Sales pundits often compare the selling process to a game or a battle that must be won. In either context, there is necessarily a winner and a loser. But neither metaphor really does (or should) fit the sales process, according to Ian Altman. bestselling author, strategic adviser, and sought-after speaker.
Selling, according to Ian, is more like a puzzle, with both sides working together to complete the picture.
I invited Ian to Marketing Smarts to discuss the how sales and marketing have changed (and how they haven’t) since he wrote the first edition of his book, Same Side Selling. The new edition is available now: Same Side Selling: How Integrity and Collaboration Drive Extraordinary Results for Sellers and Buyers.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Stop trying to “defeat” your prospect during the sales process (03:53): “Almost every book that’s ever been written about sales either has a game metaphor or a battle metaphor. In a game metaphor, you have a winner and a loser. In the battle metaphor, the loser dies. Then we wonder why we end up with this adversarial tension between buyer and seller.
“So, when writing Same Side Selling, my co-author, Jack Quarles, has spent two decades in purchasing and procurement. Everything in the book is written from the buyer’s and seller’s perspective. Most people are taught any sort of sales strategy or techniques as ‘here’s what you can do to your prospect.’ In Same Side Selling, it’s all about how we can collaborate together to get a better outcome for both parties.”
Focus on the buyer’s success, even if that means they don’t buy from you (05:00): “Fundamentally, what it comes down to is, if, as the seller, the buyer perceives that you are as committed if not more committed to their success or results than you are to making the sale, all of a sudden there’s a whole other level of trust. Because, unfortunately, so many people in sales have been taught that their job is to sell whatever it is they have to sell whether the client needs it or not.
“In Same Side Selling, we talk about how your goal is to find the right fit for the people you can help the most. And part of your job is that if you don’t think you’re the best people to help them, that you tell the prospect that also.”
Shift the conversation from price to value by focusing on results (07:17): “I’ll often ask the people on the selling side, ‘So if you think of the buyer/seller interaction as a race, the starting block is the initial contact. What do we call the finish line, that place where you break through the tape, everyone’s high-fiving, and they’re all cheering.’ Most people say it’s the sale or the close. ‘
“Then we ask, ‘OK, so what if you asked your client what the finish line is? The client doesn’t feel the finish line is the sale. For the client, the finish line is the results. If we spend time focusing on the results that our clients need, it might sound like this: ‘So what would we measure together so we know six months from now this was successful, because we don’t want you to spend money and not get the results that you need. What can we measure together so we can hold each other accountable so we can make sure that we deliver that?’ What percentage of clients have ever been asked that question? Probably a really small number, so you immediately stand out.”
Despite everything you might have been taught before, do not ask someone “what’s your budget” on a sales call (24:53): “It’s ridiculous. Nobody was born saying, ‘I’m going to ask people what their budget is.’ They’ve been taught. Somebody said to them, ‘Here’s a question you’ve got to ask,’ because someone read a book from 1974 that says ‘we qualify based on budgets, so you have to see what their budget is.’
“But think about it this way. Let’s say you live in an area where the weather’s hot. And in the dead of the summer your air conditioning goes out. Most of us are going to fix that even if we don’t have a budget set aside to fix it because it’s going to be really uncomfortable if we don’t fix it. If you find an issue that has enough impact that it’s important enough to solve, then people will find the money. They will, as long as they believe that you can deliver the results they need.”
To learn more, visit IanAltman.com or SameSideSelling.com, or follow Ian on Twitter @IanAltman, and pick up the new edition of Same Same Side Selling: How Integrity and Collaboration Drive Extraordinary Results For Sellers and Buyers to learn more about what we discussed on the podcast.
Ian and I talked about much more, including how one company’s non-sales personnel became their top sellers, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.