With customer expectations higher than ever, every sales interaction has to be worth the buyer’s time. There is no such thing as an unimportant call or meeting. Every contact has to create value and move the customer forward toward closing the deal. Yet it’s unclear customers feel that way—almost a third (32.2%) of respondents to the 2018 Buyer Preferences Study reported mixed feelings about their discussions with sellers. As the study put it, “Some are useful and some are a waste of time.”

How can you move forward with prospects and customers who merely find your proposed solutions interesting but don’t see the need to move quickly? You create a sense of urgency that incites them to act by incorporating these four customer experience best practices into your sales effectiveness framework.

1. Be a Value Driver

Sellers must create value that moves customers to act in four ways:

  1. Uncover an unrecognized problem: Explain to the customer that they have a difficulty they need to resolve that might cause trouble in the future
  2. Present an unanticipated solution: Show the customer an option that they hadn’t considered as a possibility
  3. Offer an unseen opportunity: Help your customer take a core capability and apply it to a new market or client base
  4. Be a broker of capabilities: Make available to the customer the full range of your capabilities and resources to produce a better outcome for your customer

By offering these possibilities to your customer, you present value in a way that offering your product or service, by itself, cannot.

2. Understand the Value Scale

The value scale shows the relationship between the need for and the impact of a solution. If the customer perceives the value of solving a problem as smaller than its cost, you aren’t likely to close the deal. But if the customer believes the problem is likely to be significantly more costly than implementing the solution, your chance of closing the sale is much higher.

In complex sales, buyers must develop customer needs until they become larger and more acute. That way, the customer focuses less on the cost of the solution and more on the value the solution offers: they begin to understand the true value of the problem, encouraging them to look for solutions more urgently.

Focus your discussions on how the solution addresses their business problems, whether it’s saving time or money, raising employee morale, strengthening a product’s competitive positioning, improving customer service or any other problem they deem important. Tying the solution to value is a critical sales negotiation skill that sellers must master.

3. Ask the Right Mix of Questions

Successful sellers listen more than they talk. And to get customers to talk more, sellers have to ask the right questions.

But they can’t ask just any question that pops into their head: they need to ask questions designed to unearth buyer needs and concerns. They use four questioning techniques, highlighted in SPIN Selling Conversations, that move the customer further into the buying journey:

  1. Situation: Focus on the buyer’s background and current state
  2. Problem: Ask about the buyer’s difficulties and challenges
  3. Implication: Diagnose the impact of the problem
  4. Need-Payoff: Inquire about the value or usefulness of a solution

Customers place a higher value on what they say and what they conclude than on what anyone else tells them. So, if sellers ask questions that help customers uncover the problem through their own thought process, it’s more powerful than sellers telling customers what problems they should see and how they should respond.

4. Only Offer a Solution after the Customer Expresses a Need

Timing is everything in complex sales—and it’s an essential sales negotiation skill. Successful sellers wait to offer solutions until they’ve fully developed the customer’s needs and both parties  understand those needs. When the customer expresses a need explicitly, then they are ready to hear about conclusions.

The key is to listen for an explicit need rather than an implied need. Keep in mind that you may have to work with the customer to convert their implied needs into explicit ones.

Implied needs state problems, difficulties or dissatisfactions with the current state of things. A statement that expresses concern indicates the potential for change. Explicit needs are strong wants or desires stated in concrete language about what they need or what they must have.

Here are examples of implicit needs and implied needs:

  • Implied: Our turnaround time is too slow.
  • Explicit: We must reduce our turnaround time by 25% before the end of the year.

The key is to figure out which implied needs your solution addresses. Then you develop those needs into explicit needs. Once a customer articulates what they want and why, they’ve built up enough urgency to act on their need.

It’s Time to Overcome Indifference

All customer needs are not created equal. Some are annoying but don’t push the customer to act, while others are so problematic that the customer quickly decides to look for a solution. As part of a sales effectiveness framework, sellers need to learn which needs to develop and how to connect those needs to their proposed solution.

Ready to overcome buyer indifference and create more value in sales conversations? Enroll in SPIN Selling Conversations and learn these and more customer experience best practices.


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