Rewrite Your Sales Agenda

The challenge of Sales rests squarely on the need for each sales person to sell your
company’s stuff using their selling expertise in a world where the potential buyer
doesn’t much care about either.

As a general rule, we train sales people extensively in product and service
knowledge. We run them through some form of a selling methodology, be it Solution
Selling, Spin Selling, Dale Carnegie, or whatever – and then we set them loose. The
sales agenda is to sell more stuff, to create internal competition to sell more stuff, to be
the best sales person by selling the most stuff. The short form of this is that the agenda
is mostly about Your Company and Your Sales People.

So what is your buyer’s agenda? If we take a one dimensional view – our perception of
their agenda might be either to say yes or to say no. If we move quickly, we can skip
through the obvious NOs and get to the Yes more quickly. Right? Well, it depends.

I recently worked with a sales force that was very focused on getting the chance to tell
prospects what they felt they needed to know in order to make a sale. The agenda was
to make sure that each prospect knew all the major points about the product, and to
make sure that that all the bases were covered so the sale would not kick out. In
listening to some of these sales calls, it became apparent that the agenda really was
much more about the company and its products than it was about the prospects’ needs
and desires. It almost felt like the prospects were just a “means to an end” rather than
being the main event. In other words – are we looking at the one-time purchase made
by this prospect, or the lifetime value of the customer’s interactions – including
renewals and potential referrals? In their defense, they also felt a high level of
obligation to make sure that prospects were well informed before making a buying
decision – and this is an admirable and important imperative. But the real question is –
whose agenda is being pursued if the drivers are all coming from the company side?

The true buyer’s agenda almost always is focused on something other than your
company and its products and expert sales people. Quite frankly, you are only a
“means to an end” to the buyer. Their agenda is squarely focused on a desired outcome
for themselves – something they want to fix, or add, or solve, or improve, or upgrade,
or cover. They know where they are before they accomplish this – and they have a view
of where they want to be after they make a decision. The middle part – your company’s
products or services – is just the process they have to go through to get to their desired
state. And you are one of many options they have to get there. So to shift your selling
agenda, what do you need to do?

  • Look at your sales presentations – how much is focused on products and
    features, and how much is focused on the potential buyer’s current condition?
  • Are your sales people armed with good probing and framing questions that
    encourage the buyer to share the meat of their needs – not just a laundry list of
    desired features?
  • Can your sales people draw buyers out to describe their desired state and then
    link your company’s products or services to that state?
  • Does your company’s sales training emphasize delivery of product or service
    components or questioning and listening skills?
  • Can your sales people “hear” and respond to a buyer’s agenda in their own
    language?

In having conversations with potential buyers, it’s always good practice for a sales
person to self-check during the encounter to see whose agenda he or she is pursuing. A
very simple way to do this is to just observe – who is doing most of the talking? It’s
pretty simplistic – but if the sales person is doing most of the talking, then you can bet
they are pushing their own agenda – even though they may think they are doing this
for the buyer. The reality is that people convince themselves when making a
decision. You can provide information to aid that decision, but ultimately, they make
up their minds based on their own perceptions and emotions. The facts – features &
benefits – only serve to justify a decision that they have potentially already made. By
shifting the agenda from your company to their perspective, you are exerting a
powerful influence on them related to the experience of buying from you. Their own
agenda will always be more seductive and more important to them than your own
could ever be. So draw them in with their agenda and use it to provide them with the
answer they are looking for. It’s the best way to get your agenda addressed.

— Lisa D. Dennis
© Knowledgence Associates, 2011 / All Rights Reserved

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