Peter Finkelstein Contributor

Peter Finkelstein is head of sales strategy at Barrett Consulting and has more than 40 years of global sales consulting, training and sales strategy experience across a wide spectrum of industries.

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Know your market: Stop selling, start consulting and get those c-suite meetings

Published 24 April 2013 10:12, Updated 01 May 2013 10:22

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Know your market: Stop selling, start consulting and get those c-suite meetings

Way back in 1978, the Saints said ‘know your product’, but it’s actually far more important to know your market and your customer’s business.

Of all of the issues facing sales people, one of the most vexing is getting quality time with key decision-makers.

Demand for companies to deliver incremental return on sales has done little to alleviate the pressure.

So, if you were an executive and you had to choose which of two sales appointments to attend, one titled “Presentation on exciting new benefits of our unique new gizmo” and the other titled “The five most dangerous trends facing your industry” – which would you choose?

Most executives choose the latter. Regrettably, most sales people make their appointments for the first option. They then appear somewhat dumbfounded when they discover that they can’t get appointments with the right decision-makers.

Think about it – how many high powered executives would choose to spend their time sitting through a sales presentation? In my experience, almost none.

If they can delegate the job, they will. When they must attend, they do so with their guard up and their scepticism on high alert.

In short, traditional sales presentations make for an uphill battle when it comes to getting time in front of top level executives and connecting with key decision-makers.

Contrast this with a presentation based on timely information on a topic that could help business leaders make better decisions, reduce risk and improve productivity in some meaningful way.

What a difference. Not only are executives generally eager to attend these events, they also come with an open mind and high expectations. Done right, these sales calls and meetings can open the doors at the highest levels of leadership within target organisations. They shorten the sales cycle and dramatically boost probabilities.

Seems simple, but works time and again

It is my experience that many salespeople think this approach is just too simple to be effective. Yet I have seen it work time and time again – here in Australia and in countries around the world; in the fast moving consumer goods sector and in the most complex solutions-driven businesses and professional service markets.

What do you need to do to make these kinds of presentations?

  • For starters, stop selling and start consulting. Instead of arranging meetings to discuss your company and its products, arrange them to discuss the way you can help improve their businesses. That means learning to source and use information about the market, not about the product.
  • Next, stop pushing your products and services and start listening to what your customers expect from you that will delight them. Remember, satisfying them is something that all of your rivals are already doing, so you have to think laterally to make a difference.
  • Finally, forget about trying to achieve your sales targets. Focus on helping your prospects achieve theirs. When you help them realise their goals and ambitions, yours are automatically fulfilled.

When you do these things a number of magical outcomes occur:

1. More opportunities are created because more heavyweight decision-makers are willing to meet with you to hear what you can do for them.

2. The probabilities of getting sales increases as more opportunities are open to you.

3. Sales targets are reached and more often than not exceeded, because more business comes the way of those sales professionals who gain a reputation for helping their customers as opposed to pushing their products.

The interesting part is that this concept isn’t a long-term project and requires no special training. As an experienced sales professional, you can adopt this sales approach immediately and get results on the first day you use it.

The only challenge you have is to stop pushing your products and start selling professionally.

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