March 19, 2013
There are some misunderstandings about what collaboration is. There is a perception that collaboration is an arduous process, involving large teams of people and long timelines. Yet collaborative selling can be as simple as a single conversation, or a string of conversations, between a buyer and a seller—two-way conversations where the discovery and dialogue are part of the value the buyer receives.
In a nutshell, collaborative selling involves a buyer and seller, working together, conversation by conversation, to address the buyer’s problems, opportunities, wants, and needs, with the outcome being that they both achieve something of value. The approach works whether your conversations take place face-to-face, over the phone, or through email.
Consultative selling, which has been the norm for many years, positions you, the seller, as the expert in your field—the authority on your product or service. Your role has been to uncover your buyer’s wants and needs, go off in a silo and develop a solution,\ and then return to explain how your solution matches the buyer’s need. It’s a “them and us” mindset, not a “working together” approach. Although the approach has been extremely effective for decades, it only addresses wants and needs, and misses opportunities and problems. Collaborative selling provides an opportunity to add much more value, as I’ll explain later in this discussion.
Collaborative selling is also a more efficient sales process. Today’s buyers are faced with more challenges than ever before. They are faced with what I call a “More and Less” syndrome.
Today’s buyers face:
Information Decision-making authority
Sellers need an efficient, effective selling approach that doesn’t waste their buyer’s time or add to their “More and Less” challenges. You need to make every conversation count for your buyer, and that’s what happens when you focus on what’s in it for them. It’s also what happens when your buyer becomes a part of the solution.
Remember the old saying that “two heads are better than one”? When you and the buyer bring your collective expertise and ideas together, you often come up with a solution that neither of you would have discovered alone.
A participant in one of my training sessions shared a situation where he was faced with a buyer’s objection. Rather than trying to identify a solution to the objection by himself, he asked the buyer for their suggestion.
The buyer’s suggested solution was one the seller never would have thought of, leading the buyer to feel part of the solution and the seller to have a quicker decision with a committed buyer.
When you collaborate, your conversations are relevant for both you and the buyer, you reduce the buyer’s fear or irritation of being “sold to” or “told to,” better ideas are cultivated, and earlier buy-in is achieved, making the final sales decision much easier to secure. Sales close more quickly and both parties achieve their goals more efficiently, which is exactly what today’s “More and Less” buyer needs.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher from Conversations That Sell, by Nancy Bleeke © 2013, published by AMACOM, division of American Management Association, New York, NY. All rights reserved. www.amacombooks.org