“Supporting a conversation that’s fundamentally about the client” – interview by John Smibert.
In a recent video Dean Kelly and I discussed the need for many salespeople to change the way they have a conversation with potential customers – and more recently we discussed “How salespeople can do change up the conversation” by using open questions and being situationally agile. At the time he mentioned we should use visual representations to kick the conversation off on the right footing.
He described two types of visuals that he suggests we use. The first is on megatrends reflecting issues affecting the customer’s industry as a whole. The second is a ‘value map’ which reflects specific customer issues you have unearthed through your research. and will lead to a conversation where you can start uncovering how they would measure value in specific areas.
Both of them are designed to help us as salespeople ask better questions. And that’s the key, it’s supporting a changed conversation, because it’s fundamentally and authentically about the client.
His recommendations are very pragmatic and insightful – I think you’ll like them.
See the full interview to learn more. This interview is likely to be valuable for sales leaders, sales managers and professional salespeople.
Dean Kelly is the Sales Deal Mechanic.
John: Hey, welcome back! I’ve got Dean Kelly with me again – hello, Dean!
Dean: Hello, John!
John: Hey Dean, last time we had some great discussions about ‘change up the conversation’ in a sales meeting, and you talked about the philosophy behind that and how you do it. You mentioned that you use visuals, open-ended questions and visuals. I want to explore a little bit more about what those visuals really mean. Tell me about the sorts of visuals you recommend.
Dean: So, the old adage, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, comes true in most sales meetings. So rather than us selling as telling to the client and using a thousand slides or a brochure or anything, to me the visuals are a critical part of helping us ask better questions. Why? Number one, visuals don’t have to be presented, the client will read them faster than you can say it. So immediately I can be into an introduction for the page or the picture, and then as soon as that I can ask a question and basically have the first serve to the client.
John: So you’re talking visuals that are graphic or…
John: It could be an infographic or whatever.
Dean: It comes down to personal preference. Again, I’m trying to push the boundaries, and I’m limited by my presentation skills and PowerPoints at the moment so I’m looking at alternative ways of doing this; anything goes, as long as it supports the conversation. What I have found is if marketing get hold of them, that can be good – it can also look far too marketing and therefore the client goes, “Oh, this is just a pitch you’re doing to me slightly different.”
John: Okay. And you were saying earlier that this is not a product related or anything else; this is talking about megatrends in the customer’s industry or whatever.
Dean: Absolutely. I have two key visuals that I would use. Number one I call megatrends, which is higher than this one organisation I’m talking to, these are issues affecting the industry as a whole. It could be ‘cloud’, it could be ‘security’, it could be ‘change in the way customers behave’, ‘consumers behave’, ‘mobile devices’, whatever it happens to be that’s pertinent in talking to your client about the challenges or the opportunities that they are being faced with as an organisation, so that’s number one and that’s a good starting point. So in a first meeting having something ready to go which aligns with where the conversation would ideally go for you, that’s always a handy one to have just in your iPad or on your laptop ready to go, so that’s number one.
The second visual that I would often move to soon after that conversation is going and the client is involved in it – again, it’s changing the conversation; we’re asking, not telling, so I need the client involved – is getting to what we call a value map or a map of where the value might be for the client.
John: So if they implemented a change in their business along the lines of where the megatrend discussion went, what the value is likely to be for them of that sort of change?
Dean: Some of that, yes. It’s also to do with helping them understand it. The megatrends is higher than the organisation, it’s more general to the industry that they’re in; the value map demonstrates that you’ve done some research about that client in particular. What are some of the critical business imperatives or initiatives they are pursuing as an organisation, and what some of the priorities or criteria they need to balance or juggle are in order to deliver those outcomes. So it’s far deeper into where the problem space is most likely to be for the client.
John: Okay. You used the word “value”, so I assume that’s going to be looking at areas that are likely to improve value in the business, create value in the business.
Dean: Areas, at lead to conversation where you can start uncovering how they would measure value in that particular area. It’s also the interplay between different stakeholders within an organisation. So there’s value maybe to IT, there’s also value to IT’s internal customers, which may be another business unit, and then obviously there’s value to their end customer or consumer as well. So it’s looking at value from all those different perspectives.
John: I remember you and I some time ago had a discussion about sales is like a poker game. You really need to get the customer to put the value on the table, their perception of the value on the table, rather you put it on the table, that’s what they bid in the poker game. So that’s really what you’re talking about here.
Dean: And these are tools to support that.
John: Okay, I understand. So, the bottom line in this discussion is there’s two types of graphical images that you use. One is the megatrends that starts a discussion and helps in that conversation, and then you drill down to what you call the ‘value map’, which are specific issues and challenges that the customer is likely to have based on the research you’ve done, and that drives that conversation down a certain path.
Dean: Absolutely, and both of them are designed to help us as salespeople ask better questions. And that’s the key, it’s supporting a changed conversation, because it’s fundamentally and authentically about the client.
John: Okay, I understand that. Really good advice, I think there’d be a lot of value for all the sales professionals out there. Hey, when you see this written up in the article I put together, write the questions to Dean and I’ll have Dean answer them. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of questions on this – I see a lot of value.
John: Thanks, Dean!
Dean: Thank you very much!
- “Sales Poker: Let the customer bet the value“
- “Leveraging the customer’s value life-cycle“
- “How to challenge your customer”
- “How to conduct your internal conversation“
- “Sales Coaching: The inputs not the outputs”
- “Change the conversation”
- “How to change up the conversation”
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