It is an irrefutable tenet of sales that a client is central to the process of selling. In order to understand whether we could and should work with clients, we need to invest considerable time in understanding our clients, who they are, why they exist, what they do and how they do it. This discovery is the key to selling successfully in terms of adding tangible value to our clients.
So, if it is undeniable that our client is central to our world it becomes difficult to argue that our client’s client is central to their world and so this continues up and down the sales chain.
As mentioned above, we often focus on why our clients exist, what they do and how they do it, yet it becomes a natural, but often neglected part of the sales discovery process to understand who they serve. The who behind why they exist.
Often in sales, we can be working with and selling to the people who aren’t charged with the sales side our of customers business. Often this can be procurement teams or finance teams or similar, often inwardly facing, parts of our clients business. As a result, we always focus on how what we’re selling them helps them improve their business – but how often do we consider how what we’re selling helps them improve their clients position?
Like we exist to improve our clients position, they exist to improve the position of theirs. To be effective in delivering real value to your clients, you need to understand how they deliver value to their clients. You need to understand their clients. You need to understand the challenges your clients face in delivering value to their clients.
Even the seemingly simple and usually difficult conversation/negotiation around price often isn’t that simple for your client. Yes, we often fall in to the trap of believing the client just wishes to ‘ratchet the price down’ – but how often do we explore the real reason? For example – would we be aware that our client is suffering considerable competition in their market yet also suffering labour and other value chain price rises. They can’t adjust the price to their customers given the strong competition and, as such, are sitting in front of you in an attempt hold their price to their clients to protect their competitive position. Yes, we should, but do we?
Understanding your clients’ client and how your client goes about improving their position is a crucial element to long term successful sales.
Often when presenting in sales, we talk about and to the benefits our product or service means to our client. This may be represented in efficiency; such as time saving. But if you know your clients business well enough, you can actually translate this in to client service improvement. Increase in numbers of clients onboarded/serviced. Time to answer or turnaround reduced. Suddenly the ‘efficiency’ not just becomes meaningful to your client, it becomes meaningful to their client.
To use the example of pricing above; instead of talking in terms of ‘cost savings’, you can translate this in terms of held gross/net margin or the possibility of improved pricing to their client to accentuate competitiveness.
Translating our benefits in this manner helps alter the tone of the sales conversation. It focuses the conversation not on what the client is buying but how it improves their relationship with their client. Understanding who our clients sell to and how they improve their position are two crucial questions successful sales people want to know the answer to. This not only helps us sell meaningful value to our clients, it helps us refer and introduce people in our network who can support our clients’ quest to improve their clients position. It positions us as an adviser, not supplier, to our clients.
We are trained to focus so heavily on our clients, we can become myopically focused on them. We can have cursory conversations about their clients (mainly ‘who are they’), but can neglect to comprehensively understand how our clients improve the position of their clients in our quest to simply improve our clients position. It sounds similar, but the outcomes are drastically different. Most clients will make decisions based on how the outcome improves their ability to serve their clients. Failing to understand this results in selling with only half the information.
Even if at the outset of the sales process, you ask your client ‘How does/can what I can offer you improve how you can work with your clients?‘, you’d be surprised with the answers.
Next time you are working with your clients and prospects to assess how you can help improve their position, ensure you take the time to understand their clients and how they improve their position. When you do this properly your value to them, becomes their value to their client.