Last week, I talked about the importance of ‘telling a story’ during your customer meetings and presentations. You will engage your customers more by viewing your sales story as you would think about a three-act structure in a play or screenplay. The three-act structure consists of:
- The Setup
- The Rising Action (Confrontation)
- The Resolution.
Here’s a quick recap of the Setup:
The first act of a play or movie sets up the characters, their relationships and the world that they live in. From a sales perspective, let’s think about the first act as:
- The state of the customer’s business
- Customer’s needs
- The call to customer action.
We’ll move on to the next ‘acts” in the sales drama: The Rising Action (Confrontation) (Act 2) and the Resolution (Act 3).
The Rising Action (Confrontation)
After you have confirmed the customer’s needs and you and the customer have agreed that ‘something needs to be done’, you’re ready to discuss the costs of inaction. This is the most important part of the sales story. This is where you will uncover, with your customer, detailed descriptions of different results if they don’t use your products. You need to help them understand a sense of urgency and a bias towards action. The results of inaction could be one of the following:
- Financial loss or lost opportunity for financial growth
- Competitive disadvantage.
Your customer knows that some action needs to take place. For example, show them projected costs of lost business if they don’t use your products. This could be lost revenue opportunities, slower or negative growth, or lost sales. This analysis can be very impactful because it can be thought of as directly impacting a customer’s ‘bottom line’. I would look for as many examples of financial impact as possible as this is a real motivator for taking action. You’re really helping your customers better understand their business by showing them different outcomes based on their action or inaction. Your customer will think of you more as a partner than a seller as you help them to better understand their business.
Smart customers understand that their partners, or sales representatives, can help them to better understand their own competitive landscape. Your customers know their own industry and how their business fits into that industry. But you, as the salesperson, have a unique perspective in that you are working with multiple businesses…many of which are your customer’s direct competitors. You can help your customers learn about ‘best practices’ and studies, in aggregate, of what their competitors are successfully doing. You can provide examples of what both action and inaction can do for your customers. Many times, it’s just talking about what they may already inherently know…but need to hear out loud.
Here we come to the climax of the conversation with your customer. You’ve walked your customer through the state of their business, their needs, and the fact that something needs to happen for them to achieve their goals. You’ve then explored with them what may happen to them if they don’t take action…financial implications or derailed business strategies.
Now is the time to bring them with you to the understanding of how your products or services can answer their questions. You want to describe how your product can address each of the potential negative effects of inaction.
- How does your product help them to grow their sales?
- How does your product give them a competitive advantage?
- How does your product fulfill their needs?
When you’re walking through each of these questions, I find it helpful to get customer affirmation on each point with a verbal answer. When your customer says it our loud, it’s more likely to stick in their minds and reinforce your points.
Creating your sales story isn’t just talking on your part…it requires careful listening. You need to listen, understand and acknowledge what your customer is telling you. When you have a true partnership relationship with your customer, they will view you as a valuable resource to help them solve their business challenges. The key is to absorb their information and use that to align with your suite of products to give them a recommendation. Sometimes, your basic product suite isn’t a good fit…don’t push something that won’t work for them. Think about a ‘Plan B’ approach of maybe modifying or customizing some of your products.
Building a long-term successful customer relationship is your goal, not a short-term sale.