As salespeople we cannot justify our job simply by expounding the virtues of our company and our products and services. We must influence change in thinking – and that takes insight and skill.
In this discussion Bill Carson states that the salesperson’s job is to guide the buyer’s thinking journey – to help them think differently about their business – to influence change and transition.
He introduces the term “into the hole and up the hill” which underpins the thinking process he recommends that the salesperson should follow. Firstly the salesperson and the buyer needs to fully understand the hole – the current business situation. It is only then can we start to transition the customers thinking to a new scenario and take them ‘up the hill’ to a new way of thinking. Bill introduces a method designed to take the customer ‘up the hill’ that he calls an SUV.
See the full discussion below to understand the SUV and how to apply it to guide your buyer through their thinking journey – a journey that will change their frame of thinking to a point where you are now able to help them.
Bill Carson is an alchemist in Sales Mastery, Service Excellence and Personal Leadership. He provides Coaching, Training and Consulting.
John: Hello, I’m delighted to have Bill Carson with me – welcome, Bill!
Bill: Hello, John – great to be here, thank you!
John: I’m looking forward to doing a series of interviews with you, and I thought I’d start with something I know you’re really passionate about, and that is the skill salespeople need to have in asking questions and how they go about that to really do a good discovery.
Bill: Yes, yes.
John: Could you tell me why you’re so passionate about that?
Bill: Well, typically sellers think that closing is really important, or their product, but the ability to actually influence and guide the customer’s thinking is massively important, and I’ve found that it distinctly makes a huge amount of difference.
John: Okay, so let’s talk about how they do that. What does a salesperson really need, what sort of skills and how should they think about framing their questions, and I assume bringing commercial insight to the table through the questions they ask?
Bill: Absolutely. See, the fundamentals are knowing the difference between the open and closed question, but beyond that it’s the strategy. Where are you taking the buyer’s thinking? What is it that you’re looking to uncover? There’s a process there of exploring, of discovering, and then of actually guiding the thinking, and when that’s done really well it creates a situation where there’s an alignment between what’s being talked about and what’s being offered.
John: You used the words “guiding the thinking”. I’d like to explore that a little bit more. What do you really mean by that?
Bill: Well, guiding the thinking is to have an end in mind. It’s also to… Sometimes it’s not in a manipulative way to have an ending…
John: I was going to say that. I despise any sales training that talks about how to manipulate your way through a sales process.
Bill: Yes, we all hate that; it’s about being authentic. If we apply a discovery or an exploring approach initially, what we’re needing to do is uncover where the thinking is, where the issues are, where the challenge is, where the opportunities are that need to be uncovered, and then in the process then of uncovering those, then we create some alignment between what it is that we have to sell and what the buyer’s needs are.
John: Okay, but that comes later, doesn’t it?
John: It’s not early on.
Bill: No, definitely later.
John: We talk a lot in this day and age about insight selling and challenger. Is that really related to what we’re doing here in the way we ask questions?
Bill: Absolutely. I apply a model which I call “into the hole and up to the hill”.
John: Say it again?
Bill: Into the hole and up to the hill.
John: Into the hole and up to the hill.
Bill: Yes. The logic is that what we have to do – and this is true in any day conversational influence and discussion – there’s a process by which we take the person that we’re talking with into an understanding first of all of the background, then what are the problems they’re experiencing, and then into the consequences and costs of those problems. Then you can’t put a solution while they’re in the hole; you’ve got to put them into the SUV and ‘take them up the hill’, which means exploring what have they done so far to solve this problem, that’s the S. In other words, what’s the solution? What’s the urgency (U), what’s the value (V)? What’s the vision that they have in terms of what the solution would look like? Once you bring their thinking to that place, then we can talk about what our solution would look like.
John: And part of bringing them to that place I guess is us also bringing insight to the table, commercial insight.
Bill: Yes, commercial insight.
John: Where we’ve got understandings of what’s happened in other parts of the world that they may not have, and probably won’t have if they haven’t got the experience we’ve got as a salesperson. If we can bring that commercial insight, we can actually put on the table some real value in the thinking process, and we are taking them through that thinking journey that you used.
Bill: Yes, absolutely. You’ve just nailed it there, John, and that is that, in summarising, this is actually a process by which we take our buyers through a thinking journey that helps our buyer come to their own conclusions, whether it lines up with our insights, or that they generate their own insights from what we bring to them.
John: That’s brilliant, I love the way you expressed that. So it’s a thinking journey that we take the customer through, and we do it together with the customer.
Bill: Yes, beautiful – it’s a partnering process in collaboration, yes.
John: Love it – I look forward to talking to you the next time!
Bill: Fantastic – thanks, John! It’s been great to be here and great to work with you!
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