Do you need to be “well liked” to win deals?
This is one of the questions addressed by a landmark sales study that sought to identify the unique traits of high performing sales reps.
The study, as detailed in The Challenger Sale, involved over 6,000 B2B sales people from over 90 companies across different industries.
It identified the five most most common sales profiles and then assessed which of these profiles were most used among high achieving sales reps.
What did they find?
Among average performers, there was no discernible advantage between one profile or another. Each of the five approaches had roughly the same levels of success.
But among high performers, 40% used the Challenger Approach while only 7% used the Relationship Builder Approach (the worst-performing profile).
In complex sales environments, more than 50% of reps used the Challenger Approach.
What does all this mean?
Sellers who challenge the buyer’s ideas, push their thinking, and encourage them to disrupt the status quo win more deals.
Whereas sellers who try to become the buyer’s friend and avoid rocking the boat make great golf buddies… and not much else.
Why You Need to Push Buyers Out of Their Comfort Zone
In this post, sales veteran Peter Caputa talks about why sellers need to make buyers a little bit uncomfortable to advance the sales conversation…
“When business relationships begin, they are often full of pleasantries. Prospects usually start conversations about things that are safe for them to share. They’ll use positive words and are more comfortable talking about strengths and goals.
But to really get to the heart of why a prospect needs (or doesn’t need) your solution, you need to get past the niceties and identify their priority issues. Salespeople must ask the questions that get prospects to open up about areas of concern, frustrating challenges, and personal consequences of inaction.”
Need to Ask a Tough Question? Get Permission First
Instead of waiting for the perfect time, Caputa recommends asking for permission before challenging buyer’s with a seemingly invasive question.
For example, here’s the story of one how seller used the permission strategy to cut through the buyer’s waffling and get straight to the issues:
Seller: Alright, so we have this list of agenda items that you provided before the meeting. Where would you like to start?
Buyer: Let’s start here. [Points to the first item.]
Seller: Okay, why do we want to start here?
Buyer: [Chuckling] Well, I guess because it’s first on the list.
Seller: Is it the most important?
Buyer: Well, it’s all important.
Seller: Okay, so help me out here. If you were to rank this in terms of value — low, medium or high — where would it fall?
Buyer: I don’t know. Probably low to medium.
Seller: [After a pretty long pause.] You don’t know me very well. But if you decide you want to know me better after today, you will learn I am a very transparent guy. I have a question, but I am afraid to cross the line. If I ask it, and you think I crossed the line, will you tell me?
Buyer: [Looking at Seller with a puzzled look] Well, I am a transparent guy too so yeah, I’ll tell you. What’s your question?
Seller: You don’t seem like the type of guy that flies by the seat of his pants. You have two hours scheduled with us today. You have brought in your team. Why would you commit that kind of time and resources to something that is a low to medium priority?
Buyer: [Looks down thoughtfully at the list]. Well, the first agenda is a medium to low for me, but a medium to high for my team. But the third one on this list is my highest priority right now. Our CEO is on me to fix that.
Why Does This Work? Because Change is Difficult
If you let buyers stay in their comfort zone, why would they hire you?
The act of hiring a consultant requires a desire for change. It requires a buyer to be willing to move outside their comfort zone and disrupt things a little bit… in the hopes that the end result will be worth it.
Your job, as the seller, is to ask the questions that make buyers realize they need change… even if it makes both of you uncomfortable.
Because if you don’t, status quo will remain.