If buyers could get by without salespeople, do you think they would? It is an interesting question if you stop and consider the role of the salesperson. Of course, considering the role in an abstract way is one thing, but what about when you consider it from a personal perspective? What happens as a salesperson when you put your emotions aside for a moment, relax, take a deep breath and honestly ask yourself, “What role do I play with my buyers?”
When I ask salespeople what value they bring to their buyers, I usually get a typical answer that is full of a lot of smoke puffery. When I ask this question of buyers, and in particular professional buyers, I get an entirely different answer. For professional buyers who see a wide variety of salespeople, the value they place on them is usually very minimal. Are you wondering why?
There’s one simple reason that can sum it all up: Most salespeople bring to their buyers only information. Interestingly, information is something any buyer can gather from other sources. At the end of the day, you as a salesperson must ask yourself, “Am I merely a conduit of information?” If you are, then you’re wasting your time, your company’s time, and your customer’s time. You might as well just email your buyer the information and then go play golf.
If you can’t as a salesperson honestly lay claim to problems you’ve helped your customers overcome, then you really have to begin questioning the role you play. Yes, I’m being quite harsh, but with the advent of technology and communication, the role of the salesperson has changed. If you as a salesperson have not recognized and embraced this change, then you are nothing more than the walking dead.
Buyers don’t want people who bring them nothing more than information. They want solutions. Unfortunately, because buyers often have far too much to do, they don’t even know what their problems are or what challenges their company is facing. This is the role the salesperson needs to play — the role of helping identify the problems, whether blatant or obscure, and turning them into opportunities you can solve for the customer.
So how do you go about identifying problems? You as the salesperson must become an investigator – someone who is determined to find out what really is happening in an organization, industry and global marketplace. Then, you need to show your customer how what you found is impacting them now or will be impacting them in the future.
Start this process by shifting your focus. Instead of just delivering information to your customer, begin to ask more questions. A very simple rule I tell salespeople is for every minute you spend gathering information to share with a customer, you need to spend an equal amount of time developing questions to ask that customer. Don’t develop questions for which you already have the answers or could easily find the answers. In fact, those are the wrong type of questions.
Instead, you need to develop questions to which you don’t have answers. More than likely, these will be questions to which your buyer doesn’t have answers either. By asking these questions, you’re helping move the buyer to viewing you differently. Your role is to be seen as the one salesperson who is genuinely committed to helping them move themselves and their company to a higher level. This may be by growing their sales or helping them reduce their costs.
When you can clearly identify ways you’ve helped your buyer achieve either of these outcomes, then you will know you’re no longer the type of salesperson that buyers love to hate. Plus, you’ll be growing your bottom line at the same time. And that’s a lot better than simply doling out information!