Don’t get me wrong, you have to be responsive to your customers. You have to provide compelling and meaningful answers to their questions. But even your best responses to their questions are not likely to be sufficient to differentiate you and win.
In today’s very tough B2B sales world, it’s very difficult to differentiate our offerings from those of the competition. Tough competitors are always very close in features, functions, capabilities, even pricing. The quality of products, the reputations of the companies are very similar. There are small nuances or differences, but they are rarely the deal winners. So your customers is going to ask everyone the same questions, and get roughly the same answers.
Or they may not even ask them, after all, they can ask them in Bing or Google, and get any number of responses. Some studies indicate customers complete as much as 70% of the buying process prior to engaging sales–by that time, they’ve probably gotten a lot of answers, at least to the questions they thought of.
We have to answer our customers questions, but increasingly these answers are just table stakes.
So what do we do? If our answers don’t set us apart, how do we win?
What’s more important than the questions your customers are asking are the questions they should be asking. It’s these questions that provide the customer real insight. It’s these questions that engage the customer in thinking about things differently. They get the customer to consider things they never had imagined, to see new opportunities, to think of different approaches, to consider changing.
Getting the customer to understand these questions and why they are important is where sales people create their greatest value and differentiation.
Customers know what they don’t know and will ask for answers. But they don’t know what they don’t know and those are probably the most critical issues for the customer to be concerned about. Those are probably the “big” issues, or the “gotcha’s,” or the things that have the biggest impact on risk and outcomes.
If the customer doesn’t know the right questions to ask, they could be missing major areas of opportunity or creating great exposures. The challenge is, they don’t know they are missing some things, they don’t know what they don’t know, consequently may not realize there are different possibilities. The best sales professionals invest more time in helping the customer understand the questions they should be asking–then providing powerful answers to those questions.
You have to answer your customers questions to be in the game. But you win the deal through insight and value creation and you do that by focusing the customer on the questions they should be asking.
As a bit of an after thought, the questions the customers should be asking seldom are about your products and services. Rather the questions they should be asking are about their businesses—What could they do differently, how to they perform better, what opportunities are they missing, how do they reduce risk, how do the best produce the results they expect.
Talk to the customer about these, get them to understand their importance, and you’ve set yourself apart from everyone else, providing leadership and value difficult to match!
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