A Better Way to Sell

Smarter customers are changing the way we sell.

Diana Lillicrap 5.29.2018


Selling is about convincing buyers they need what you have and should pay what you want, right? Wrong.

The problem with this approach is that it’s focused on you and your motivations—your products, your price, your victory. It also assumes buyers know very little coming into the conversation. But today’s consumers are more informed than ever.

It’s not about you

Good marketers know effective persuasion is NOT about you, it’s about the person you are trying to persuade. What do they want? What’s in it for them? Why should they care? These are the key questions marketers ask when determining a targeted brand message. Selling, like any other type of effective communication, means being very targeted and very customized.

What makes this new

Unlike the past, the sales process of today begins with an empowered and informed customer. In our digital world of easy access and instant news, your brand—who you are, what you do, and why it matters—is on display for everyone to see and experience long before a customer is on your radar. The first step of persuasion happens before sales even has a chance to get involved.

And you can believe if your customer is interested enough to take a next step and engage with your sales team, they have done their homework and already think you meet their basic product or service needs. If you’ve orchestrated it right, your visual and verbal brand should have done some of the heavy lifting that used to be done by a personable sales team. Sales now has a new role of extending the brand experience to deepen the relationship with insight selling.

Listen, don’t spew

It may seem simple, but people often forget that in order to know what a customer wants, you have to ask. It’s common to see salespeople do the typical “show up and throw up” pitch to potential buyers. They make assumptions about what their customers value and then hit them like a fire hose with all the reasons they should choose their product or service. And most often, they start with features and benefits, rather than emotional connections, forgetting that the customer may already be well informed on your offerings. The customer is overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with any real reason to pick you over other options. It quickly becomes a commodity decision based on who is cheaper.

Bring insight to your selling

A better approach is to flip the conversation to focus on what the client wants. Instead of preparing a PowerPoint deck filled with stats and proof points, just prepare some good questions. What does the customer value? How will they measure success? What’s worked or not worked before? What do they care about most?

And then listen. I mean really listen to the emotional side of their needs (fears, expectations, pain points, assumptions). Use what you hear to guide what you tell them next. The conversation should build from your message platform, but be customized to reflect and focus on the most relevant parts for that individual customer. Share your value proposition in terms of what they need to hear to feel confident in choosing your company.

Insider tip: It’s not going to be about the product or service. It’s going to be about your approach, your people, and your unique way of doing things that aligns with their needs. Use their words to explain the value you provide. Make it clear you were listening and validate what you heard. Your pitch should be customized and emphasize how you will solve the customers’ problem or fulfill on their needs.

Get emotional

Sales decisions, like all other decisions made by humans are based on emotions. We make choices because of an emotional response and “gut” feeling we get from any experience, and then we rationalize our decision with the logical proof points that support the choice we made.

After you’ve listened to your customer’s needs, make sure you respond with the emotional and big-picture reason to choose your brand—in terms of what really matters to your customer (think: your purpose, why what you do matters to the world and especially this customer). Then drill down into the supporting rationale (think: features and benefits/products and services).

Embrace the process

The lines between marketing and sales continue to merge and blur as customers hold more power in the process. The best way to respond is to be prepared. Create a strong brand that will guide customers to take action. Then use your sales team to strengthen the connection and uncover what really matters to each individual customer so you can deliver a customized experience. If you embrace that approach, you’ll find that making the sale in the end becomes much easier.

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