Selling styles, more than anything else, determine sales outcomes. A selling style is how you connect with the customer. Your actions impact and influence the customer’s actions.
Let me describe 4 modes or style of selling, each producing customer reactions from head nodding “Un Huh” to a delighted “AHA”. Where do you find yourself on this spectrum?
The Tell/Sell mode reflects on our uncertainty as much as anything else. We don’t understand where we stand or know enough details, so we Tell and Sell, attempting to gain some control over the situation and outcome.
In Tell/Sell we risk discounting the customer because telling implies the customer doesn’t know (isn’t smart/well informed/up to date). Telling also leaves little room for interacting with the customer. The customer is getting “the pitch”; it’s very one-sided.
Telling puts the customer on alert and feeling defensive. The customer will find flaws and reasons to criticize (though he’s unlikely to share them with you). At the same time, the longer we talk the less the customer hears – his mind is wandering everywhere (and you don’t know where).
Salespeople try to Persuade with convincing arguments, ROI calculations, and rationales that they hope resonate with the customer. When we Persuade (“ooh, pick me, pick me”), the customer can get very defensive, resulting in them shutting down. He may be thinking, “I should buy because you think I should? I don’t think so.”
When faced with little response or a shut down, a persuading salesperson will push harder. The reasoning behind this is the belief in their argument; “Maybe they just didn’t hear me. Let me say it again.” Of course, this causes even greater defensiveness. Bottom line – this is a tough way to sell.
What about when we offer our ideas for how the customer can buy and use our product? You learn enough about the customer to show how your solution fits his needs. It can be very effective. Sometime we go further, and custom-tailor the solution to the customer’s needs. When you offer a Solution tailored to your customer’s needs, it will be a superior fit.
Solution selling is effective; the challenge with it is that the solution is our solution. There is the issue of ownership to deal with.
We most own that which we create. With solution selling there’s little ownership for the customer because, as much as the solution fits, this is still our solution. The customer feels no ownership, no commitment.
Collaborate is the mode of working together to figure out the best solution. The customer trusts the salesperson enough to work side by side with them as opposed to just talking with them. Working together toward a common goal reflects a relationship that separates a salesperson from the majority of the competition.
A focus on relationships builds trust, enabling a climate of interaction where you and the customer together discover a solution that is best for them. The customer buys the solution. You do not sell the solution in the traditional sense.
At the heart of collaborating are mutually developed ideas and solutions. A word of caution here: Ideas are valuable in collaboration, but there is a fine line between offering ideas in order to control the outcome (get to the solution you had in mind all along) and offering ideas purely to collaborate (get to the optimum solution for the customer). Here are a few suggestions for collaborating with your customer:
- When you contribute ideas, offer something that builds/modifies something already in discussion. “Let me build on what you just said.”
- Try to always give ideas in multiples. “Here are some options to consider.”
- When you are close to the solution, use phrases such as – “This is our best current thinking on this. What do you think?” Presenting something as best current thinking keeps it in the realm of a work in process; you can test it out and bring it to life with the customer..
Bottom Line: The more we help the customer develop solutions; the more he will own them. Collaborating together generates a delighted, “Aha!” (and maybe a high five as well).