Imagine you are abandoned alone in the middle of unknown wilderness. You happen to be an Eagle Scout, so you’re quite adept at finding water, building a shelter, and gathering food. However, the vast jungle that surrounds you presents new obstacles at every turn. There are certain foods to avoid and a few animals that you shouldn’t even attempt to capture. You meet a group of indigenous people who have all the information regarding specific things to avoid. In fact, they have seen others like you get lost in that very wilderness and make the same mistakes.
Unfortunately, all the advice and insight that the indigenous people provide you falls on deaf ears because the two parties don’t speak the same language.
Finding Common Ground
Business leaders navigate their own “corporate jungle” on a day to day basis. On a sales call, an executive is trying to understand how the salesperson’s service or product can help them better navigate their market and gain competitive advantage. All too often, sales professionals are the indigenous people who cannot communicate their knowledge and expertise in a palatable manner. They are immersed in the jungle, and unable to express their insights in a way that makes sense to an outsider.
The business leader at the other end of a sales call is the Eagle Scout. They are experienced and intelligent, looking for resources to thrive in a new environment. Unfortunately, they usually walk away frustrated and feeling misunderstood. According to Forrester, there is research to support this analogy: only 13% of buyers feel that their sales rep understood their business challenges and asked effective questions that facilitated real discovery and insight.
Before the advent of internet and information systems, salespeople were necessary for a very important reason. They were the only source of information about the products in the marketplace and their capabilities.
Now, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes and a few key strokes to find all the information you could possibly want about a set of products and what makes them unique. While the decision-making journey for the modern buyer has changed tremendously due to easier access to information, the techniques that salespeople use to do their job have not changed.
When salespeople are bad at their job, executives miss out on an opportunity to discover new knowledge and gain free strategic advice.
An effective salesperson asks insightful questions. The 13% of sales reps that succeed in the buyer’s eyes are knowledgeable about the prospects’ business, and can provide a perspective that an executive may have never even considered before.
The modern buyer has a lot of options and information about those options. Executives do not need a salesperson to feed them information; they need the salesperson to ask informed, and thought-provoking questions that facilitate genuine discovery of business challenges, and solutions.
Even on cold outreach, a skilled salesperson can help executives look at business challenges from a unique and educated perspective, and discover opportunities for growth previously unseen.
All business leaders should care about the skill level of the modern salesperson because a call with a skilled seller is essentially free consulting.