Business Standard

Book Extract: The trust factor

Sellers who focus on advice and persuasion without considering how to build trust, cannot succeed in the long run

Mike Schultz & nbsp;nbsp; John E Doerr 

Author: Mike Schultz and John E Doerr
Publisher: Wiley

Price: $25
ISBN: 9781118875353

Do buyers trust seller information? In fact they do trust seller information, even more than they trust information from their peers. Research by ITSMA studied 'buyers' perceptions of which sources of information, are most credible to buyers. "Technology or solution provider salespeople" came in fourth out of 16 sources studied. "Technology or solution provider subject matter experts" came in first, and "technology or solution provider websites" came in second. Together, sellers comprised three out of the four most trusted sources of information.

Coming just after "technology or solution provider salespeople" were buyers' "peers/colleagues" and then, " consultancies (McKinsey, Bain, boutique firms)."

If you want buyers to trust your competence, you should be knowledgeable, know your impact model, develop a point of view, and share your point of view convincingly.

Be knowledgeable
Here we'll simply say that clients may trust your offerings will perform as described, but if you don't demonstrate that you are knowledgeable (about your industry and theirs, their business, your products and services, the competition, the buying process, etc.), they won't be likely to trust your guidance - which, of course, you need them to do if you want to practice insight selling. As David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, puts it: "When it's serious enough that I'm brought in as a final decision maker, the seller surely has taken the time to go beyond reading our web­site and throwing out a couple buzzwords about what we do. They've taken the time to think through our business model. They've given some serious thought to how their solution enhances what we do. And they've satisfied my team that they know what they're talking about when it comes to us.They'd never make it through the rest of my team and end up in my office if they haven't."

The sellers I take seriously will tell me specifically how they think they can either drive more revenue or add value in a much more granular and specific way than those that haven't done this. Even if they're wrong, or not 100 percent on target, at least they've impressed me that they've taken the time to do that."

Know your impact model
For anything that you advocate, you must be able to answer the question why. There's a rational impact - return on investment (ROI) - story to every piece of advice. There's an emotional impact that typically accompanies whatever it is you're selling or advising.

The higher up you sell, the more important it is to be able to discuss the business impact in financial terms and to do so with comfort and confidence. Sellers who don't know how the money works and don't know how to make calculations about how what they can do for buyers will affect their top and bottom lines will always have trouble justifying and communicating the power of their point of view. If they have trouble communicating it-especially the money part-don't expect buyers to buy it.As Gerry Cuddy, CEO of Beneficial Bank, observed, "Many people in the financial services industry are generally uncomfortable talking about money. If you're uncomfortable talking to customers about money when you're in financial services, it means you're not likely to give them valuable advice. It's critical to have comfort around your subject matter.

Cuddy's observation is supported by research. Fifty percent of sellers have difficulty talking about money. Make sure your impact model stands up to scrutiny and testing. You want buyers to see the excitement in the possibilities but also to think, "This can work. We can achieve these results." If they don't, they'll see what you're saying the impact could be, but they won't believe it enough to take action.

Devil's advocate versus authentic dissent
If you want to be an insight seller, you have to be willing to dissent. As well-known expert on influence and persuasion Robert Cialdini noted, "Social psychologists have also known for some time that even one lone dissenter in an otherwise unanimous group may be enough to generate more creative and complex thinking in that group [insight!]. But until recently, very little research has been conducted regarding the nature of the dissenter." He makes the point that people playing devil's advocate will be much less effective in influencing and promoting creativity in thinking than authentic dissenters who make no bones about disagreeing. It seems that when confronted by someone who truly believes in a point of view, others are curious to learn more about why he or she is so committed.

Winners don't just sell differently, they sell radically differently, than the second place finishers: Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz
Sellers who win are much more likely to connect with buyers on a personal level, build trust and connect the specific needs of the buyer to the right solution, Schultz tells Ankita Rai

What is Insight Selling?
The world of selling has changed. To understand how, we studied 700 business-to-business purchases from buyers with $3.1 billion in purchasing power. Our goal was to find out what the winners of these sales did differently from second-place finishers. It turned out that the winners didn't just sell differently, they sold radically differently, than the second place finishers. The top three things winning sellers did differently, were they educated me with new ideas and perspectives, collaborated with me and persuaded me.

The common thread? They're all about ideas. The sellers that harness the power of ideas are winning the most sales these days. Insight Selling is the process of creating and winning sales opportunities, and driving change, with ideas that matter. There are two types of Insight Selling. Opportunity Insight focuses on communicating a particular idea that is likely to lead to a sale. Interaction Insight provides value in the form of sparking ideas, and shaping strategies based on interactions between sellers and buyers.

How has the internet changed the role of the salesperson?
If a prospective buyer wanted information on a product or a service 15 years ago, they had to call a company, ask for a sales person, and speak to someone. Or ask to be sent a brochure, which had relatively little information. Again, the buyer had to talk to a sales person. Now, the buyer has access to so much more information before they speak to a seller. They can research the product in many different ways because of the internet.

But will the internet and social media kill the modern salesperson? No. In fact, the salesman is now more important to the sale. Buyers have information but they don't necessarily have insight. We found in our research that the sellers that win are much more likely to connect with buyers on a personal level, build trust, connect the specific needs of the buyer to the right solution and collaborate with the buyer.

Please share some tips on selling in an increasingly connected age.
Connect with buyers. Do so on a personal level and make sure you connect the dots between needs and solutions. Second, convince the buyers the reward of working with you is strong, the risk is acceptable, and that your are the best choice.

Third, collaborate with buyers both in how you work with them like being responsive, proactive, and easy to buy from, and in what you do with them like educating with new ideas and perspectives and helping the buyers succeed.

Mike Schultz
president, RAIN Group

When someone plays devil's advocate, positioning an alternative point of view for the sake of argument, it isn't: as effective as authentic dissent. Playing devil's advocate can also have the effect of hardening other people's position because they feel they've successfully defended, it.

Let's say you have an alternative point of view to share. When someone has known and trusted you for a long time, you don't have to worry too much about how you deliver said point. You can just say, "I believe strongly you should consider another path." If the per­son, trusts you, per our definition, he or she knows you're competent and knows you have his or her interests in mind, and you know this person likes you. When you are just getting to know someone, you should still be willing to take a stand on a point of view you believe strongly in, but be careful about coming across as either arrogant or too self-interested.

Take care, as well, to disagree with the point, not the person, and you should find ears willing to listen.

Re-printed with permission from the publisher. Copyright 2014 RAIN Group. All rights reserved

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First Published: Mon, November 10 2014. 00:11 IST