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Selling is the Result Not the Object

The change-agent does not take lightly the customer's commitment to change. They scrupulously study the fundamentals of the customer's rationale for changing and look for inconsistencies and soundness of decisions. Most conventional sales people build a business case for change by adding on more justification for change. The change-agent builds a case by peeling away all the hurdles, roadblocks and lets the chips fall where they may depending on what the customer believes is best for them.

Most executives at any given time have three or four projects, proposals or priorities on their desks with good potential for return on investment that they are pondering as to whether to take advantage of. These are sales people's biggest competition, not their direct competitor. Few traditional sales people recognize this.

The change-agent takes a more holistic, organic, big picture perspective and takes in to account all the priorities and options that executives are thinking about. They know that their job is less about giving content, and more about giving perspective and context.

Traditional sales people are often viewed by customers as agents of problems because they know how problematic it can be to change. Because sales people do not take the longview, a lot of customers do not trust them. So as a change-agent, do not be a problem maker, be a problem shooter or a troubleshooter. But keep in mind if your recommendations are considered more trouble than they are worth from the customer's perspective, they will not be acted on. So always seek to be neutral and bring balance to your position. Do not be afraid to call them the way you see them as the great Yankee star Yogi Berra used to say.

The change-agent is a nitpicker, a stickler for small points and fine shadings. They know the devil is in the details. They seek to get a firm grasp of the customer's motives for change and what they have to win/lose by moving forward. Basically they help customers navigate all the complexities of change. They play the role of an outside advisor, a neutral handler, a middleman with no vested interest in the outcome. This is why their advice is so highly prized.

The change-agent uses the equivalent of open book accounting for everything since everything is in the open, pro/con, and everything is freely expressed about the variables, timing and challenges of change. The process allows your customer to feel a lot smarter. Most sales people are intimidated by this because they want to constantly position themselves as the smartest guy in the room.

The goal of the change-agent sales strategy is to minimize the randomness of buying and selling. The biggest frustration among traditional sales people is that they make sales and they do not know why, and they do not make sales and they do not know why. It all seems so random. It is very frustrating for sales people who do not have any sense of control of their destiny.

This process allows you to go from being a product/company lobbyists to a customer advocate. However, you are going to have to give up the idea that you are in charge. You will need to be willing to use a process of questioning which is all about trial and error and finding whether the customer has a true motivating reason to change.

The reasons customers have a, "that is on a need to know basis and you do not need to know " attitude, is because sales people have the wrong intent in their "need to know attitude." They need to transition from "I need to know if you are going to buy," to "I need to know about your business and your reasons to consider changing, and the pros and cons of making that decision." Customers appreciate advisors who take them through a process which allows them to have their eyes wide open, minimizing magical thinking.

The whole idea is to flush out impulses destined to go nowhere and flush out sound impulses that are leading indicators to change. Most traditional sales people resist strategic selling and usually have no idea that sometimes their solution causes more problems than it solves because they do not do their due diligence. They refuse to do any cause and effect probing. They recoil from straight talk with customers because they do not want to hear anything that will negatively impact their chances of making a sale. They believe thought-provoking questions are too risky. They are afraid of asking do or die questions, or deal or no deal questions that really get to the truth and reality of whether it is practical and realistic for their customer to take action, buy or change.

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