Move from Presenting to Selling for Improved Sales Results

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Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You go to a meeting ready to engage in a discussion and you wind up listening to a presentation that includes a massive data dump. I’ve heard it called “death by PowerPoint.” Entering into a customer meeting with your presentation deck provides the presenter with a comforting safety net but often times misses the mark in allowing one to build real momentum in understanding the customer’s core challenges and their primary need for the solutions that you and your firm can provide. In an effort to provide the attendees with as much information as possible, we often times miss the opportunity to truly engage with our customers on the topics that are most important to them.

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Presentations are great when you are engaged in an educational session and your audience is seeking educational content especially as it relates to new concepts, new product categories and ongoing educational agendas with your listeners. Educational sessions lend themselves well in these types of situations.

Presentations are dramatically different than selling situations. Selling situations require an entirely different approach by sales professionals. Our customers are served better when we “Lose the PowerPoint.” Drop the presentation. Don’t even bring it with you. Instead, enter the meeting with a note pad and a pen with a desire to help your customer identify their challenges and a determination to understand whether or not you are able to assist them. Enter your customer meetings with an honest desire to capture your customer’s input. Enter the meeting, prepared to ask the right questions necessary to gain understanding of your customer’s struggles. Where there is struggle or complexity, there may be a need for you and your company’s solutions.

ESTABLISH RAPPORT QUICKLY
Getting a meeting started with positive energy requires your confidence and comfort level. Honestly believing deeply that what you have to offer can help your customer achieve a better life for themselves and their organization provides you with a calm, clear head. You are not seeking to sell anything. You are seeking information. Your success in the meeting is based upon your desire to help. You are here in this meeting today to determine if you can assist the customer. You are in the meeting to diagnose complexity, complication and struggle. Where there is a struggle, there is an opportunity.

UPFRONT CONTRACT – ASK UPFRONT FOR A DECISION AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEETING
At the conclusion of the meeting, I’d like for our customers to decide if we should continue working together on potential solutions, be they products, services or both. The key to the upfront contract is that it is okay for the customer to say no. No is an acceptable answer. It prevents the unnecessary customer chase we can often find ourselves in with customers that are not ready to engage you and your company. The customer is in control.

30 SECONDS of AUTHORITY – We help mechanical contractors improve their operating margins on space heating and ventilation applications in warehouse & industrial manufacturing facilities. With over 35,000 installations and over 2 billion square feet served, CEI has a wealth of application specific installations to assist mechanical contractors in delivering solutions for their customer. For 53 years, we have supported our mechanical contractor partners with heat and air load analysis basis building conditions and have recommend inherently safe, highly, energy-efficient and lowest total installed cost equipment for their building’s HVAC designs to help contractors win projects.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

1.) Understand the Past – What have they tried in the past? How has it worked for them? What do they like about it? What do they not like about it? What, if any, challenges have they had with their past approach? Based on their experiences what could be improved upon?
2.) Understand Their Present Situation – What are they doing now? Are they currently reviewing other solutions? What are you looking at and why? Are they open to additional alternative solutions? What additional challenges or obstacles are there now that we need awareness of?
3.) Envision the Future & A Successful Outcome – What would the customer like to change/fix? What does success look like for the customer? What is the financial impact of a successful outcome? Can the customer quantify the value of the solution? Who benefits from a successful outcome?

The best sales people ask the right questions. They resist the urge to sell products and services prior to learning about the customer’s specific challenges. The above list is by no means the best questions to ask in every situation. Each person must work on these with their own teams for alignment.

Rather than going in armed for bear with information decks, formal presentations and the latest marketing brochure, consider going in completely bare with your own desire to help. Lose the presentation and build confidence through a probing conversation. Try not to prescribe the medicine until you’ve done the thorough diagnosis of the conditions, the challenges, the problems that customer is facing.

I would welcome your feedback and your list of key questions that you feel promote great conversations with your customer base. We can all benefit from improving our own line of questioning to unpack the value that the customer is seeking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic with our subscribers.

Your Customers Define Your Value; Customer Advisory Boards provide the framework to listen

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Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital.

value concept handwritten on blackboard

value concept handwritten on blackboard

Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them?

Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization.
1. Deepening Relationships with Customers
2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language
3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps

Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum.

Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language:
We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process.

Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away.

Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success.

Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.