The Risky Business of Second Chances

The Risky Business
of Second Chances


How to Succeed

First Time Out


Those of us who sell for a living generate interest in prospects by uncovering their “issue” and offering a tailored solution. Those who do advanced research and use a solid questioning process book higher sales. Seems simple enough, right?

The life blood of your business boils down to one singular goal: Sell your products and services. Thus all your focus must spotlight your target prospect. The more you understand of your prospects’ decision making process, the more confidence you bring to your sales process.

In my workshops, I ask participants to describe why their customers/clients bought their products and services. Most responses center on the uniqueness of the product or service, or their skills at relationship development. Often the participants will cite a competitive advantage.

Not surprisingly, all responses stemmed from what the seller did rather than what the prospect wants to solve. Veteran sellers find an issue and sell the solution.

Not Seller Driven

The typical sales process identifies need, and then you work to find the money at the prospect level to pay for your solution. But among top performers, that’s not what happens.

It’s the buying process that matters. What’s the prospect’s reason for buying and how does he reach his conclusion? You’re unique products and services, your referral source, the way you presented all have a positive impact, but these seller-driven elements of the sales process , and not what triggers the purchase.

As Diane Sanchez and Stephen Heiman describe in their book The Selling Machine, “The reason that customers buy is almost painfully simpleso simple that, to our peril, we often overlook it. It is only indirectly related to the superiority of your product, and even more tangentially related to the sizzle of your spiel. Here’s the plain truth:

People decide to buy on the basis of expectation. They buy what they believe your product or service will do for them.”

I refer to this as the prospect buying vision, or what Miller Heiman calls the customer’s concept. It’s the mental picture of what he or she thinks and expects to accomplish. And it may have nothing (or everything) to do with your product, solution, or what you perceive as value.

As we discuss in my book MERGE, use your value as a differentiator the measurable value you bring to the prospect. This value, when matched to the prospect’s buying vision determines your success. And it can only be defined from the prospect’s perspective.

Close the prospect’s value gapthat discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be. When you do, prospects will lean in, think about buying your products or services, and formulate their expectations to justify the sale.

We Got It All!

As we covered in last week’s blog, overzealous sales people try to sell the solution too fast, before they have a clear understanding of the prospect’s buying vision. They’ll force feed the prospect their presentation as the solution. It’s just easier to sell the mechanics of the offering first. But prospects need to walk through each step of their buying process on their own terms. Stop approaching prospects with “whatever you need, we have it.”

The reality is most meetings are pure pitchfests. In most cases, the prospect isn’t in the buying cycle at all, yet you’re messaging zigs to his zag. Please remember, you need to get two yeses before you begin solution recommendations.

Prospects must agree to change status quo now for you to make the sale, and they won’t do that unless they see the direction for themselves and feel the urgency. Thus expend your effort to loosen up or weaken status quo through relevant messaging and storytelling.

Create the urgency by using your pre-designed questions like thinly sliced peppers in a fine sauce. He’ll desire more and together, through the experience, the buying vision emerges. Of course, all of this depends on extremely attentive listening.

Keying off the statistic to the left, the other 35 percent in the Forrester Research survey said they will conduct a fair and square bake off with all of the viable competitors. Now that’s a significant difference. Help the executive buyers form their buying vision or concept, and if you can authentically change the trajectory of your sales and buying cycle for the good of all.

Lessons from the Front

Using the pseudonym Ace Companies, one of my clients illustrate the distinction between product-driven and buying-vision selling. In the business of financial solutions to the corporate market, primarily in the wealth accumulation and executive benefit industry, Ace Companies attended one of my workshops. Joe, the head of the firm, shared a valuable story.

Asked to present to a major law firm, Ace needed to develop an approach to retirement solutions for the law partners. The legal group assembled a six-person committee, and invited three firms to present.


Because of time constraints that week, Joe decided not to do research on the law firm, or figure out the buying vision of each person on the committee. Instead, he’d bring the Ace’s pitch book, and discuss how his company could be of value, based on their previous client engagements. No surprises here. It’s a standard, if not ideal, approach.

But it became a painful presentation, he recalls, “We did all the talking and they just sat there saying nothing. When we left after 90 minutes of nonstop talking, we didn’t stand a chance in getting this business and we knew it.”

Second Chances

Joe invested in a MERGE workshop on how to simplify the complex sale, and learned the importance of research, as well as how to lead a sales campaign with the buying vision at the front. He went back to the law firm and asked for second opportunity to present. Normally, this would never happen, but Joe pulled it off. Here’s what he shared:

News Alert

MERGE 2.0, read my latest book, now released by the publisher and available on Amazon to purchase.  Learn everything you need to know to book revenue in the new realities of B2B professional selling.

And, if you’re not a reader and prefer interactive learning, take our MERGE 2.0 online learning course.  Go here for more info.

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