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Why you need to know your ‘enemy’ when selling

By CCIWA Editor 

Selling is an art and a science. You have to work hard to be the best at what you do, which will pay dividends during the sales process.

Selling 101

Start by understanding the context of your sale, says business coach and adviser and managing director of Emergination Justin Davies.

Business to business selling is quite different to selling direct to consumers. Complex sales involve more decision makers and greater consideration, requiring more effort and different messages to stakeholders in the buying process.

You also need to be very clear on the problem you are solving for the customer.

“People often make the mistake of falling in love with their product. This is particularly true in the technical space where people are busy telling the customer about the product and not listening carefully enough to what the customer needs. The buyer is interested in a solution to their problem,” Davies says.

He recommends researching SPIN Selling and The Challenger sale. The SPIN selling framework is useful for understanding a customer’s specific needs, while the Challenger Sales Process is useful for sophisticated buyers who may have already decided on a solution yet are not aware of all of the facts in the decision.

Meanwhile, work through these points when selling:

  • Understanding: Learn precisely what the customer needs. What are they worried about? What problems do they have? Which problems are most important? If you don’t know, ask them.
  • Solve: Once you have this understanding, you can go to the customer with a complete solution to solve that problem. Sometimes the customer will not realise the potential impact of the problem and you’ll need to convince them of that too.
  • Authenticity: The customer needs to like and trust you first. You must be genuine in helping to solve their challenges.
  • Best value: You probably won’t be the only business a client will approach with their problem. You need to offer the best value and most customer focused solution to win the deal.
  • Know the market: “Sun Tzu said in The Art of War that the person who knows their enemy as well as themselves will always win,” says Davies. “I often find that people just don’t know their competition.”
  • Be flexible: Adjust the way you approach selling for your different markets. For example, tailor your sales approach in different markets. “A contracting business came to me because they were finding it difficult to secure sufficient profitable work and they believed the competitors were stronger on all things that mattered to the customer. After a brief discussion it was clear that they should focus on the education sector due to their experience which gave them a natural competitive advantage. Their more targeted approach achieved a better result,” Davies says.
  • Work on your business to be more competitive: List a customer’s buying criteria such as price, method, capability, experience, ease of use, features, benefits, quality, and so on. Rank how a customer perceives these criteria for your company. Work out how you rate against your competition and take action to make your competitive position stronger.
  • Work on being better: “When the going gets tough, the tough go marketing,” Davies says.
  • Sales framework: Having a good sales framework is important. It provides the foundation of a consistent sales process that you can continually improve.
  • Referrals: Do your customers/clients know how they can make referrals, or give testimonials if they love what you do? Improving your referral process can make a huge difference.
Selling is an art and a science. You have to work hard to be the best at what you do, which will pay dividends during the sales process.

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