The “moment of sales truth” is that moment when you clinch a sale. Even in a 6 month long sales cycle with multiple stakeholders, there is a moment of sales truth when you can “see it in their eyes” that they are sold.
Thought-leadership sales guys find the moment of sales truth at the intersection of Secret Sauce, Customer Pain and Relationship Leverage.
Your secret sauce is your competitive differentiator. It could be technology or process or people or data or business model or any combination of those. The product centric sales guys can talk about this “until the cows come home” – and until the customer yawns and looks at her watch.
You must connect that secret sauce to your customer’s pain. That is what makes it solution selling. This requires a deep understanding of the market that you are selling into. You can hire folks from your customer base as sales people. For example, if you sell to Banks, you can hire an ex Banker with the right drive and personality and teach them about your product. These ex-customer sales guys will be able to talk about the issues that drive their market – and they will still be having those great conversations long after the sale was supposed to be closed.
You must have that conversation about how your secret sauce is key to solving your customer’s pain with the right people. This requires a talent for building human relationships – in meeting rooms, on the golf course, in the coffee shop, in the restaurant or wherever humans like to hang out. That relationship building is a core competency of sales people. The great relationship sales guys will be able to call high and get meetings with the people that matter – and they will still be playing golf and spending the expenses budget long after the sale was supposed to be closed. These relationship sales guys won’t win in today’s market unless they also have a deep understanding of your secret sauce and the customer’s pain.
That is why thought-leadership sales guys operate at the intersection of that venn diagram – your secret sauce and the customer’s pain and your relationship leverage.
Thought-leadership sales guys move up and down the management hierarchy with ease. They are equally comfortable with a technophobic CFO and with the guy who can wear a goatee and an earing in a buttoned down corporation, because the CIO totally relies on what this techie influencer is saying.
In the Internet age, these conversations happen too fast for the old sales process manuals.
In the slower-moving Before Internet sales world, the relationship sales guy had enough time to schedule meetings that connect your experts (either product experts or market domain experts) with your customer’s middle managers.
This still happens, but only if the sales guy was there to nudge the buying process in your favor at that critical moment of truth. You need to intervene in real time to influence the conversation that is happening within your customer.
The relationship sales guy must be sharp enough on product and market issues to nudge the sale along in the right way when they find a precious moment with the key influencers, such as that technophobic CFO or that deep tech influencer.
Those two conversations will sound totally different. For example, imagine that you are selling a Governance, Risk and Compliance solution:
- The CFO conversation might be about the impact of what you are selling on the Stock Buy Back plan that the CEO recently announced. This conversation will be full of accounting terminology.
- The “deep tech influencer” conversation might be about the finer nuances of what real time means within the context of your product. This conversation will be full of technical jargon.
- To both of these conversations you drop in a reference to the headline disaster that just hit one of your customer’s biggest competitors. Then you explain why your company has a solution that would have prevented that.
The sales guy will later have to bring in experts from your company to discuss those issues in depth, but if your sales guy is not comfortable and credible at both of those levels, your company will have missed a critical nudge opportunity. Done right, this nudge will lead to a conversation at an internal meeting (no vendors invited) that goes along these lines:
CEO: Fred (CFO), how is the stock buy back coming along?
CFO (Fred): I think we may have an opportunity to make it better than we had planned by yyy (CFO language) Jim, can you comment?
CTO (Jim): Yes, I have been briefed by my team on this (meaning the goatee guy found him in the corridor as he was coming into the meeting) and, if we invest a bit of money in some xxx technology (CTO language) that we have been looking at, then we can do what Fred is talking about.
CEO; sounds interesting. Fred, please work with Jim to come up with a proposal for next week’s meeting.
Coming out of this meeting, your sales guy gets a call from the CTO. You now have the inside track on a deal that the CEO is highly motivated to sign off on. Your nudge paid off because the sales guy was able to operate at the intersection of that venn diagram. In two quick conversations, your sales guy:
- Explained the secret sauce to the goatee deep tech influencer (who then explained it to the CTO).
- Connected this to what she knew was top priority for the CFO using accounting language.
Your sales guy had this opportunity because she was a superb relationship sales person and tireless networker. So she was often “lucky enough” to be in the right place at the right time because she was always out there, meeting and networking. She had credibility at both the tech and accounting level, so both the tech influencer and the CFO where willing to listen.