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Your Winning Sales Conversation
December 3, 2018
By Howard Mann

What if you threw out everything you currently use for sales and marketing? I am talking about a totally blank slate. Freed from all the ways you have been selling and trying to get noticed. What if you threw out every proposal, RFP template and your library of presentation decks?

If you think I am asking because I just want you to simply create better ones, you would be wrong. I bet you have updated them at different times over the years and those incremental updates only created incremental results.

So much of sales and marketing has become about the activities related to them that we are deluded into thinking we are doing a lot of both. We have full pipelines and are excited about being invited to pitch but we are not winning often enough to change the future of our businesses. 

But potential dream clients keep inviting us to come and dance for them and we willingly show up and proudly display our tail feathers. This cycle never plays to our strengths but we persist in repeating the same cycle. Why?

If we can forget about our pride for a moment, how many of these pitches are you actually winning? How many were decided long before you even showed up to pitch (You do know there is always one bidder who has the relationship locked up before the process even starts)?

It’s important to be more mercenary here. The goal of sales and marketing activity is to WIN new business (By winning, I mean they sign on the line that is dotted and their first check is in the bank). The top of the funnel is important but it will forever be an expense without enough corresponding revenue if you do not figure out how to reliably win better clients.

If you are nodding your head, then why not try a different approach that could reduce wasted energy and set yourself up to win, consistently?

What you really want is to be in the room (or on the phone) having the specific conversation with a prospect that always sets you up to win.

So, what is that ideal conversation for YOU?

No, not storytelling or your brand story. A conversation. A back and forth. You are sharing your knowledge and enlightening your prospect to new ways of looking at their business. Presenting a fresh approach that will yield exponential results. You must want to hear their answers and their point of view. You must want them to challenge you.

“Conversation isn’t about proving a point; true conversation is about going on a journey with the people you are speaking with.” –  Ricky Maye

Think back to a golden/magic sales moment in your past when the discussion played right into your strengths. Where the conversation was not about persuasion but where you were just speaking about what drives you and your business. Where you were talking about the way you wish your industry would see the world.

The discussion that you wish every business was having when they are searching for the product or service that you sell.

Great conversations are memorable. They inspire. They motivate. They connect people together.

Now, with a tireless amount of detail (even if that means that you write it out like a movie script), I urge you to write that conversation down. From the “hello” all the way to the “you can make the check out to…”

Your one and only goal for sales going forward is to have this conversation as often as possible. Understanding what that conversation is will change how you sell and, critically, who you are selling to. Not everyone will want to have this conversation with you. That’s great, they just saved you a lot of time.

When you find yourself in these conversations instead of presenting capabilities, you win. Often. Your proposals will turn into manifestos. Your pitch decks become a catalyst for discussion (And nothing more). Your capabilities and, most importantly, your expertise will come out naturally as part of your winning conversation.

But first, you have to put in the work to really understand the conversations you should be having. This is what sales will mean to you now.

Yes, I know that the common wisdom is to try and figure out what your ideal prospects want and talk about that. The problem is, you do not really know because, in truth, they don’t really know.

Sure, they may tell you a problem if you ask them but you also know the surface problem that people tell you is rarely the real problem. At least not the problem that, if solved, will create the biggest impact. The magic appears when you dig down and uncover the big issue where you can change the game for your prospect. The right conversation will lead you both to this transformative moment.

So forget their problems, for now, and just focus on the conversations you want to be a part of that will help them finally figure out what they really want. That is power. That is how you create transformation instead of transactions.

But Howard, you say, I get the shift but what do I do so I can actually have these conversations all the time?

By focusing your marketing solely on the activities that will seed thinking and ideas that work as a catalyst to your winning conversation. No more marketing to make noise (I am looking at you, social media). Your marketing is now about informing and agitating for the right conversation.

Consider how you would trigger a conversation at a party or just with a close friend. Not a “How’s the weather?” superficial type of conversation, I am talking about a layered and thought-provoking conversation. Damn near an intervention.

If you want to get to this level, you need to challenge people with questions worthy of making them interested in a discussion. Questions that are not so easily answered or ignored. Questions that point to a solution that would be game changing if realized. Questions that spark imagination and create intrigue. Questions that will save them money and time. Questions that will make them money or increase their status.

Questions that feel like you are teaching and enlightening. Not selling.

How would your sales process feel if your only goal was just inviting people that are intrigued to meet and talk about it?

  1. What are those questions for you? Write them ALL down. Refine and iterate until they are impossible to ignore (Do not play it safe here. Safe is forgettable. Agitate!).
  2. What conversations should each question trigger? Describe them (You can write many scripts).
  3. Who do you most want to have those conversations with? Make a specific list. Industry, titles and the people you may already know.

You can always rejoin the herd and write proposals and be part of a bid process when you are done trying a different approach. If you start thinking about creating great conversations you may find your pitch decks and proposals will be forever changed as a result.

So I ask you again, what are the right conversations for your business to be in? How will you create more of them?  

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