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June 11, 2017

Thinking Small Generates Small Results - Think Like a Consultant

Don't Think Small

If you’re in sales you probably think about selling something, right.  After all, that’s what you’re expected to do.  Problem is, that type of thinking results in what I call “thinking small”.  You’re always focused on the short term; the little picture, what you can sell someone.

By contrast, consultants think big.  They’re trained to understand the big picture first and then drill down to the details underneath.  Consultants focus on the business outcomes and look to find solutions to help executives solve their key business issues.  Products or services that they might recommend (new software, different processes, etc.) are simply the vehicles to enable the transformation sought (greater efficiencies, less waste, increased throughput, etc.)   When the focus is on the business outcome, executives are willing to act quickly and purchase those products or services needed to support the initiative. The key for salespeople is to think like a consultant.

This concept came to light the other day when I was coaching a junior rep.  We were discussing his strategy for a new, large prospect he was targeting.  He kept coming back to what he hoped to sell them.  After he told me about the products he planned to present, I asked him a simple question, “what is it that this prospect is trying to address or resolve in his business”?  A long silence ensued; after which the junior rep sheepishly said, “I’m not sure”.  (Bravo for his honesty!)

We discussed how he needs to adjust his mindset; stop thinking about what he wants to sell and focus on what the prospect is trying to do/accomplish/achieve/resolve.   When we think in this manner, we’re working like a consultant; we’re uncovering the core issues that are of the greatest interest to our prospect.  We’re thinking big.

Once we get the big picture, the primary business issues that need addressing, we can then drill down and discuss what’s preventing them from resolving those issues and what they’ve been doing, up till now, to resolve them.  This is where we’ll find out the day-to-day challenges and their efforts, thus far, to address them.

It’s only at this point (and not sooner) where we should put on our “sales hat” and discuss how our products and services can address the challenges discussed.   I reiterated to the junior rep that his products and services are merely the instruments to enable the prospect’s desired outcomes.

Now, keep in mind, that our products and services may not be a good match to address the core issues.  As we listen to what our prospect is looking to do/accomplish/achieve/resolve, we might realize that we don’t have a match with regard to our offerings.  That’s OK!   As a consultant would do, we recommend those things that we think are best for the prospect.  The credibility and respect that we earn when we walk away from a poor fit is immeasurable.   Most importantly, we’ll have earned the right to come back at a future time – and I can assure you that the prospect will be very interested to hear your thoughts as you’ve earned the coveted title of “trusted advisor”.

Thinking big sounds easy but it requires discipline.  (This is especially true when it’s the month/quarter/year end and we looking for a quick sale to make our quota.)  Thinking big requires us to restrain our inner thoughts on what we have in our “bag” and, instead, step into the shoes that a consultant would wear and look for the bigger picture.  Look for what the true needs of the business are and be willing to offer up ideas to solve those issues – even if those solutions have nothing to do with your offerings.  Keep asking ourselves, what is it that they’re trying to do/accomplish/achieve/resolve?  This will focus us on the big picture – the thing that our prospect (or prospect’s boss) really cares about.

I’ll check back with that junior rep in the coming weeks.  I’m hoping that the next time I ask what his prospect’s primary issues are, he’ll know the answer.

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