The Business of Your Business

Thanks to the Hired Gun for val­i­dat­ing that, yes, every­one does hate me.

I’m start­ing to won­der if Hired Gun works where I do…

Regard­less, I still have a job to do. So, on to a more  under my con­trol kind of topic. Know­ing your indus­try and the busi­ness of your prospects.

I’ll spare you the indus­try that I’m in. It’ll just make you feel sorry for me. And it’s irrel­e­vant. What’s impor­tant is that I know a lot about it. Not just the how my prod­uct fits in or who my com­peti­tors are kind of stuff.  Not the kind of crap you can get from your mar­ket­ing team or the com­peti­tors’ mar­ket­ing teams, but the real down and dirty under­stand­ing of what my prospects have to do every day, what keeps them up at night, how their busi­ness works and what’s their role in mak­ing their busi­ness a success.

When I first started sell­ing, this was all I had to go on. I’m not a for­mally trained sales chick (although I had a great man­ager and men­tor who was.) But I was suc­cess­ful. Because of my knowl­edge (and, yes, the men­tor­ing…) of what the hell these peo­ple were deal­ing with every day.

This is a dif­fer­ence maker in all facets of the sales process.

1) Prospect­ing – I can call some­one and tell them all about my fancy prod­uct or ser­vice, all the things it can do, all the peo­ple that bought it and gen­er­ally how great we are. Guess what? That’s what every­one does.

And guess what else? Your prospect doesn’t care.

What they care about is – CAN YOU, RIGHT NOW, SOLVE A PROBLEM THAT IMPACTS THEIR MBO’s? And will oth­ers in their orga­ni­za­tion buy in. Call them up, go to lunch or show up on their doorstop – what­ever your method is – but when you get in front of them, it bet­ter be all about them and not about you.

And you bet­ter prove your­self as a cred­i­ble, intel­li­gent col­league and not another sales guy (or chick.) At this point you should have the exact open ended ques­tions to ask about their busi­ness and their role in it. You should be able to pre­dict what they’ll say. And you should have the response to posi­tion your solution.

2) In fun­nel – Here’s where it gets fun! Because now you’re in a posi­tion to learn even more about their world. And if they trust that you under­stand what they’re telling you, they’ll tell you a lot. And more impor­tantly, if you can start to pre­scribe a solu­tion based on all the infor­ma­tion you’re gath­er­ing, then you’re light years ahead of the com­peti­tors who are still sell­ing their fancy fea­ture set. The same one they sell to every prospect regard­less of the nuances of their organization.

As you’re build­ing rela­tion­ships with mul­ti­ple call points in fun­nel, you can even put them in touch with arti­cles, clients, etc. who might have fig­ured out the answers to prob­lems that a prospect has out­side of what you do. Now, you’ve cre­ated an excuse for a prospect to call a client when it isn’t a for­mal ref­er­ence call. Sure, they’ll talk about you and say great things because you’re help­ing them be more suc­cess­ful. And you’ll check that ref­er­ence box way ear­lier and AHEAD of the competition.

3) Clos­ing – OK, I can’t write too much here because this should be obvi­ous. If you’ve done 1 and 2 effec­tively and come across more as a con­sul­tant than a sales guy, you’ll get the busi­ness. Because they’ll see you as a part­ner. Not just a ven­dor. And, back to my first post, when it comes time to leave the job you’re in and take a new one, you’ll have built the rela­tion­ships in your ter­ri­tory to go back and sell to the same peo­ple again. Except it will be eas­ier next time. This is how you make a career out of this gig. And real money.

So, spend a lit­tle time every day read­ing up on your indus­try, what’s going on, what’s com­ing down the pike as far as new reg­u­la­tions, chal­lenges, eco­nomic mod­els, resources, etc., AND know your prospects – their busi­ness, their eco­nomic stand­ing, cur­rent chal­lenges, cur­rent press — good and bad, mis­sion state­ments, etc.

Search the inter­net, read jour­nals, chat with exist­ing clients/ col­leagues, attend con­fer­ences, make the most of the trade show booth you’re stuck in. You can gain a lot in a short time that will give you cred­i­bil­ity as a trusted resource.

Peo­ple buy from peo­ple. Your cred­i­bil­ity and abil­ity to work with a prospect as a knowl­edge­able col­league mat­ters. It will make the dif­fer­ence. I assure you.

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2 Responses to “ The Business of Your Business ”

  1. Tuna says:

    What I get from your post in a word is ‘pro­fes­sion­al­ism’. You care enough to find out real busi­ness issues and this seper­ates you from the pack. From how you find new busi­ness to the ques­tions you ask, you seem to want to get down to the real issues. Are there any draw­backs to this approach you might be able to share? In other words, how did you have to adapt when you first started zero­ing in on the core concerns?

  2. Sales Chick says:

    Hey Tuna, Sorry for the late reply — I was on the road this week get­ting belly to belly. Also, gave me a day to think about your ques­tions. I think the draw­back is that you can end up try­ing to solve too many of the clients prob­lems. The big­ger your solu­tion gets, the more com­pli­cated the sale, the longer it can take, etc.

    You also have to know what you’re talk­ing about. This is not approach you can take if you only know 50% of what you’re talk­ing about — you need to know 85% or more. Which takes a lot of work, effort and prepa­ra­tion. As I was learn­ing the approach, I had the advan­tage of hav­ing a really good com­mand of our solu­tions since I came from an SME role.

    The strug­gle I had was focus­ing in on the pieces of our solu­tion I knew to be com­pet­i­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tors. When you’re ask­ing ques­tions and using this approach, it can’t just be open ended and ran­dom. You have to have an objec­tive of where you want the client to end up so you can con­viently have the per­fect solu­tion. There has to be some method and you have to con­trol the con­ver­sa­tion in a sense to get to where you set out to get. That took a lot of practice.

    Each time I learned and refined my approach. Even­tu­ally, I was able to start com­part­men­tal­iz­ing the the focus of the con­ver­sa­tions so I could draw on the right one by call point and mar­ket seg­ment. Made the process more repli­cat­able. Although that took a lit­tle longer to do effectively.

    Thanks for the reply and the ques­tions — hope this helps!

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