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Selling is Creative Destruction

The job of a change-agent isn't to alter their customer's reality, it's to assess the circumstances of their reality as to the probability and practicality of change. For most customers, in order to bring in a new solution, or a new concept, they must give up a previous idea, belief or way of doing things.

Change-centered sales people use the change process as a force of creative distruction; directly breaking down problems to see if there's a foundation worthy enough of supporting change. A neutral change-agent isn't intimidated by bringing up worst-case scenarios and potential negative outcomes, or other competing options to get their customers to face reality. They act as a buffer helping customers avoid making bad decisions even if it precludes their solution.

The change-agent is always professionally skeptical, unconvinced, incredulous and positively cynical. This mindset always forces them to look at situations from the customer's unique perspective and to be a customer-advocate. They know as Scott McCain says, "If two people think exactly alike, one is unnecessary."

The following are guidelines, anecdotes, strategies and mindsets of change-centered sales people;

  • You may be very knowledgeable about your customer's business, but you will always be in the dark about their unique perspective of their goals, problems and most pressing priorities until you've had a chance to get their personal rendition. Your value is 100% relative to the value of their problems and motivations to change or not.
  • Change-agents never let their solution define them. They always let the customer's problems define them. Hence, if the customer has no problems, you'll most likely be in a world of hurt.
  • How you sell is more important in value than what you sell. So often the way you sell is a free sample and proof of concept of what you sell.
  • When performing the role of the change-agent, sales people need to be the voice of reason. When you're the voice of reason you ask all the questions that customers are afraid to ask of themselves and the sales person is afraid to hear the answers to. Remember, in sales there's no objective reality, only perception.
  • Change-agents know they must build an emotional case for change. Most sales people only try to build an empirical case for change. Seek to have a balance.
  • Change-agents are very grounded, objective, unbiased and composed so they can have an adult to adult conversation with customers, instead of a seller to buyer pitch and ditch conversation.
  • Change-agents are always seeking the truth and reality.
  • Sales people who embrace the change-agent posture must be strong prospectors so they can always exercise the option to walk and choose another viable prospect who offers a greater yield and a higher probability for conversion.
  • Change-agents are very good at under communicating their message and story so customers can over communicate their personal message and story about their challenges and issues.
  • Change-agents are very patient in doing their due diligence. Sales people who rush through the change process have the longest selling cycles. You need to devote sweat and equity in the sales process. If you don't put skin into the game you can't expect your customer to also.
  • Change-agents approach selling as an obligation free process. Make it easy and seamless if customers don't want to move forward.
  • Sales people need to be very objective and view change and their offering as potentially disruptive, invasive, inconvenient, potentially intrusive and an interruption to the order and status quo of customers. As long as you believe you're a "savior" or a "knight in shining armor" taking the customer to the "promised land " you won't challenge the motivations of the customer's reasons for changing, therefore giving up your status as a valued and objective advisor.
  • If you love the art of selling. If you love to be jazzed up and enthusiastic when selling, then the change-agent posture will not be for you.
  • Change-agents are extremely problem-centered. They know if the customer has no problems then there's very little change process to work through. If the customer has no problems you know you have a big problem.
  • Change-agents are extremely problem-centered. They know if the customer has no problems then there's very little change process to work through. If the customer has no problems you know you have a big problem.
  • A change-agent can't afford to be the stereotypical sales person who thinks with their pocketbook. You need to be outcome neutral at all times. That way you can be a neutral advisor and a professional devil's advocate.
  • Curiosity might have killed the cat, but rarely in sales. Lack of curiosity kills more sales careers than just about anything else. Change-agents must be very inquisitive and truly be interested in other people's unique perspective.
  • Change-agents take on the rallying cry of the great state of Missouri...show me! Be a doubting Thomas as if everything at first glance is too good to be true. Your customers will ultimately respect your "critical thinking."
  • The change-agent knows that information is their only real currency. The job of the sales person is to reverse the flow of traditional information. The most important sale at the beginning of the buying process is to sell the customer on exchanging valuable, important and sensitive information. If they aren't willing to exchange information you have very little to sell and work with.
  • Without empathy the whole house of cards falls apart. If you can't walk in your customer's shoes then you're dead on arrival as far as a change-agent. We need to first seek to understand before being understood. You must embrace the idea that customers don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  • Time conscious sales people have a litmus test for rapport, trust and respect. Without these elements you don't have a chance in leading change. "Change-agents identify insecurity driven behavior by looking for common clues such as close-mindedness, aggressiveness, passive-aggressiveness, illogical reasoning and unwillingness to listen and share sensitive information," says Bret Clay.
  • Change-agents need to be a counterweight to irrational exuberance. Dumb down the sales process to the following elements; must have problems with unacceptable consequences, the timing needs to be right, the urgency must be present and they must have the authority to spend money. When one of these elements is missing change will be slow and painful.
  • The predominant reason sales people struggle with being change-centered is they can't get past their ego and self-serving agenda. Egoless selling is very rewarding because it lets you be a true customer advocate.
  • Change-agents are steeped in reality-based selling. They get very real with customers and aren't afraid to post questions that are totally in conflict with their own goals. They're outcome neutral in their reproach.
  • You need to have a low need for approval to be a neutral change-agent. Needy sales people need not apply. Only help customers as much as they want to be helped; no fixers. Remember, neediness is a foul smelling cologne.
  • Change-agents operate without a safety net. They essentially sell blindly; meaning they have nothing to sell, nothing to prove or disprove, no agenda, no expectations. Their currency is an open mind and a blank slate. They work from the bottom up with their customer's situation and problems.
  • Change-agents know that selling is first and foremost a game of properly selecting, sifting and sorting, more so than selling, persuading and convincing. They use a rigorous process of self-selection and self-illumination and they aren't afraid to professionally repel, detract and polarize unqualified prospects. Change-agents know that it's better statistically to find customers who are motivated to change, as opposed to trying to motivate customers to change.

Once you learn to subordinate your desire to sell and influence, selling becomes a lot easier and rewarding. When you switch the burden of proof to the customer, then they need to convince you of their motives and commitments to change. Once this happens, selling becomes more buying than selling. You become stringent as to whether you buy into your customer's justification for buying or not. This takes the pressure off of all parties and the truth becomes so much more self-evident.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com