What prospects REALLY want from you
  • sales
  • Blog post

What prospects REALLY want from you

What do your customers want from you? Great products? A warm, cooperative relationship? A solid reputation for service?

Sure, these things are important. But a landmark study suggests that what buyers want most is for you to tell them something they don’t know. They want to be challenged with critical insights about their own business that will jolt them out of their complacency.

This study, by the Sales Executive Council, looked at 6,000 salespeople in 100 companies and found that what the researchers called “Challengers” win 14% more sales than average. The study’s authors said these salespeople consistently do two things: 1) They acquire a deep understanding of their customer’s business and use that knowledge to push the customer’s thinking, and 2) They take control of the sales conversation.

You may think this could make buyers push back. But the study says that, on the contrary, buyers relish a challenge. They want salespeople to “offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market” and “educate them on new issues and outcomes.”

In short, you can win more sales by delivering ideas— critical insights — that make your buyer sit back and say, “Wow. This salesperson taught me something I didn’t know!”

Real-world examples

Here are some examples from the Sales Executive Council of how salespeople won business by providing customers with critical insights:

  • A distributor discovered that 40% of its customers’ spending was for unplanned purchases – for example, when equipment broke, or a technician urgently needed a tool to complete a repair. In such cases, buyers often bypassed the distributor and paid retail to get the products quickly. Because these were considered emergency purchases, few customers considered the cost implications. But when salespeople got buyers focused on these costs and proposed a way to reduce them, they recaptured many of these sales.
  • A manufacturer offered an ergonomic dental drill that could reduce injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Conversations with dentists revealed that they were far more concerned about injuries to their staff than to themselves. So when salespeople led with a discussion about staff injuries, sales took off.
  • A manufacturer wanted to sell more color printers to schools. Salespeople found it an uphill battle because administrators saw color printers as a frill. Then someone asked whether color helped improve learning. Research showed that it did – and when salespeople presented this evidence, administrators got interested.

The 10,000-foot view

Why didn’t these customers figure out the problem for themselves? Simply because buyers are often too close to their own business to engage in this sort of insightful thinking. But salespeople operate at a distance and can take the “10,000-foot view.” That puts you in a great position to connect the dots between what you sell and a problem that wasn’t even on the customer’s radar screen.

So what exactly do you need to come up with this kind of insight? Two things:

  1. A deep understanding of the buyer’s business and how your product or service can add value. You have to do your homework.
  2. Your own experience with similar situations. Remember, you’re the expert on how your products or services help customers. Share with your buyer the knowledge you’ve gained by working with other companies.

That’s it. You’re ready to inform and challenge your buyer in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.  And when you start hearing things like “I hadn’t considered that,” or “I had no idea this was such a big problem,” you’ll know that your critical insights are striking a chord.

This blog entry is adapted from the Rapid Learning module “How to Win Sales by Challenging Buyers With Critical Insights.” If you’re a Rapid Learning customer, you can watch the video here. If you’re not, but would like to see this video (or any of our other programs), request a demo and we’ll get you access.

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