You Can’t Sell Them Unless You Know Them
The following is adapted from The Tech Sales Warrior by Chris Prangley.
The rep had just begun leading her own meetings. This was her breakout moment after her initial training when someone else ran her meetings. Now she would be the one in command.
She researched the client, she got to the meeting ten minutes before it started, she was prepped to win, and then proceeded to talk all the way through a thirty-minute discovery meeting.
With three minutes to spare, she got around to asking a question of her prospect: “How does that sound to you?”
Answer: “It’s not really relevant to us.”
This rep worked hard to get the meeting, she was smart and competent, but she fell for the fatal flaw of making the meeting about her company and her product instead of her prospect’s pain and needs.
Making this experience even worse, the rep did have a solution that would’ve worked beautifully. But by then it was too late because she’d already shredded her credibility with the prospective client with a thirty-minute monologue of marketing.
It’s easy to shake your head at the rep’s obvious mistake in this story, but the truth is many reps make similar errors all the time, it’s just not always quite as glaring.
I’ve also often witnessed reps asking great questions, receiving responses that are absolute gold, but then failing to use those answers to relate back to the product or service they’re selling.
Other times, reps fail to see that the answers they are getting disqualify the prospect, and they go on to waste lots of time trying to sell a company that is not the right fit.
The root of these kinds of mistakes is a fundamental misunderstanding of your job. You are not pitching a product. You are providing a solution to a problem.
To sell a solution, it must match or exceed what’s needed to solve your prospect’s problem. Priority number one is a deep understanding of the pain your prospect is experiencing because they lack a solution. And the only way to uncover that is to ask a lot of questions.
You need to keep one bedrock principle front and center at all times: it’s not about you. It’s not about your product. It’s about your prospect’s and customer’s pain, and specifically how you can make their businesses and their lives better.
Getting to know your future customer starts during prospecting. For example, let’s say you’re sending a cold email. Do a quick bit of research so you can provide some value in that email. Share a relevant article through email, comment on a company LinkedIn post, reference a recent talk the prospect gave, or congratulate the company on a recent accomplishment.
Way too many reps send cold emails that are nothing more than a plea to have a meeting. They also fail to use the information the prospect shares with them, which may be vital to their needs and a great way to build authentic rapport.
Outreach with a little research has a much better chance of success, but it has another benefit, too. It lays the groundwork for knowing your client if you do score a meeting with them. In the past year, I’ve received hundreds of emails and calls from sales reps selling a general solution to boost sales productivity, and only one made the effort to personalize their outreach. And zero followed up with enough value or enough times to make a meeting a must.
Reps who don’t do up-front work think they are just selling their product to whomever wants to buy it, when what they need to understand is that they’re selling a solution to a specific company that has a specific need and pain. Poor preparation is what gives sales the bad rap it can sometimes have. It also marks the unprepared rep as an amateur. Don’t be an amateur.
Imagine how your own prospecting will stand out if you add unique value with each outreach and continue to follow up.
For more advice on knowing your customer, you can find The Tech Sales Warrior on Amazon.
With more than a decade of sales experience in the enterprise B2B market, Chris Prangley helps global firms solve challenges in data security, collaboration, threat detection, and governance. He has a proven track record of overachieving customer expectations while building successful sales teams known for cultivating strong relationships and surpassing quotas. As the VP of Sales–West for a multibillion-dollar cybersecurity firm, Chris is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a BBA in marketing and a minor in philosophy.