Needs Based Selling is just Satisfying Your Own Needs
A change-agent is a professional interventionist. They superimpose themselves by request into a customer's business to explore all options, choices and possibilities, regardless as to whether it supports their selling agenda. The change-agent is like a reluctant or accidental sales person. Their goal is a reconnaissance mission, not a traditional search and destroy sales call.
Selling is more about the reasons, justifications, willingness and ability to buy and change, than it is about the solution you are selling. To change or not to change is the real question. Help your customer answer that question and you pass the most important competency test they can give you.
The change-agent, sales philosophy is a response to a fair amount of sales people who feel like a pretender. They are queasy with being salesy. They are very uncomfortable with pitching products and trying to convince customers to do something they do not want to do. In other words, they are tired of selling without probable cause. They are tired of doing needs-based selling; selling to satisfy their own needs.
Sales people who embrace the change-agent, sales methodology avoid anything showy. They practice instead the "art celar artem," the art that conceals art. With apparent effortlessness and unobtrusiveness, they get to the point of whether customers have a compelling reason to change or not.
Change-agents work without any grandiose ideas of glory and changing minds. They follow small observations, instead of imposing grand ideas. It is the beginning of thinking small which is thinking big for your customer. Big change starts with small steps. That is why you do an in-depth analysis of your customer's business issues and challenges. Change-agents are minimalist because they predominately use the customer's material instead of their own. But make no mistake, they are multi-dimensional unlike their one-dimensional, traditional counterparts.
The essence of the change-agent posture is built on the tenet that to impose, overpower, argue for your position, to play to your advantage, is to potentially strengthen the customer's resolve to passively and aggressively resist. At its finest moment, change-agent selling is unconditional surrender of the sales person to sell from their vantage point and advantage and the customer to surrender their problems and their defenses.
This process is peer-to-peer, or business person to business person. Conventional sales people need not apply. It requires a lot of business equality. If customers do not look at you as an equal, good luck. Change-agent selling only works well when you have earned the right to be a confidante. This is usually accomplished through a high degree of empathy. It can also be achieved by disclaimers and disqualifiers, instead of unconditional claims of superiority and unfounded hype.
Change-agents need to be good leaders. They need to self-motivate customers to take the lead in finding their own intrinsic reasons for change. Those reasons will always outweigh the sales person's reasons. Classic sales people misinterpret leadership as leading the customer to the water (solutions) and having them drink it.
Customers must first be fundamentally convinced on the merits of change before they can be convinced of the merits of your solution. So do not position yourself to prove your solution before you first disapprove the customer's existing solution, or lack of solution. Traditional sales people think selling is all about the known; their solution, its capabilities and their preconceived conviction of how they can help a customer. When in fact, selling is all about the unknown; the costs and trade-offs of change and the status quo.
Mainstream sales people try to influence and change the truth instead of getting to the truth. The former is much harder than the latter. "The goal is never to purchase behavior, but rather to channel existing behavior into forms that can be monetized," says Kathy King. When I read this I thought the same is true with the sales profession. Instead of spending all your time trying to sell someone Moses could not sell, find customers who have pre-existing buying habits, challenges or circumstances that are ripe for change.