“What We Got Here is Failure to Communicate”

Why New Business Depends on the Art of Conversation


For folks of a certain age, you’ll remember the 1967 classic film Cool Hand Luke, when the famous lined above was uttered by Paul Newman’s crusty nemesis, then swept into popular conversation as fast as wind over Tornado Alley.

The art of conversation assumes you have something worthwhile to say. Your message. And your message must hold some value for the receiver.

Which is why I get verklempt when I read that only 15 percent of sales calls add “enough” value, according to Forrester Research in a recent executive survey.

Not surprisingly, only 7 percent of survey respondents agreed schedule a follow-up meeting with the salesperson who presented. Dismal odds for the sales profession.

Worse yet, Forrester notes how frustrated the surveyed executives felt when their time was wasted by an ineffective salesperson who did not understand how the executive perceived value. This inability, Forrester cited, produces hostility toward the prospect company, such that it could have material impact on the prospect’s decision.

Message & Medium

As a financial advisor or professional consultant, what and how you communicate, whether by words, voice or body language either enhances or destroys your new business development efforts. Not communicating value during a client interaction is one of the biggest inhibitors to sales success, despite how amazing your product, service or offer. Seems obvious, yes? Revisit those Forrester stats above.

There’s no prize for second place in complex sales. Complexity evaporates time. You must weave your value claims in and out of an intricate decision making process, and you can easily stumble over hidden barriers. Once you lose engagement with the prospect, years can pass before you get a second chance. But then, you will face the loyal incumbent who beat you in the first place.

Avoid this maze by planning and delivering your value message well, and engaging in sincere conversation that pulls the prospect to you as he feels a connection. All of us seek connection.

Let me raise a few questions for you to consider:

  • Does your conversation engage your prospect in what he or she cares about?
  • Do you know what the prospect values in advance? And how he defines value?
  • Does your sales process lead directly to clear communication of your own value proposition and point of differentiation during client interaction?
  • Can you share conversation or your story in a memorable way?

Value with Every Word

Most ambitious salespeople can get their feet in the door to the top officer. Not everyone knows how to engage in meaningful conversation that translates to value with every word. This is a huge generalization, I know, but I base it on years of experience as a top officer being sold to, and doing team selling with partners who needed a bailout in front of prospects.

Even today, I work with many organizations that offer innovative products and services, but they still struggle to articulate the measurable value they deliver to their clients. To be sure, there are as many definitions of value as there are videos on YouTube: Qualitative, quantitative, financial, ethical, brand, legal, operational. Add to this, whether the value is perceived or realized, subjective or objective, partial or total. Put simply, know yours, know hers.

According to Miller Heiman’s 2012 Sales Best Practices Study,

Leave your PowerPoint and brochures behind for your initial meeting. As we teach in MERGE, do your homework first, uncover issues that confront your prospect, then have meaningful conversations, not presentations, on how your solution can bring value. But make absolutely sure your message of value authentically mirrors what the prospect values.

See you on the upside,
Bill

News Alert

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