Five Key Steps To Solution Selling

My company sells products and services to large health systems. Every day, our account representatives work to attract the attention of procurement and supply chain directors. Because of the way our prospecting system works, it’s possible the prospect could be contacted by more than one rep from our organization. Thus, we sometimes we find ourselves competing internally for both the same prospect’s business.

This is the unintended outcome, not an integrated solution, and it’s a common challenge within B2B sales no matter which vertical industry you call on.

Here, we share these five key reminders to help you better align your messaging to provide a high-value, integrated-solution sales approach, from Steve Gruber, co-founder of Venture Accelerator Partners.

1. Consider The Customer’s Pain Points. Understand what is causing pain for your prospects’ business. The better you understand this, the better you can service their needs. A customer may call in with an issue such as, “I can’t access my wireless router.” A simple answer could be “Reset your router.” However, the same challenge could be the result of a larger business problem. Perhaps the customer’s wi-fi network isn’t producing a signal which can lead to a considerable amount of lost productivity. It is through probing questions and inquiring as to the extent of the problem that you can gain a better grasp of your customers’ needs.

2. Engage, Then Inform. When first contacting your prospect, ensure your message immediately targets the business pains the prospect is facing. You want to try to capture that person’s eye (or ear) right away whether you are contacting them by email or phone. The goal is to grab their attention and encourage your prospect to read and/or hear more about what you offer.

3. Focus On Solutions, Not Products. The sale of a product or service ultimately results from solving a problem. For example, you don’t buy a bottle of Vitamin Water because you like the color. You purchase it to quench your thirst. The drink solves the problem of being thirsty.

4. Highlight Your Differences. Just because your solution can solve a business challenge, doesn’t mean you have the only solution on the market. You need to be able to position yourself against your competitors and convince the prospect that your solution is the best one. And remember, if you don’t have a direct competitor, there are always indirect competitors. Be sure to highlight how you can help alleviate their pain points, and what differentiates your products or services. Be specific. Don’t make statements such as, “We have the best customer service.” It doesn’t mean much and is overused. Instead, add some quantitative measures into your pitch.

5. Sell The True Value. When building your value proposition, focus your attention on hitting core items that show a business value. A solid value proposition needs to be underpinned on one or more of these four fundamental business drivers: Drive revenues reduce expenses; create an efficiency and mitigate a risk.

When building your story, quantitatively include metrics that would resonate with the customer and are hitting on one or more of the four key areas above.

Source: Since founding Venture Accelerator Partners in 2006, Steve Gruber has assisted firms in generating millions of dollars in revenue, driving millions of website pageviews and booking hundreds of meetings. With more than 20 years of sales leadership, business development, direct sales and marketing experience, he has dramatically increased sales at growing companies in industries from business software and IT to telecoms, cleantech and industrial.

Create Your Own Magic With These Three Steps

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Maybe you solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? It felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful—even addicting. It’s this sense of awe and power that also drives magicians to do what they do, and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his expertise. And you don’t have to run away with the circus or even learn a single magic trick to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

Today, we reveal three secrets for creating the wow factor at work developed by Kostya Kimlat, a magician with more than 20 years of experience.

1. Innovation And Lateral Thinking. Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. To continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are. You must seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure—is outside the range of what’s possible.

2. Perception management. No magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician must do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to excel at work, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive—what they believe and expect. Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed them at the most recent board meeting—and why. Do the research beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

3. Social Intelligence. Highly successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. Why? They read people in a way that others don’t. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. If you practice taking the perspectives of others enough, you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great ideas; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel, and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic.

You can practice the same strategies at the office. Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can bring innovation and lateral thinking to your job. Wow your coworkers by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting, and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Source: Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, Fool Us. Kimlat speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician to improve sales and customer service.

Hook Top Candidates With Great Storytelling

It takes an average of 27 days to hire a new employee, according to a recent survey, but the best candidates are off the market within 10 days. In today’s tight job market, it’s a challenge for many executives to convince top talent to join their company. A second challenge is training newcomers to understand the company’s core values.

To become better at hiring and training, Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, suggests taking the approach of a storyteller. Give candidates lots of facts and figures about your company and then tell them the right story.

Core Values Are Key. Top candidates don’t want to work just anywhere. They want an organization where they align with the core values. Every business has core values, although some have not formally stated what they are. Basically, core values are the guiding principles that drive an organization’s conduct both internally with employees and externally with customers. Some examples of core values include statements such as:

  • We go the extra mile for customers
  • We do whatever it takes to get the job done

Core values are a decision that company leaders make. But just naming a core value is not enough.

The Core Value Storytelling Formula. For every core value, the company should capture a true story that represents that core value in action. Here is a quick overview of the core value storytelling formula:

1. Start with a main character. Every story starts with a character who wants something: your client. Make your main character likable so the listeners will root for them.

2. Have a nemesis character. Stories need conflict to be interesting. What person, institution, or condition stands in the protagonist’s way?

 

3. Bring in a mentor character. Heroes need help on their journey. This is where you come in. Be the voice of wisdom and experience. Heroes cannot succeed alone; they succeed because of the help you provide.

4. Know what story you are telling. Human brains are programmed to relate to one of eight great meta-stories. These are: monster, underdog, comedy, tragedy, mystery, quest, rebirth and escape. If the story is about overcoming a huge problem, that is a monster problem story. If the company was like a David that overcame an industry Goliath, that is an underdog story.

5. Have the hero succeed. Typically, the main character needs to succeed, with one exception: tragedy. The tragic story is told as a cautionary tale. Great for teaching lessons, but not great for attracting clients. Have the hero go from mess to success (it was a struggle, and they couldn’t have done it without you).

6. Give the listeners the moral of the story, which is the core value. Don’t count on the listeners to get the message. The storyteller’s final job is to tell them what the story means.

Put Stories Into Action. After you’ve identified the core value and have examples to share with candidates, persuade future hires—and educate current employees and customers—with these opportunities:

During a job interview. Don’t start the interview by telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared information about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.

At weekly staff meetings. During staff meetings, tell a story to illustrate one of your core values.

At company-wide meetings. Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core-value selling.

On the company website. Detail for clients and potential clients the power of story by promoting core-value stories on your website.

In company collateral material. Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade others on an emotional level. Utilize storytelling as a key strategy for showcasing your core values.

Three Ways To Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive criticism can be a very sensitive area. It’s an opportunity to identify areas of improvement, but it can also mean bruising an ego here or there.

In her recent blog post from The Muse, author Kat Boogard shared three ways to give constructive feedback, which we’ll outline below.

1. ” You always …” Always. As Boogard says, “always’ seems like such an innocent word, but when used to give feedback, it can quickly put someone on the defensive.

As she points out, “always” can imply that there’s a mistake that has happened on a frequent enough basis that you can chalk it up as something that person repeatedly does. Maybe that’s true. However, constructive criticism is hard enough to swallow without being made to feel like you’ve been making the same mistake for a long time.

So, when giving feedback, drop the “A” word.

2. “Everybody has noticed that …” Sometimes when you receive feedback, it can feel embarrassing or disheartening, especially when you didn’t realize there was a problem to begin with.

Implying that everyone has noticed will make the recipient feel like they’ve been talked about and that negative comments were made.

When giving feedback, there’s no need to relay the details of every single complaint. In the end, it shouldn’t matter how many people have commented. What matters is that the person is aware that he or she needs to fix it.

3. “If I were you …” Constructive criticism is generally better received when it’s rooted in fact-as opposed to just opinion. This phrase, “If I were you …” can come across as judgmental.

Remember, not everybody works the same way, which means that just because you’d do something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the way that other person is doing it is wrong and warrants correction.

Providing feedback can be a positive discussion and an effective step toward improvement. By demonstrating respect and basing feedback on facts, not judgement or opinion, you’ll create a positive foundation for next steps to improvement.

Source: Kat Boogard is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor on the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she’s usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco.