H ave you ever come across a solution to a problem that was so simple you almost rejected the solution out of hand because it was just too simple? “Surely there’s more to it than just that,” you reasoned!
In quantum physics, for example, the “problem” has always been: What, if any, relationship exists between energy and matter? The solution to this problem was considered the Holy Grail of quantum physics. When Einstein solved it with his theory of relativity, E = mc2, the scientific community all but dismissed it out if hand: too simple!
What’s the Holy Grail of selling? Could it too be that simple?
But first, we have to be clear on just what the “problem” is in selling. What are the barriers to sales results?
Blocking the way
The barriers are plenty.
- Changes inside the account hurt my company’s business with the customer.
- People I wanted to reach wouldn’t take (or return) my call or meet with me.
- Our price was too high.
- We didn’t have the features the customer needed.
- My company’s reputation was a problem.
- The customer forced us to follow a buying process and buying criteria that put us at a disadvantage.
- The opportunity turned out to be “less real” or winnable than it appeared.
- Contacts wouldn’t share information that I needed.
- The account’s real decision process wasn’t clear.
- My competition had the inside track.
- The customer viewed our solution as a commodity.
- We were the victim of politics inside the customer account.
- The customer changed its mind and didn’t make the purchase.
- The customer didn’t understand my value relative to my competition or to the status quo.
- I didn’t have a clear and complete picture of the account and opportunity.
When 15 equals 2
Reality is, however, that all 15 barriers can be summed up by just two of them.
I hope you saw quickly it was the last two: 14 and 15. The customer didn’t understand my value and I didn’t have a clear and complete picture.
In short, the same two barriers that all salespeople and all sales training have been trying to break down since some guy in a cave tried talking his neighbor into buying the first wheel: differentiation and information.
The closer we get to perfect differentiation and perfect information, the closer we’ll get to perfect sales.
The quest for the Grail
But the differentiation and information barriers are massive, thick, almost unbreakable. They’re, not easily broken down.
That hasn’t kept us from trying. We’ve thrown a lot of stuff at these two barriers over the generations. Why? Because everyone understands that the thing that does break them down is the Holy Grail of selling.
“Relationships” is probably the most popular tool we’ve tried (let’s out-like our competitors). Value propositions runs a close second.
Then there are step-by-step sales methodologies. (Oops, I forgot – not all sales campaigns are created equal.), or sophisticated, strategic analytical tools and their related “killer questions.” (Customers just love interrogations and needs analyses.)
Nothing we’ve thrown at them has broken these two barriers down. Our search has led us, not to the Holy Grail of selling, but to a dank and dismal cave. We’ve made progress, to be sure. But we haven’t found it.
In front of our eyes
When and how do customers form their impressions of you, your company, and your offerings? When and how do they elect to share – or not share – information with you? What is the setting?
Guess what – no matter where it is, it’s the same setting every time. It’s the interaction…itself.
Whether it’s a phone call or a face-to-face meeting, the interaction isn’t the vehicle for differentiating ourselves…it is our differentiation. It’s not just the platform for communicating our value proposition…it is our value proposition.
The more we differentiate ourselves the more information we get and the more effective we are at the process of seeking information the more we end up differentiating ourselves.
The Holy Grail of selling? It’s the interaction. Simple, isn’t it? Master it, and everything else will fall into place.
Jerry Stapleton is the founder of Waukesha-based Stapleton Resources LLC (www.stapletonresources.com). He is also the author of the book, “From Vendor to Business Resource.”