It happened again last week. I was speaking at a sales kickoff meeting, stressing a key message—that sellers, not their products or services, are the key differentiator today. I said,
"Be an idea person. Today’s crazy-busy prospects love it when you bring them ideas on how to improve their business."
That’s when the hand popped up. It always does. In a group of salespeople, there’s always someone who’s brave enough to ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind.
"How can you bring them ideas when you’ve never met before and have no clue if they’d work?"
Sounds legitimate, right? After all, every customer is unique. And, we want to be consultative. So it would be almost criminal to pitch an idea before we fully understand their needs.
Besides, the thinking continues, our ideas need to be well thought out and fully formed. If we went in with a half-baked idea, it would destroy our credibility.
WRONG! Those are faulty assumptions that are totally off base and may be hindering your ability to start sales conversations. Here’s why:
Every prospect is not unique.
Virtually every Sales VP is concerned about meeting their numbers, every HR executive worries about rising health care costs and every purchasing agent wants to reduce costs.
If you target specific industries, you’ll find virtually every organization in that market segment is concerned with emerging trends that could shape their future.
People are curious how others handle similar challenges.
The truth is, your prospects don’t get out a lot. They don’t have a lot of chance to interact with others who hold similar positions; they’re too busy doing the work.
If you can bring them ideas on how companies approach the problems they face or reach hard-to-achieve objectives, they’re interested. This is high value information.
Ideas are not promises.
Instead, they get people thinking about new options they’d never considered before. Even half-baked ideas stimulate new lines of thought or fresh approaches to tough challenges.
The key is to present them as ideas, not the perfect solution. When you do that, you create an opportunity to talk about what your prospects are currently doing, the issues they're facing, what they’ve tried and how your ideas impacted other companies.
Even if your ideas won’t work for their organization, you’ve differentiated yourself from competitors and established yourself as a valuable resource. Here’s a quick example. Say I called you and said this:
“Hi. Jill Konrath here. Most sellers I know really struggle to set up meetings with new prospects. I’ve got some ideas that have worked real well for others in your industry.
One client achieved an 87% success rate getting into major accounts. If this is of interest, let’s set up a time to talk.”
Would you be interested? Even if my idea didn’t turn out to be an ideal fit for your company?