I'm not in Sales. But over the course of my career, I've uniquely observed many sales people. I've been on the other side of the table many times: I've been the guy sales people have tried to sell to. I was, what they call "The Economic Buyer" - some mystical term that is supposed to describe the buying power the person being sold to has.
My experience has taught me and showed me what skills work and what didn't. Today, I want to share 1 thing that could improve your selling skills today.
So, What Have I Bought?
So, what products or services have I evaluated? Let me list them so you can see the diverse suite of products and services over which I had the buying decision. Note: these were all at the enterprise level - in other words, big money was involved:
- Warehouse Management Systems: Or, WMS, for short. These include inventory management systems and everything that manages labor, inventory, and the movement thereof in warehouses. These are big, expensive systems. And the WMS are critical for companies that hold inventory.
- Enterprise Resource Planning: Or, ERP, for short. Again, these are gargantuan systems meant to help an organization manage manufacturing, production, purchasing, etc. These are expensive systems and, in my mind, the jury is still out whether these systems actually help the organization simplify and automate their processes.
- Voice of the Customer Platforms: These include survey tools that seek to ask and report on the Net Promoter Score (NPS). These platforms also do more than that, but that was the primary feature my team was considering when we looked at Voice of the Customer Platforms.
- Email Marketing Platform: We eventually bought one that was later acquired by SalesForce. I still remember the sales calls for that product - boy, that was an expensive purchase too.
- Web Analytics: These are the software companies that provide page-level pixel tracking so internal marketing folks can track how effective their pages are at converting the visitor.
- Strategy Consulting: Yes, I hate to admit it, but I've evaluated the offerings of various management consulting firms. Consultants have a bad wrap, but I'd have to say they're not all bad. At least the ones we went with provided us value.
You get the point. In sum, I've been on the other side of many sales calls and was either part of the team that decided on buying the solution or was the economic buyer himself.
Given my experience, I want to reflect on the things I observed over several dozen sales meetings. Maybe what I share with you will be helpful in some way. Take it from someone from the other side of the table.
The Best Sales People are Storytellers
I don't know if this is your experience, but I've noticed that a lot of sales people are chatty. It's not bad, but from my experience chattiness can get in the way of selling - especially if the chattiness has no point.
I remember being on the other side of the table listening to two sales reps from a company that provided packaging and supply chain solutions. Maybe it's my Myers-Briggs type, but I really don't have much patience for small talk. So, I came into this 60 minute meeting hoping to get a better understanding of their solution and how it might solve my problem.
Instead, the first 15 minutes - those excrutiatingly long 15 minutes - was spent in bro talk. What's bro talk you say? Well, in the supply chain and manufacturing industry, bro talk is essentially discussing sports, cars, whatever. Needless to say, I had a bad experience and their company was eliminated from consideration. Their solution, it turns out, wasn't what we were looking for, but the bad sales experience set a poor tone for me at the outset, probably coloring my decision later in the process.
Contrast that experience with the vendor partner from whom we eventually purchased. They came in, we did quick introductions, then they told my team a story relevant to the issues we were concerned about. The story they told laid out the history of packaging and the general triggers that lead companies like ours to seek out a new packaging solution.
Then, they did something interesting.
They provided a counterpoint about how to think differently about the problem. The prevailing thinking at the time was to purchase a lot of boxes of different sizes that our internal warehouse team would then assemble and shp product in.What did they do instead?
They provided a counterpoint about how to think differently about the problem.
Based on the industry status quo, they showed how much corrugate was wasted Millions of square feet of corrugate was wasted. They equated that into dimensions and weight, both of which lead to shipping costs. They they posed a question:
What's the Cost of Doing Nothing Different?
Ouch. I was hooked. I wanted to do things differently. The tension in the story drew me and us in.
We eventually bought from them.
The Best Sales People Use Pictures to Tell Stories
This same firm did something uniquely different in their presentation. It wasn't the typical boring PowerPoint showing a history of their company, customer logos, etc. Instead, they used simple pictures and data to tell their story. This means that their PowerPoint Deck consisted mainly of pictures. The story was verbal. This allowed me to listen and the pictures reinforced their message.
Contrast that to the typical PowerPoint deck where there are bullets of text to be read. These guys understood the truth that humans cannot read and listen at the same time. Their approach allowed me to truly hear what they had to say and teach and images were used to reinforce their message.
Truly an effective approach.
The result? We bought from them.
So, What is the Sales Person's Most Effective and Underused Tool?
Even more. Stories with pictures. Stories that convey a point, teach the listener, and creates a healthy tension that allows the recipient to be drawn in and enage in the story.
It's Your Turn
Look at that old, stale, and stuffy PowerPoint deck. Yeah, that one. The one you've read hundreds of times to prospects. Ask yourself: How Can I Create a Compelling Story Out of This.
Then do it.
You won't regret it.