Salespeople must recognize that the landscape is truly shifting under our feet. Neil Rackham from Spin Selling discusses the polarizing landscape that will take the low-end transactional business and move it downstream to inexperienced sales reps or through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to process these orders.
Does this mean that sales professionals will no longer be needed? The answer depends on whether you can transform yourself to meet the needs of the current buying process and build strong relationships with your customers. According to Rackham, we must become consultative with our prospects and customers; while most of us seem to understand this, many still struggle with how to actually make it happen.
So how do you become a consultative sales professional?
SLAM! The Sales Lifecycle Account Methodology & Approach
The sales lifecycle account approach to selling means you need to become extremely educated about your customer’s use of your products and solutions. You must understand what the customer is doing, buying, or manufacturing when they use your tools to make their company successful. Instinctively, you need to start at the top of the food chain, finding and gaining access to the person or people in control of an operating unit so that you can utilize the lifecycle interview process.
To highlight the task at hand, I will highlight a recent training we conducted in South America during which our client wanted to change the way their sales people interact with the manufacturing sector and gain access to the New Product Introduction (NPI) groups. The first surprise was the sales people didn’t have access to a group they could identify as the NPI functional group. That is because they were looking at the customer through the traditional functions and not through the operational eye of a lifecycle salesperson. There is someone tasked with introducing the new product and they will have sales, marketing, R&D, finance, etc. We need to get to the person who is running this NPI tiger team
Where do we start?
The process begins with you understanding what the “AS IS” of their current process and the “TO BE” of where they would like to end up. To get there, you need to interview the folks in the functional departments from top to bottom and see if you get the same responses from both the executives and those who are out on the floor. Usually the responses are different, and this provides you with the wedge to begin selling them on the best way to achieve the desired improvements they told you about when they modeled the AS IS and identified in the TO BE.
Is the Sales Lifecycle Account approach intriguing to you? How do you go about doing this?
If you have engaged with us around Story Selling (SG 3), you can utilize these strategies and modify it to have an opening value conversation with the sponsor you have targeted.
Here’s an example. Lets say the group that produces documentation needs to streamline their process and educate the client on implementation best practices. You should begin by asking them People, Time, and Money qualifiers:
How many people are involved in this?
How often do they need to create the material?
How often do they modify the design per year that needs updates?
Once you get 2 out of 3 (people, time or money) you can calculate an ROI while making some assumptions about the third one. Now the trick here is to add some additional qualifiers such as:
What is their % improvement goal or financial goal for each step of the process?
What are the current obstacles preventing them from achieving their goals?
This approach to sales yields massive benefits for the sales reps and positions you to box out the competition, as well as understand if the obstacle is something you can’t eliminate.
In the case of our South American client, we showed them how their solution can reduce the cost of the NPI while increasing the amount of money they make on the new product by shifting their R&D and prototyping capabilities into additive manufacturing techniques.
Understanding the lifecycle of the client enables you to point out how they can modify their timeline while accelerating themselves over the hurdle rate to make money. One thing you also need to think through with the client is how the obsolescence of their offering will most likely be sooner than they want so doing the right things up front enables them to capitalize on current opportunities.
In summary this SLAM method is not about leading with product but about your ability to earn the right to interview the staff. When you focus on people, time, money, as well as their goals and obstacles, you become consultative and more valuable to the customer.
Are you looking to shift your sales efforts to a Sales Lifecycle Account Methodology & Approach? Do you have questions? We’d be happy to help – reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 781.910.0077.