Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Harry Bosch…all great fictional detectives that have been read by millions of people who love a good mystery. These detectives use their experience to build a profile of the case, work to determine the motive, and evaluate the clues to try and solve the case. I believe that the sales process is very similar to solving a case. Some of the same characteristics and skills of these famous detectives can be applied to selling and can help you to ‘close the sale.’
Think about the sales process using some of the same terminology that is used to solve a case…here are three ideas:
- Build your Casebook
- Determine the Motive
- Solve the Case
Build your Casebook (Account Book)
All police detectives that I’ve read about create and develop a casebook…if the case is a homicide, it’s called the ‘murder book.’ This book contains everything relevant about the particular case that they are working on, including:
- Witness accounts
For the salesperson, it is critical to have an Account Book for all of your major customers. The book should minimally contain the following information:
- History of the customer relative to your company (include financials, sales growth or decline, industry trends, lists of influencers and decision makers)
- Opinions, comments and feedback from all relevant people at the customer (understand who can help you and who will hinder you)
- Performance of your company relative to customer goals.
This Account Book is not set in stone once a year and forgotten but updated as needed when new information is gathered. For example, you may have new people who are doing the buying and you need to not only list who they are but also begin to develop a profile about them.
Another important reason for an accurate and comprehensive Account Book is that it can be extremely valuable when shared with teams in other departments of your company. If you’re working with your research, product, or analytics team, the Account Book will enable those teams to be aligned with you in the creation of new products or research for your customer. The book will also prove valuable for others, like senior management, at your company to prepare for customer meetings.
Determine the Motive (why should they buy from you?)
In order for the great fictional detectives to discover and evaluate clues for a solution they must determine and understand the motive of the perpetrator. Many times, they will try to ‘get inside the head’ of the suspect to determine motive. Salespeople have a similar challenge…to determine the motive of the customer to buy the product from the salesperson.
Some ‘criminal’ motives could be: money, jealousy/ambition, opportunity, urge to protect themselves. Think about what motivates the customer to buy:
- Career ambition
- Justifiable purchase.
Now, think about this…customers are always looking for the lowest possible price but that price doesn’t necessarily become the key factor in the sale. A unique opportunity could also be of equal importance to the customer. The customer could also see that your product, or opportunity, is so good that they can leverage their purchase to enhance their own careers. Also, because they value the partnership between you, your company, and them, it will be very easy to justify or rationalize their purchase with you to their senior management.
Solve the Case (make the sale)
Obviously, sales and closing a big sale can be very complex and complicated. I do believe, however, that by knowing as much as you can about the customer (Account Book) combined with an understanding of what is motivating them in the buying process can lead to a successful sale more times than not. You can always add more details and levels of complexity but most great salespeople try to ‘keep it simple.’ Take the extra time to develop a comprehensive profile of your customer…chances are, your competitor hasn’t done so. Talk to as many decision-makers and influencers (witnesses) as you can within the customer’s company. By understanding what motivates them (motive) you’ll be able to better understand how to tailor your sales proposal to better fit their needs.
You won’t make every sale…and there will be plenty of ‘unsolved crimes’, too. But, if you think about a sale as an investigation, I believe that you will greatly improve your odds of closing a deal.