospect’s pain points in mind, but also work toward closing the business. Do this right, and both sides win. You’ll have objectively helped your customer – and closed a deal because of it.

Last update: December 15, 2016
Sit on the same side of the table as your prospect.

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