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Why Executives Don’t Respond To Solution Selling

Is your company asking you to target larger deals and cross-sell solutions? Are you being asked to develop a more meaningful relationship with customers? Are you trying to establish yourself as a business partner rather than a vendor? If so, you’re probably redirecting your selling efforts toward customer executives.

If you are struggling to engage these executives, you need to think about your sales approach. Are you asking awkward questions like “What keeps you up at night”? Do you portray a negative tone by probing for pain and posing irrelevant questions like “If you had to do it all over again …”? Have you used the solution selling vision processing model to produce meaningless chatter like “If I could help you grow sales, decrease costs, and increase cash flow, would you be interested?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to step back and retool your sales strategy.

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Are You Getting Appointments With Executives These Days?

It makes no sense.  Here we are in the midst (bottom of the 4th inning in my estimation) of the Great Delevering following the Great Recession: the most significant extended downturn in business-related investment in our professional careers.  Scores of companies have publicly boasted of their intention to ‘transform’ (always search for this word as it signals big change coming) their business models.  Business employment is way down and staying down.  Business investments, specifically CapEx and OpEx, have plunged.  Technology refresh cycles have come and gone with not a lot of ‘refresh’.  Revenue growth is MIA and record levels of investible cash balances lie sleeping on balance sheets earning next to nil.

This should be the perfect ‘buying storm’.  You’ve waited your entire professional career for the stars to align like this.  Executives have pain and you’ve got end-to-end solutions in your sales bag.  Your value propositions are ready to go and they’re full of ROI, TCO, and blah, blah, blah.  You should be witnessing an executive feeding frenzy as prospects clamor for your problem-solving solutions.  Buy-side executives should want to talk to sales professionals more today than ever before, right?

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‘Rev’ It Up To Get On The Executive Radar Screen

If you are a sales professional, you have probably spent a good deal of time communicating the financial value of your solution: the so-called value proposition. Your company’s marketing department has probably spent a good deal of time crafting it for maximum audience impact. And your company executives probably have spent a good deal of time traveling around the world repeating it to anyone who will listen. It might even appear in an advertising campaign or in your company’s annual report.

Chances are your value proposition is structured as one simple financial message suitable for all customer audiences. It’s easy to understand, easy to articulate, and universal in appeal; it’s a beautiful work of prose. Your competitors repeat a similar mantra, but your company is well-respected and known to deliver on its promises. Right?

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What Executives Want

Ever watch the movie ‘What Women Want’ starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt?  Nick Marshall, the main character, is a chauvinistic ad executive, who miraculously gains the ability to hear what women are thinking when he interacts with them.  Nick Marshall isn’t the sharpest tack in the drawer, but this gift of insight helps him, through trial and error (mostly error), refine his messaging to accomplish his preferred reaction.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could hear what buy-side executives are thinking the next time you interact with them in a sales situation?  You could read their minds, making mid-course adjustments in what you talk about and the questions that you ask. You would have a self-correcting real-time feedback loop.  Oh, if only it were that easy.

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Just The Facts, Ma’am

What do business executives and Sergeant Joe Friday of the classic crime drama Dragnet have in common?   Dum-de-dum-dum.  “All we want are the facts, just the facts.” Not assumptions, not hypotheses, not opinions … just the facts.  “Deal with the world the way it is, not the way you wish it was”, offers John Chambers, CEO of Cisco.

The story you are about to hear is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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