Focusing on the goals of your customer puts you squarely in the center of their business. In fact Michael Bosworth, in Customer Centric Selling, writes “experience has taught us that it is far easier for sales professionals to get a buyer to share a goal than to admit a problem.” Goals are what you want to achieve. Problems are issues that need to be resolved. Your customers are more likely to open up when you focus on the resulting impact of goal achievement.
Wouldn’t you agree? Just think about this, do you like it when someone asks you what your problems are in regards to your business? Wouldn’t you be more open to responding to, “What are the goals you would like to achieve in the next 12 months”? Goals are optimistic challenges that you gladly take on-they’re positive. Problems are headaches that actually deter us from achieving our goals-they’re negative. But goals can do much more since they are not focused on specific problems, but rise above them (even though reaching your goals can alleviate the problems you might have!).
Goals support the big picture, the mission, of your customer. Their achievement will not only address the issues, but take their business to a higher level of performance and financial reward. You can’t sell your solution if it doesn’t match the customer goals. The question becomes, “how does your solution help the customer achieve their goal?” Goals are by nature long term, which is to your advantage when the customer expects to receive long term value from companies that provide the right solutions. Problems may be temporary and might not lead to the solid, long term relationship that you desire. As a sales professional, it’s better to support the customer’s long term goals than to fix a temporary problem that requires a point solution. Unless your point solution can lead to a broader result!
Many problems your clients offer to you for help are tactical in nature. Your goal is to help them achieve their more strategic goals – this is when you become a valued partner. Your solutions to their problems may be specific but can be significantly expanded upon as you work with them on their long-term plans. Right now most of your customers are finalizing their 2011 plans, which will later be shared with you. Remember, customers rarely budget for problems, they budget their goals. By being prepared, and probing about these goals, you remain ‘customer centric’ and build the kind of relationship your customers will value.
Today’s selling world is filled with the Request for Proposal (RFP), which you are often asked to submit without any personal interaction. We believe this is the kiss of death for the sales professional, unless you helped write the proposal. Customers like to lay out the specifics of what they are looking for, even though at times your company has more to offer than what is asked for. But you need to be prepared to go deeper, by asking these questions:
– What strategies have you explored to achieve your goals?
– What is your unique selling proposition in the market?
– What are the top priorities for your business this year?
– What will be your method to pursue these goals?
– What challenges would you like to avoid in pursuing these goals?
– How will the achievement of these goals differentiate you from your competition?
– What unique abilities are you looking for in a partner to help you achieve these goals?
– How can we collaborate with you to help you achieve these goals?
– What do you believe will ensure your success this year?
Remember if you want better answers from customers, you need to ask better questions! An understanding of their strategic goals will enable you to offer more valuable and hopefully profitable solutions.