A Philosophical Belief

Most of the sales training offered today is very similar to the methods used thirty years ago. Selling is a process that starts with the sales person determining the needs of the individual or business being targeted. This approach was a major breakthrough thirty years ago, as it supposedly got the sales person to focus toward the customer versus their product. You probably participated in courses such as NEED BASED SELLING, NEED SATISFACTION SELLING and PROFESSIONAL SELLING SKILLS that are all based on the belief that the first thing you do in the selling process is find the need.

The reality is that today's market has significantly changed:

  • Most people we call on today do not know what they need; they do know their situation.

  • Not every lead is a qualified prospect;the earlier you know the client's situation, the more productive you become.

  • The selling process is many times shut down by initial stage resistance, such as "we are happy with who we use now".

  • Product similarity is much more prevalent and buyers see little difference in what they are offered as they have many choices; we live in an oversupplied economy.

  • The sales process does not drive the buying process; the client drives the buying process and thus controls the sales process.

  • Today more people are involved in decision making more information is available and time tables are more urgent.

These major changes gave the Williams Leslie Group a different philosophical belief system, which is embodied in CLIENT FOCUSED SELLING. We believe that client needs many times are often masked behind something we call a state of Unawareness. Thus, sales people must become expert explorers of their client's business/personal situation and creators of a dialog that results in both the client and the sales person becoming aware of the client's needs/problems/challenges. Many times when needs are not found quickly in a situation, sellers become impatient and start "telling" the customer about their products hoping to "create" a need. The skills of questioning and listening have been showcased in selling skills programs for many years. We find sales people often ask questions and listen so they can respond and "tell" rather than listen to further understand the client's situation.

We have also found that opportunities are too many times not properly qualified, and sales people often chase anything that has a heartbeat - or as one client said; "they chase garbage trucks." Historically, management has measured sales productivity through such barometers as call activity or call reports which only embellish the belief that more calls equal more sales. If the opportunity is not a qualified prospect, more calls and reports will not change that situation. The Williams Leslie Group has found that the earlier you qualify or disqualify the situation, the more productive the sales force becomes. Star performers believe "Prospects are like lovers - before you become emotionally attached you need to know everything you can about them."

The biggest difference in CLIENT FOCUSED SELLING is a belief that any sales process is driven by the buying process. The way you sell is based upon where the client is in the buying process-and you must adapt accordingly. A good example of this is when a sales person is confronted with initial stage resistance such as "we are happy with who we are using." The literal interpretation of this resistance is "I don't have any needs or problems so it would be a waste of time to talk with you." We call this the UNAWARE stage of buying, and most sales people face it everyday when making calls. However, conventional sales training seldom addresses this situation because there is a belief that resistance/objections present themselves after a recommendation has been made. If a sales person does not have the skills to initiate dialog, they will be unable to move potential clients from this UNAWARE stage to one in which opportunities are surfaced.

The Williams Leslie Group's belief, based on twenty- five years of experience, is that sales people must focus toward the client's situation, not the sales process, and adapt to where the client is in the buying process.

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