This Week’s Big Deal: Adopting Your Customer’s Point of View

July 29, 2019

There is no single secret to success in B2B sales. Except… well, there might be. 

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In sales, it means adopting a customer’s point of view and truly seeing challenges, pains, and potential solutions through their eyes, not yours. 

When you reach this level of insight, everything else tends to fall in line. You’ll be able to better navigate large buying committees because you clearly understand how they internally operate and interact. You’ll have fewer leaks in your sales funnel because you intuitively recognize where they’re popping up. You’ll be able to speed up the sales cycle because you can pinpoint a prospect’s priorities and hold-ups. And above all, you’ll be able to deliver more compelling and personalized customer experiences

Of course, developing a consistently empathetic point of view is far easier said than done. Every person and company is different, and you can’t always get a read as easily online as you could if you were looking them in the eyes. But virtually every modern organization should see the value in boosting empathy in the sales department.  

This week’s roundup of sales content features tips on developing a truly empathetic approach to sales.

Sales Experts Weigh in on Developing an Empathetic Point of View

Communicate!

There’s no better way to learn about someone than to simply listen. In general, digital sellers are getting better at this critical activity. But we can only listen if we first get people talking. Are you focused on creating multiple avenues and triggers to invite conversation?

It starts with cultivating an active, welcoming, and receptive social media presence. But there are also techniques we can implement, as sales and marketing teams, to facilitate interaction from a curious or researching buyer. In his recent piece on influencing sales growth through B2B customer experience, Sam Makad calls out several tools for this purpose, such as live chats, co-browsing, and chat-bots.  

Don’t Steer Clear of Difficult Questions

The problem with run-of-the-mill sales conversations is that they don’t often reveal unique or useful insights. Anthony Iannarino advocates in favor of a willingness to engage in difficult conversations. “You have to effectively deal with and dispatch the obstacles to change, even when it is uncomfortable, and even when others would prefer to avoid difficult conversations,” he says. “You cannot be consultative or a trusted advisor if you are afraid to deal with challenges. Ignoring real issues is a lie of omission.”

On a similar note, Janice Mars writes that there is real value in telling hard truths: “If you do not divulge information you know will set the buyer up for failure and potentially create more risk for them, then you will most likely have an unsuccessful implementation and a pissed-off customer.” This transparency will often lead to greater openness from the customer, making it easier to see and meet their needs.

Create Connective Sales Demos

The solution demo can be a seller’s most potent asset. Unfortunately, they’re often built from the vendor’s point of view rather than the buyer’s. For this reason, they frequently fail to fully resonate. It’s always worthwhile to reflect on your approach and consider ways you might improve. 

In his new writeup on taking sales demos from boring to brilliant, one recommendation from Steve Bookbinder is to tap into the buyer’s motives:

“It comes down to understanding and quantifying both the rational and non-rational processes by which buyers make decisions,” he explains. “Ironically, we tend to see most sales pitches address rational needs, and rarely the irrational but salient needs that drive the individual’s decisions.”

He notes that there are broadly two categories of decision-making: aspiration (playing to win) and preventative (playing not to lose). Making this determination will go a long way toward helping you align your messaging to your prospect’s needs and wants.

Be Selective with Opportunities

Developing an empathetic point of view is not a fast or easy process. It takes (sometimes intensive) research and earnest effort. That’s why, as ValueSelling Associates CEO Julie Thomas guest-blogged here last week, we need to stop wasting time qualifying the wrong opportunities

Once you’ve come closer to adopting a prospect’s POV, you may conclude there’s no realistic chance of them making a move on your solution at this point in time. Obviously, it’d be helpful to predetermine that before investing time and effort.

Thomas suggests asking yourself these four questions at the outset:

  1. Does this person have the power to purchase?

  2. Does the company really need what you’re selling?

  3. Does this person truly understand your value proposition?

  4. Do they acknowledge a timeline for results?

Foster Deeper Connections and Win

As author Leslie Jamison once wrote, “Empathy requires knowing that you know nothing.” Assumptions and preconceptions can be the worst enemy of a salesperson. Leave them at the door and enter each new engagement with an open mind, ready to learn and better understand the person (or people) at the other end.

It’s an ongoing process and it’ll never be fast or easy, but when you master this art, you’ll have unlocked the (not-so-secret) secret to selling success.

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