I was watching a documentary about Elvis the other day. Elvis, yes, “The King” himself. During his first audition at a major label in Memphis, he played some “white music”, as they called it back then. Sam Phillips, the label guy, had thought to himself, “here’s another white guy trying to be Frank Sinatra.” Late at night while still in the studio, Elvis was goofing around with two guys and playing some “black music.” Sam Phillips heard it and asked, “how do you know this music?” Elvis instinctively apologized!!! He felt bad for having gone out of the box, out of what was expected. Sam, excited, elated, and emotional, asked Elvis again how he knew this song, and Elvis finally admitted that this was the kind of music he really wanted to play.
Elvis wasn’t aware of the fact that Sam was not only the first guy to produce and broadcast black music on the radio, but also was the guy who realized he needed a white artist playing this genre in order to bring this music into the mainstream. Sam didn’t know that Elvis was immersed in this music from a young age, gospel, blues, rock and roll and the like. This music background was Elvis’s emotional (and musical) anchoring.
What I realized in this story is that Sam and Elvis never conversed prior to this now historic audition. Elvis came to that studio to present, to demo, and Sam was there to interview. Had they been talking, really talking prior to Elvis’s arrival, attempting to understand each other’s desires, wishes, passions, perhaps things would have happened differently, more simply.What do you think about when you hear the word “demo”? What about “presentation”? In order to understand the impacts of building trust and bonding with prospects during the sales cycle, I decided to conduct a small study in the last couple of weeks on LinkedIn and via email that asked participants for their thoughts on the most common elements of a sales cycle. The top three responses were Demo, Presentation, and Proposal. Another popular element was Prospecting and Discovery. I fear, my friends, that the sale cycle that us sales folks have gotten used to, is a one-directional process. We go online to do discovery, prospecting, we demo to the prospect, we present, we send a proposal. All going in one direction – from us to them.By far, most sales people I’ve talked to are getting ready for a demo, a presentation, a pitch. To show something, to display. But hang on, did you ask the buyer about their desires? Their personal preferences?
My boss told me the other day, “Hey, ask them how they prefer to be sold to.” Wait what? Ask them? Before I start the process?!?! How they like to be sold to? BOOM! Brilliant.So, I was on a sales call last week and started to dictate our suggestion for next steps and caught myself acting as if the buyers were not even there. I then paused, took a deep breath, and asked them, “How would you like to be sold to?”, opening up what had been a completely one-directional interaction into a conversation. Remember from my last post, you don’t want to be any old sales guys, you really want to be those guys, the guys that made the impression and laid a foundation of trust.
"If you invest the time earlier to create structure and process around communication, planning, and goal-setting, you can prevent missteps before they occur."
taking all of the above into account in my own work, I’ve made a move to inject some emotional relevance into our sales cycle steps. The first thing I did was eliminate the terms “Demo” and “Presentation” from our sales vocabulary. Since we want interactive and not one-directional terminology, we’re now calling it, an “Experience”. This word will also help to remind us sales folks to focus on the story and the story telling, not just the features and functionality, so as to take our prospects on a journey through an experience.The other and the most profound change we have established is replacing the Discovery element with…TRUST. That’s right, establishing trust is now our official goal during this sales stage on our sales cycle. We’re still evaluating how to quantify and measure it, but it’s there. Speak with the prospect, not to the prospect, get to know them, their preferred method of communication, their friends within the organization, their corporate threats, their personal desires. Share about yourself, open up, develop a bond. Make them your internal champion. I believe if trust is established early on in the sales process, your chances of closing a deal, and achieving a business relationship as well as a personal one, are much higher. It is so very different to sell what you came to sell vs. selling what the customer wants to buy. Spend time there early in the game. There, where the customer is. Could you imagine what would have happened if Elvis had just kept playing the routine he came to his audition with?!!