How to be seen as more than “just a vendor”
Every sales professional talks a good game about wanting to be more than “just a vendor” in the eyes of customers. But very few understand what it takes to be seen as such. It’s more than just knowing your customers’ long-term goals and having solutions to match.
Studies show that the most successful sales professionals fall into a category researchers called “Challengers.” What sets “challengers” apart from their peers? In their book The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson describe challengers as sales professionals who use “their deep understanding of their customer’s business to push [customers’] thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views…”
In short: buyers like sellers who lead – ones who challenge and perhaps make them uncomfortable.
You can’t be that kind of supplier simply by identifying and responding to buyers’ needs. You need to get ahead of your buyer by delivering Critical Insights: unique, disruptive ideas that make your buyer sit back and say, “Wow. I never thought of that!”
Critical Insights can come from a variety of sources. For example:
- An emerging trend in the industry that hardly anyone’s focused on yet.
- A new solution to an old problem.
- Research that challenges your buyer’s assumptions.
- Benchmark data that tells buyers where they stand in relation to others in their industry.
But you need more than facts and figures. You turn information into unique insight by using your experience and knowledge to tell buyers what it means for them.
A Critical Insight has three key elements:
It challenges buyers to think about their situation in a new way. It’s not something they already know. If your buyer says, “We were just discussing that,” you haven’t delivered a Critical Insight.
It leads to action. If it doesn’t prompt the buyer to do something differently, it’s not a Critical Insight. It’s simply an interesting idea.
It leads to your product or service. There is some value in bringing new thinking to your buyers. But if the idea doesn’t help you sell, it’s not really a Critical Insight. It’s free consulting.
Coming up with Critical Insights is tough; that’s why customers value them so much. But sales reps who put forth the time and effort to devise Critical Insights become a valued component of a customer’s business.
Michael Boyette is the executive editor of the Rapid Learning Institute Selling Essentials e-learning site and editor of the Top Sales Dog Blog. Contact Michael via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via Twitter