When I was a kid my mum was the master of sales, Not a salesperson, but she could have taught even the most accomplished salesperson a thing or two! Even as an adult, I’m not ashamed to say, her tactics still never fail. Anyone who has, or has been witness to an unruly toddler will know that taking the battleground stance is a surefire way to burn yourself out. My Mum did something others didn’t, she came to my side of the table but seemingly never compromised. My Mum had mastered same side sales, before it was even born...
Nobody wants to be THAT Sales Guy do they?
Traditionally, we all think of the sales person as an aggressive and forthright ball of anger in a suit, desperately trying to get you to buy something you don’t need.
Nobody wants to deal with that guy.
Instead, there is a much more effective and pleasant way of dealing with these situations, and those in the biz refer to it as ‘Same Side Sales’.
It really does what it says on the tin… in order to complete sales in as stress-free way as possible, you and your prospective client need to be on the same side of the table. So disregard those old notions of a sales battlefield, and ‘knowing your enemy’; 21st century sales are much more civilised, and much more effective.
Enter….Same Side Sales...
Rather than coming into a sales pitch thinking of it like a battlefield, you can consider the situation as Same Side Selling author Ian Altman does, and approach the subject as a problem-solving exercise. If your prospective client has an issue they’d like to resolve - whether that’s how to get a certain component made, or how to go about finding a manufacturing company with the skills they need to complete a project - you can start by thinking about how you may be able to help with these issues, and what you can offer.
"If your prospective client has an issue they’d like to resolve...you can start by thinking about how you may be able to help with these issues..."
To come back to Altman’s metaphor of the jigsaw puzzle, both you and the client want the puzzle to be solved, but working against each other won’t get that done. The best way to consider your relationship is as essential to one another. It will take both of you to get to the end of the puzzle.
Sales is about solving Customer Pain...NOT your problems
In order to be able to help solve these problems, you need to be an expert in your chosen field. You can’t solve every problem, or sell to every prospective client, but you can focus your energy on becoming incredible at solving certain kinds of problems.
If you concentrate your efforts on targeting a certain group of prospective clients, those that are the most likely to need your expertise, then you have both cut down on work, and maximised your effectiveness. All by communicating with the right potential customers.
Be realistic, you may think you’re Iron Man but chill out...
"You also need to be realistic. You may be an expert in certain areas, but you’re not magic. If your client is asking for something you know you can’t deliver, be sure to make this clear, and offer an alternative instead. You don’t want to tell them flat out “no” (unless they’re asking for something you really can’t do, in which case maybe refer them to someone who can?) but you can reassess their targets.
"You may be an expert in certain areas, but you’re not magic..."
For instance, if they want to double their income within six months, but you think you’re more likely to get them 20%, tell them so. You don’t want to agree to something that’s going to lead you into certain failure. If you want a wall built you don’t ask a doctor to do it for you. It doesn’t make any sense.
Being realistic in your efforts will also mean that you gain credibility as you move through projects. If you tell a client that you can deliver your capability within fifteen days rather than their original stipulation of five, but then get it to them in ten, your reliability score has gone through the roof.
Charm, Lines, Smoke & Mirrors it is not
There is also certainly a stereotype of the salesperson being a bit of a charmer, and even spinning a few lies to get where they want to be… that is, firmly in possession of your money. However, the Same Side Sales model promotes the idea of honesty, and we think this is a much more agreeable approach for everyone involved.
"...bit of a charmer, and even spinning a few lies to get where they want to be… that is, firmly in possession of your money..."
When communicating with a potential customer, if you don’t think you’re the right person for the job, say so. It’s also not a bad thing to refer customers to other businesses that may be able to help. This again builds trust in you as a reliable resource, as an expert in your field rather than simply being money-hungry, and you never know, the businesses to whom you refer may return the favour in future.
Listen, Listen, Listen...Then Listen Some More!
In order to gain all this information about whether you can help a client with their problem, you need to ask the right questions. Figure out if you can help solve the problem at hand before mindlessly pushing a sales pitch. First of all, it’s discrediting and very embarrassing to go gung-ho in explaining how incredible a Machining Business you are, and then finding out that the client wants a Fabricator, and you are in fact a lacking in the Fabrication department.
You can also build your reputation as an expert in your field this way. If you ask all the right questions, and are clearly evaluating whether your capability is appropriate for your client, you are demonstrating that you are both knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Listen with a purpose...Deliver your value in their words
Your ability to make the potential customer feel understood will trump your pricing position. Further to that, if you promote your specific value, they feel comfortable that they too understand your capabilities. Something which is drastically undervalued - and not often provided enough emphasis. All that listening should lead to you being able to explain your value in the context of THEIR business.
This often starts with educating the client on your chosen area of expertise. If the customer doesn’t know anything about it, all they have for comparison is price. If you can ask questions about what their problem is, and then offer details about why you may be the best person to solve it, then you’re much more likely to build a relationship with sales attached.
"...explain your value in the context of THEIR business..."
Don’t create a problem, unearth them or move on...
In the end, the most important part of a sales relationship is knowing that both parties are invested in solving the problem. If you think a customer needs something, but they are unsure, be very wary, as it may end up costing you in the end, whether in monetary terms, or even in terms of your reputation. For both parties to be happy with the end result, you need to make sure you enter into the project with the same expectations and desired outcomes.
Want to learn more?
This post was actually inspired by Authors Jack Quarles and Ian Altman. They Co-wrote a book called "Same Side Selling: A Radical Approach to Break Through Sales Barriers" which is a great read. If you want something to digest in a further coffee break you can also check out this podcast interview from John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. John Interviews one of the Authors, Ian Altman and asks some really great questions. You can check out the podcast here.
The Key Takeaways
Listen to find the problem
Listening and confirming what the customer has said in your words can help you get under the skin of the customer pain. Truthfully, a lot of customers will describe symptoms of their problem, not the problem itself. It’s in everyone’s interest to find the REAL problem. If a customer is coming to you to resource a product, be sure you understand the problem. You could well find yourself inheriting the a design problem, NOT a manufacturing issue.
Be realistic, don’t stretch too much
Customers are conditioned to push, stretch and pull you. They’re expecting THAT sales guy. By being realistic you’ll actually find your approach is probably quite refreshing and unexpected. This will often get customers feeling a little out-of-sorts as they don’t know whether to trust you or be suspicious. Active listening and problem solving will get them on the “trusting” side of the table.
If you can’t find a problem with alignment move on
When leads are few and far between and sales are thin on the ground, it’s easy to start seeing opportunities where they aren’t. Avoid the mirage effect that a sales drought can bring on. Is this a problem that you SHOULD be solving? Even if you initially think it is, don’t be afraid to go back the client and tell them. If you do this though, I’d suggest you tee them up with someone who can, otherwise you’ll squander trust. And who knows, they may have a problem you can solve right around the corner.
It’s all about mindset
Park the tactics and the strategies for a second and practice the mindset. Practicing the mindset will mean that the opportunities simply reveal themselves. Sure tactics and plans and scripts can help you get there, but it won’t be natural unless you adopt the Same-Side-Sales Mindset.
So, how does this compare with your approach? Are you picking sides, or are you finding alignment every time you talk to a prospect?
Remember, it’s ALL about Mindset...
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