One of the core tenets of our philosophy is that sales reps need to become Trusted Advisors. While we have a lot of ways of helping teams and organizations attain that status, an oft-forgotten entry point (particularly by veteran sales reps who have become accustomed to methods that usually work for them) is to ask the following question:
If I were the buyer, would I consider my product/solution as an option,
and why/why not?
This single question certainly isn’t the only critical factor in becoming a Trusted Advisor, but it’s a useful way in, additionally carrying in its answers a host of other possible benefits, with far-reaching implications for the entire organization.
- It creates a sense of empathy crucial for relationship building and Trusted Advisor status.
The English language is replete with sayings about the importance of developing empathy and understanding of other people (i.e. “You don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”, “Put yourself in their place”, etc.). Asking this question has you imagining yourself as the buyer and results in a shifted perspective that switches your mindset from selling to analysis. From this vantage point, you can more easily understand how the prospect is feeling, where their potential objections and obstacles might lie, possible routes to take in the sales conversations, and so on. In this position, you’re much likely to avoid making an unintentional ethical error, and will genuinely have the buyer’s best interests at heart.
- Qualifying leads becomes considerably easier.
Many sales and marketing teams have a set of metrics and factors they weigh in determining a lead’s score and grading. These are valuable, quantifiable measures for determining the viability and quality of a lead. But posing the question outlined above allows for a personal touch and reading of the buyer’s situation that data itself can’t replicate. It provides context to the statistics and sees opportunities or pitfalls that even the most advanced analytics can’t grasp (one of the reasons why the forthcoming AI-fueled sales world will still need human reps).
- It can uncover a stronger value proposition.
A lot of organizations make the mistake of building their value proposition around the latest buzzwords and other fluff that both sounds generic and doesn’t truly hit where their greatest strengths and differentiators lie. Without knowing those distinguishing characteristics and being able to express them succinctly and clearly, the selling process becomes much more difficult.
When you ask yourself the why portion of if you would consider your offering were you a buyer, you have the space and mindset to look hard at what the real value and benefit your product/service provides. This in turn makes crafting collateral and messaging and selling much easier – you know more than just the features and benefits – you know what the value add is.
- Conversely, potential weaknesses and areas for improvement can be revealed.
On the flip side of strengths/value proposition, a deep dive into this question opens up the opportunity to realize what gaps are in your offering and possible spaces in which to improve your offering on a technical level – in other words, the why not. This is particularly true when, thinking as a buyer and whether or not you’d use yourself as an option, you’d also naturally think of the competition and what areas they surpass you in. And part of becoming a Trusted Advisor is an open willingness to discuss the competition honestly and frankly – without an agenda to improve your own standing by trashing them.
- The true target markets and positionings may come to light
Another great opportunity made available in asking this question is the possible revelation as to what your target markets should be and where your positioning genuinely is.
Example: You’re a sales rep for a feature-rich CRM with a corresponding price point. You ask yourself the question about two prospects and the answer comes back: “Well, if I was X company, I would definitely have us as an option because of these reasons. But if I was B company, I would reconsider because the solution just seems too complex and difficult to implement.”
Let’s say both companies are in the same vertical. On the face of it, they’d both be in your target market. But whereas X company has the resources and manpower to really take advantage of a capable solution like yours, B company is just a small, family-run operation that would be in over their heads trying to implement your solution into their daily operations. In short, you’d sell a solution that is simply not in the best interest of B company - with little to no chance of forging a long-term business relationship.
Had you not asked this question, you might pursue both companies, but that would be a waste of time. Worse yet – the very possible scenario where you spend time trying to close both, but lose out on the prospect who fits you because you also have to devote time to the one that doesn’t.
One simple question, but one that generates multiple potential positive outcomes for improving your communications with prospects, strengthening your sales process, and fine-tuning your content and positioning. Best of all, asking the question and answering it is free.