B2C approaches do not work in B2B
Asking a series questions to converge on a solution may work in B2C, but are less likely to work in B2B markets where buyers have more complex needs and their buying decisions involve higher risk – for them. Buyers see many salespeople, they make comparisons and more readily sense when they are being led or manipulated.
Pitch first, ask questions later
Too many salespeople pitch a product or solution without first building a solid understanding of their customer. Then they wonder why the customer does not buy. Today’s buyers demand more. If you do not take an interest in their world and their goals, they can easily find someone who does.
There is a saying that goes something like “We have two ears and one mouth. We should use them in the same proportion.” This is expressed more eloquently in another saying “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Facts, facts and more facts
Ford Harding in his book, RainMaking noted that, “People buy [based] on feelings and use facts to justify the way that they feel.” People may buy based on feelings, but many salespeople sell based on assumption and cognitive ease. This is understandable as our brains are pre-disposed to take the easiest mental path since deeper thought demands more energy. We feed this cognitive ease by asking fact-based questions that support our interpretation of situations that we’ve seen before. Then we pitch our solution based on assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the whole situation.
Legions of salespeople and consultants have learned to ask open, closed and probing questions. Others follow structured techniques such as SPIN, described in Neil Rackham’s 1988 book SPIN Selling. Rackham’s book was revolutionary in its time, but by 2006, even he realised the SPIN approach was past its sell-by date. He wrote:
“For some years I’ve felt that classic selling skills models, including many that I have created, rely too heavily on selling solutions to problems.
Today, the most dynamic growth opportunities come from divergent offerings. Salespeople following problem-based models often fail to uncover opportunities until very late in the call – if at all.
What is needed is an approach that encourages discussion of opportunities much earlier in the sales process.”
A better questioning approach
The approach that Rackham said was needed first appeared in 2007, in my book, Smarter Selling. SHAPE questioning powers conversations that are more insightful and enjoyable for all concerned; trust and loyalty grows; the cost and time to win work reduces; sales and revenue increase; and job satisfaction rockets.
SHAPE is a flexible questioning approach designed for today’s rapidly changing world. It helps the salesperson develop a comprehensive picture of their buyer’s background, challenges, personal and business goals, action plans, and more.
SHAPE is not about narrowing a conversation to a specific solution; it is about helping clients shape their future. Where do they want to get to, and how will they get there? The job of the salesperson is to ask the client questions that help them think through their situation. The salesperson, through association with the discussion then becomes a natural preferred provider in areas where they can help.
In the 2nd edition of Smarter Selling, Neil Rackham was kind enough to write:
“Success in the consultative sale is all about creating customer value from every meeting, but few salespeople know how to do this. Smarter Selling has many useful and practical ideas to help salespeople improve their value-creating capabilities.”
David Lambert, co-author of Smarter Selling – July 2017.
Grow your business; learn SHAPE now
Adopted by leading multinationals in industries across the globe this proven questioning approach was, until recently, only available in two ways:
- Read the book Smarter Selling and teach yourself.
- Attend corporate training workshops delivered by the co-authors of Smarter Selling or a certified instructor.
Now there is a third way; online learning that makes SHAPE available to everyone.
You can be one of the first to benefit.
The first 50 people to send their email address to firstname.lastname@example.org will get FREE access to the SHAPE learning program.
Take this opportunity NOW to learn the SHAPE questioning method; build client loyalty and move your selling skills to the next level!