Most salespeople are passionate about their product because they see it as important for their clients. But importance alone doesn't make sales happen—a key ingredient is missing from their sales strategy.
In his book First Things First, Stephen Covey contrasts importance with urgency, using this concept to convey an approach for effective time management. But this concept also has an application for converting prospects into buyers. Covey provides a table with four quadrants, in which importance and urgency are contrasted. The quadrant where importance meets urgency—his focus for effective time management—is also the key driver of sales. I refer to this quadrant as "relevance."
Relevance is the key ingredient that makes sales happen. As a salesperson, you have a bag loaded with products or services. And you are probably passionate about those products, as you see them as important. But once again, prospects don't buy based on importance.
Ah, you argue, but your products solve problems for your prospects. No disagreement here. And, you further argue, these solutions are important for your prospects. Again, no argument from me.
Here's a question: At this moment in time, how many problems do you have? Think of all of them. It's a big number—and you aren't trying to solve them all this minute. You've organized and prioritized them based on both importance and urgency. This is what makes them relevant. Getting your oil changed regularly is important, but when the oil light comes on in your car, it becomes both important and urgent. Both elements are needed to move from an inert state to an active one.
Looking at this from a sales perspective, the urgent issues your prospects face that aren't also important are not acted upon. And important issues with no urgency also cause a stalemate in the buying process. Without both elements being addressed, you will find that it is difficult to get meetings with key prospects and even harder to get deals to come out of your sales funnel.
Relevance is also a constantly moving target. What is important today is not tomorrow…the same with urgency. This means you need to constantly study these elements relative to your target buying audience.
Oftentimes, salespeople focus exclusively on improving their sales skills as a means to sell more: "If I can master the price objection, I'll blow out my quota." This is only half of the equation, however. Improving sales skills does not help you with sales strategy. The skills provide you with tactics you can use, but they are only effective under the right circumstances. If you don't know how to position relevance, you will consistently lose to your number one competitor—the status quo.
Here are a few key steps to ensure your sales strategy is relevant:
• Revisit your definition of your ideal prospect. The main driver defining your ideal prospect is constantly in flux, but few salespeople regularly revisit the definition of their ideal prospect. Circumstances change, regulations are passed, markets evolve…all factors affecting your selling effectiveness.
• Study your buying players. With respect to all those who influence the sale of your product or service, where are their eyes focused today? It’s not the same place as yesterday, nor will it be the same place tomorrow. What's important today can become irrelevant tomorrow. If your approach doesn’t evolve accordingly, no sale. Read what your key buying players are reading and adapt your selling strategy based on where their eyes are focused today.
• Analyze your offering. This isn't the trite Sales 101 harangue of features and benefits, but an in-depth review of the problems that your product or service solves for your ideal prospect. As you study your offering, there is one key point to keep in mind: In the entire history of selling, no company has ever purchased anything. The sale is made between people. When you perform your offering analysis, it is critical you identify the problems you can solve for the key buying players influencing your sale, as well as the problems you solve for the company.
• Position relevance for each buying player. Why should they buy now? It's a simple question, based on the problems you solve for your buying players…but it's a tough one to answer. Challenge yourself! Is your answer to this question important, urgent, or both? This point can't be stressed enough: You need both to become relevant and to generate sales.
SMM columnist Lee B. Salz is the president of Sales Architects, CEO of Business Expert Webinars and author of Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager. He can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763-416-4321.