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The Discovery Process Shifts the Burden of Proof to the Client

There is no fixed, objective cause and effect in selling. Orthodox sales people at best deal with cause, and rarely deal with effect. They rarely have a grasp of their customer's unique point of view about their problems, consequences and compelling reasons to change or act.

They rarely do a neutral pro/con analysis. They hardly ever get to the driving emotions that represent change and action. They are like the character in the 60's police TV show Dragnet played by Jack Webb. They just look at the facts. Or as Jack Webb would say, "Just the facts ma'am."

They know intuitively the value that emotion plays in sales, but they get it all wrong with believing it is all about pumping up all the positive emotion (excitement and enthusiasm) to deliver their message, instead of focusing on triggering and provoking the negative emotions of the consequences of their customer's problem. A perfect example of good intentions gone bad.

You need to narrow your lens to pinpoint prospects and you need to widen your lens to include discussions about all the possibilities, options, priorities, roadblocks and competing initiatives that could deter action and change.

Do not be afraid to ask the customer why they have not proactively sought out a solution to their problem. Ask them if you had not come by would they have proactively sought one out on their own. The way they answer this will be very telling and interesting. Just because you are now their "knight in shining armor" does not mean they will take action.

Often customers ultimately fear themselves in decision making. So when you do your probing and problem discovery, make sure your customer has time to self-reflect and be introspective to sort out conflicts of interest and opposing priorities.

Traditional sales people have been schooled not to bring up objections and roadblocks to change, because they do not have the confidence and convictions to be real and authentic. Get real! Ultimately on a conscious or subconscious level nagging feelings of doubt from your customer will surface with or without your prodding. That is why sales people experience such long sales cycle because their customer's nagging doubts take time to construct. So get in front of the inevitable and take the high road of trust by proactively bringing up potential objections for the sake of both parties at the selling event.

This transparent approach ultimately serves all parties in the long-term. "One way of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it," said Sidney Howard. So again help your customers do a cost/benefit analysis to discover their own truths and priorities. Problems usually have to have an impending event to generate action. You need to help them decide if it is worth moving from a latent state to an action state.

Most sales approaches are idea and empirically proof driven. This type of sales strategy tends to raise the level of resistance, and carries a heavy burden of proof on the part of the sales person. A discovery driven process is the opposite. Since there is very little to prove on the part of the sales person, the burden of proof shifts to the customer.

The best sales people ponder their customer's issues upfront as if they were thinking out loud. They are constantly processing the feedback they get and how it directly relates and impacts the future cost of change for their customers. This objective processing builds trust and gives incredible value to the customer because so often they are so close to the forest they cannot see the trees.

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