For those of you in institutional sales, I’m sure you think that your job has gotten a bit tougher vs. easier. Decisions are taking longer and the list of stakeholders to touch is growing by the day. Add to that some consultant or buying intermediary injected into the process and you have more complexity.
So in this era of selling, an era I call the Value Creation era, you have to play by the buyer’s rules. Any account still standing after the Great Recession deserves to be in the position they’re in and they expect great things. Complex solutions required complex understanding. Prospects want to talk to the thought leaders as well as those in the engine room that will be responsible for their business day-to-day.
We’re lucky at Bill Walton Sales Training because we coach many of the buyers you’re selling to.
And here’s what they say:
“Anyone selling to me needs to bring me insights – insights I cant get on my own. I’ve already researched their product. They wouldn't be here if I hadn’t.”
“Information is gold – but I need synthesized information because the people I report to want it netted out. Plus, no one reads anymore – they want the visual.”
“I sit in a meeting once a month with my CFO and have to justify every line item on my budget. If you can't provide me a talk track for him or her, I may be forced to eliminate you. “
“I have people presenting slide decks to me all day long, engage me in a different way. “
For these reasons and more, Team Selling has come back into vogue. But this isn’t about more bodies per se. Rather it’s about an intentional focused team that aligns well with the prospect’s interests and subject matter expertise needs. So here are some top tips for selling in this era of Value Creation when orchestrating a team approach becomes a sales survival skill:
1. Role and Task Clarity: In addition to providing strategic value to prospects, Team Selling provides a “divide and conquer” opportunity for salespeople and their colleagues. No one person can know everything about every prospect and where your solution fits. They don't have to. Be clear on your value to one another and where you are each qualified to add value in nurturing the lead, and conducting prospect meetings.
2. Relationship Ownership: Each party must pledge to respect the history and nature of each relationship. It also important that relationship owners provide guidelines and ground rules for interacting with their contacts. If not, Team Selling practice #1 doesn't apply.
3. Subject Matter Expertise: You are the talent. Bring forth what clients and colleagues value in their work with you and relate that to the success of a prospect’s business plan. Share with prospect your unique qualifications and why that’s relevant. Don't sell yourself short.
4. Industry/Issue Fluency: Clients and prospects are moving very quickly in their workaday lives. They need providers that understand the challenges in their industry and providers that are fluent in the issues that exist as their biggest challenges.
5. Data Driven Insight: We all have access to data, but who has the ability to synthesize what market dynamics and customer expectations are around the issues your solution addresses? This is the essence of the value creation gap you and your team can fill. Don't assume that clients and prospects have it all figured out. But don't be smug either.
6. Strong Regard For Selling Partners: By the time prospects get to the proposal stage with you, they are evaluating more than your platform or pricing. They are assessing what it’s going to be like to work with you. If you and your team are not aligned, show that you have no real regard for one another, and stumble over each other during meetings; prospects will associate this to your brand. Know each other; learn to speak about other’s unique contribution to the prospect’s organization.
7. Act as Window into Full Firm: Without sounding trite, your team IS the firm. The prospect has some basic knowledge of your organization. But they don’t have your context, and they don't know the power of both organizations coming together. Tell your story with context.
8. Listening Partnership: Four ears will always be better than two. On conference calls, discovery meetings, and finals presentations, share what you hear. Be ready for the fact that alone, you will never capture the full intent of the prospect as you can working with a partner.
9. Demonstrate Cohesion: Hand in hand with practice #6, it’s important to demonstrate cohesion. Prospects want cohesion after they select a provider and they want the same experience for their participants. Prospects value the extent to which team members are aligned to the strategic and operational goals of their organization.
10. Maximum prospect engagement: Each member of the prospect team will have it’s own relationship with the selling team. Share the clues each of you are getting as you interact with prospects and plan your questioning strategy to elicit the highest level of input around their aspirations and expectations.
11. Thinking partnership: The best teams forge a thinking partnership with themselves and with the prospect team. Work to earn the trust of prospects to share your business insights and retirement capability to address the issues inside and out of the prospect’s plan.
12. Exponential Knowledge Base: The best account teams are those in which clients rely upon them beyond the product or service. The value of the team can be one that acts as a knowledge base-to one another and to the client. Share what you know about your firm, the value you create, and the direct insights that impact the client’s business.
There’s more to be written about team selling for sure. Share your thoughts at www.billwaltonsalestraining.com.
Bill Walton Sales Training has over 60 years of collective Fortune 500 company experience in Sales, Sales Training and Field Sales Management. Our specialty is preparing individuals and organizations to present their value propositions in a way that results in higher close ratios. Our team are un-blurring the lines of differentiation between their client's fiercest competitors.