Through her writings, Linda has made a significant contribution to the business to business sales and sales management professions. She, unlike numbers of experts who have been in the sales world for a while, has managed to stay relevant. That’s apparent within the first few pages of her book. That’s only one of the many reasons I recommend it.
Linda graciously agreed to an interview. Here it is:
Dave Stein: You are credited with the movement to Consultative Selling. How does your new book, Changing the Sales Conversation, relate to Consultative Selling?
Linda Richardson: The new sales conversation is an extension of Consultative Selling. Consultative Selling remains relevant because meeting customer’s need remains the focal point of the sale. The big difference is that what customers need from salespeople has changed. Until very recently customers relied on salespeople to learn about services, products, and solutions. Today customers advance in their buying cycle before they engage with salespeople. With Changing the Sales Conversation my goal is to move Consultative Selling forward and help salespeople change their sales narrative.
DS: What are a few key ways in which salespeople have to change their sale narratives?
LR: Certainly in the level of expertise they bring to their knowledgeable customers that allows them to add to what customers already know. They must build business acumen and industry, company, and stakeholder knowledge. Also how salespeople lead the need dialogue must change from primarily a discovery model to a teaching and learning model. So as a part of probing, salespeople share insights and expertise to open up collaborative dialogues. And in regard to the solutions salespeople create, rather that lead with product superiority, salespeople need to focus on proof of value and business outcomes. Organizations must change their internal conversations too and provide greater support in the form of coaching, sales tools, and knowledge sharing.
DS: Can you give me a quick overview of the conversation changers you outline in the book that you see as essential to succeed in the new sales landscape with todays highly informed customers?
LR: I have identified five conversation changers and chosen less obvious words to underscore that the changes are significant. They are: Futuring which is a readiness to create customer value by leveraging all the new resources to build expertise, anticipate emerging needs, and deliver results. Heat Mapping is the new need dialogue in which you use insights to turn up the heat on priority business challenges and explore business needs. Value Tracking is a process for keeping the focus of solutions on solving priority business problems and delivering results. Phasing is connecting a defined sales process with the coaching specific to each phase of the process. And finally Linking, connecting emotionally, is the trickiest of all because salespeople take it for granted or can easily think of it as “old selling”. It is about how important it is to be human-centered as well as customer-centered and to sell with drive but also heart.
DS: It seems the audience for the book is primarily salespeople. How can sales managers use the book?
LR: Sales managers are the key to successful sales teams. If sales teams are to engage in the new sales conversation, sales manager must support and role model it. The book serves as a coaching guide and offers models and tools. Especially the chapter on Phasing, the defined sales process linked with coaching, provides sales managers with a way to take a lot of the subjectivity out of coaching and coach to the sales process to close sales more quickly and forecast more accurately. Having a defined sales process and a coaching culture are the marks of best-in class organizations.
About Linda Richardson
Linda Richardson is the Founder of Richardson, a sales performance consultant, and prolific author. She is recognized as an industry leader and winner of numerous awards including Stevie Award for Sales Excellence. Her book Perfect Selling, a New York Times best seller, was identified as one of the best 10 sales books of all times. She has been on the faculty of Wharton Graduate School at the University of Pennsylvania and the Areste Institute for Leadership. Linda has pioneered Consultative Selling and move the concepts forward in her new book, Changing the Sales Conversation, published January, 2014, McGraw-Hill available on Amazon.
Here is the link to Linda’s new book: Changing the Sales Conversation