One of the advantages of owning an Italian restaurant is that just about everyone who comes in wants Italian food. It would be an odd thing for a customer to sit down in an Italian restaurant, look at the menu and say, “I don’t like anything I see. Can you make General Tso’s Chicken?” Customers choose the type of restaurant they want to go to, so it’s much easier to sell to them.
Sales people don’t have that advantage. When talking with a potential client, the first task is to understand what the client wants and what the client needs. (Those two things are not always the same, by the way.)
Before I start selling innovation, I need to understand if the goal is to bring technology advancements into business operations. Maybe the goal is to drive efficiency. Maybe to improve performance.
Many salespeople will guess what the client wants most, and they conclude (often mistakenly) that it is price. So they lead with a discussion on price, sometimes offering discounts right out of the box! Why would anyone begin by discounting price without even knowing if price is the key buyer value? It’s like throwing a plate of pistachio-encrusted tuna at the customer and say, “Eat this! This is delicious!” You may get an angry response, such as: “You idiot, I’m allergic to nuts!”
Here’s a simple way to test if you understand what is driving your client’s appetite: ask questions. And then ask more questions. And listen. A good opening question that can generate a lot of valuable insights if you listen to the answer is: “If this were to go exactly as you want it to, what would success look like?” The client might say:
· Success would be all of our legacy data is successfully migrated to the new platform. We’ve tried twice and failed.
· Success would be greater efficiency in our operations so we can sunset applications.
· Success would be ease of scalability and flexibility in the solution because we anticipate rapid growth in the next five years.
Sure, they want it at the best price possible. No one wants to overpay. But once you dig in more to these goals of dependability, efficiency and flexibility, price becomes secondary. To lead with a pricing discussion without understanding the buyer values would be… nuts.