Discuss a company’s future goals as part of building a sales relationship.
Along with doctors and nurses, sales is one of the few professions where it’s normal to search for and identify pain, as pain is an opportunity for us to create value for the customer. Sure, we start our client relationships by building a friendly rapport, but then we jump in for the diagnosis, relying on the thin trust built over a few minutes of friendly conversation to assist us in the sale. We start prodding, looking for the pain created by a nagging business headache so we can offer a long-term solution.
It’s an uncomfortable experience for the individual across the table, as it means recognizing past failures, acknowledging missteps he or she would rather forget, or identifying systemic issues in the company culture. Sure, talking about pain is a quick route to uncovering a problem, but there’s a price to pay: We’ve jumped straight from building rapport to forcing the prospect to wrestle with conflict.
In that moment, we push our prospect to struggle with the painful regret of failure. The conversation we’re prompting, therefore, is one of angst and fear — something no one enjoys. With this amount of discomfort present, it becomes harder to have an open, honest, productive conversation about the prospect’s needs, especially if the individual defensively clams up. Worse, the relationship we just started building is soured by discussions of individual and company-wide shortcomings. Unless the individual already has a good reason to trust you and your company, it should come as no surprise if the prospect wants to stop talking altogether!
(Related: World Class Growth Checklist)
So, if we start our sales process by transitioning straight from building rapport to discussing pain points, we’re making the sale more difficult than it needs to be.
Focus on the Future
While we should continue starting our relationships by building a rapport, our next move should be different. Instead of donning our Sherlock Holmes hat as we search for pain clues, a more productive conversation begins by focusing on the future. Questions like “What has you excited about the next three years of your business?” are more productive than “What concerns you most about your business right now?”
Instead of examining pain right at the beginning of the relationship, we get to examine opportunities to provide value within a framework of optimism — not distress. Instead of talking about what went wrong in the past, we focus on what could go right in the future. When we discuss goals, we can easily examine our products and services that will assist along the way. Even better, this conversation transforms you from salesperson to opportunity-maker, as you can turn dreams into realities.
There’s an additional benefit to starting the sales conversation with the future in mind. By traveling the road of optimism with the client, we have more time to develop that rapport that ultimately makes us so trustworthy in the sales process. Instead of enduring the awkward discussion around pain, we can connect through the excitement of possibilities. With additional trust in place, the final sale becomes much easier to close.
If discussing fear and failure is a viable avenue in the sales conversation, it’s better to wait until after we’ve discussed future goals. Once we’re better connected with the individual, thanks to the conversation around future goals, a frank discussion about pain points isn’t half as uncomfortable.
Try focusing on the future instead of the past when talking to your next few prospects. You’ll start to see differences in your sales and in the quality of the relationships you build.