In an era of global competition and Internet commerce, salespeople are in danger of becoming irrelevant. Today's well-informed customers are able to select the best quality and lowest prices among scores of vendors.
Rather than watch helplessly as the revenues and profits of your products and services are eroded, you need to add more value to preserve their differentiation. One almost cost-free way to add more value is to change the way you sell.
Simple changes to your sales methods and the way you think about sales can dramatically increase the value your customers perceive. In fact, you may be able to provide so much value that your customers will feel indebted to you beyond the price of your products and services.
How to become invaluable
Salespeople have traditionally been taught to search out customers' problems and help solve them. However, solving problems doesn't make you very valuable--especially when customers can increasingly solve them without your assistance. What makes you invaluable is helping customers achieve their goals.
Often, this requires helping customers' see beyond the constraints they have placed on themselves. Have you ever done something that you didn't know or believe you could do? How did it feel? It feels great! It's awe-inspiring. That's the feeling your customers will have for you, if you help them achieve their goals.
The reason people don't achieve their goals is that the current path is not working. To achieve the goal, some changes need to be made. If you help the customer identify, initiate, and complete the necessary changes, you will have provided an invaluable service--helping customers achieve more than they could have attempted or imagined on their own.
The five disciplines
To dramatically increase the value your customers perceive, you must adopt a change-centric view and practice the five disciplines of change leadership.
? Force Field Analysis--what forces is the person experiencing?
? Change Response Analysis--how will the person respond to the forces?
? Power Analysis--what effort will be required to make the desired change?
? Value Creation--what is the value of making the change?
? Change Actuation--how will the change be made?
Force field analysis
People and organizations make purchases to effect change. Force field analysis enables the salesperson to understand the forces that the prospective customer is experiencing, how those forces are influencing a change decision, and how those forces are influencing a corresponding purchase decision.
Change response analysis
To properly assess where a client stands on the change continuum, take into consideration the guiding forces behind change: internal or psychological needs; innate behavioral tendencies; cognitive strategies and systems; and the environment in which he or she operates. The underlying premise is that no two people respond identically to identical forces; thus you can't always predict behavior. Effective change leaders recognize this and guide customers toward desired outcomes.
Once you have a thorough understanding of the forces that influence the person or organization and how the person will respond to those forces, you need to determine what efforts will be required to execute the response. In other words, what will it take to make the change?
Making the change involves: breaking free of the current situation; overcoming resisting forces; moving from the current situation to the new one; and maintaining the new situation in place. Power analysis assesses these efforts.
This discipline is essential because people must clearly understand the value and benefits of changing before they will act to make the change. The value creation discipline then becomes a critical step to complete before the change can be initiated. The most value is created when customers achieve their most cherished goals.
Putting change in motion is the final step. This is an emotional process, one wherein the client must let go of the notion that things will stay the same. The key is to be in motion and to stay in motion. That is why initiating the change by taking the first step is so important.
Let's say you are an insurance broker representing multiple companies and you see an opportunity for financial planners to introduce your offerings to their clients. But, you are having trouble convincing the planners to take action. The first step is to understand what forces the financial planners feel. What is changing in their environment? What is their "system" for managing client relationships? What motivates them?
The next step is to understand how they respond. For example, do they have anxieties? What is their tolerance for risk?
The third step is to understand, and then minimize the effort, cost, and risk the financial planners would incur if they introduced you to their clients. In the value creation step you paint a clear and compelling picture of how the financial planners would benefit and how well everything would work. Finally, you ask them to take the first step--perhaps introducing you to one, low-risk client (maybe a client they have already lost, or one that is so loyal they would never lose).
Remember, you are not selling products or services. You are selling change. Consider your company a "change agency." And think of yourself as a change agent employed not by your company, but by your client to actuate change on your client's behalf.
Your company's resources, as well as those of the client are the vehicles for actuating the change. By practicing the five disciplines of change leadership, you will become invaluable to your customers--and your sales will soar.
Brett Clay is CEO of Change Leadership Group, LLC. Bellevue, Wash. You may e-mail him at Brett@ChangeLeadershipGroup.com.