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To Change or Not to Change is the Question for Customers

The change-agent strategy is a process of creative destruction and self-selection on the part of the customer and the sales person. It is a process of qualifying business fit and relationship chemistry.

Selling is more about undoing than doing. It is not about selling, or even solving a problem, as much as it is about unraveling the mystery behind the customer's circumstances, unique vantage point and priorities. All customers experience gap management issues; I am here, andI really want to be there.

"You solve customer's problems from customer's goals down, not product features up," says Josh Costello. Change-agents professionally meddle in their customer's business to see if change can be justified. Classic feature and benefit sellers meddle in the customer's business to change their minds. Change-agents start with a hypothesis. Information sellers start with irrefutable statements of fact backed up by their proof of concept. Good luck with that!

"Are you merely a representative of corporate value, or do you bring value by showing up," says Bill Caskey. Anyone today can go to the Internet and Google their problem and 8000 results will flash before their eyes. But the Internet has done nothing to help customers first define and assess the consequences of their problems, to understand the cost of changing, and to make sense of the overwhelming amount of information that they have access to.

The change-agent is not concerned with the "what" (solution), but the "why" and the "how." It is not what they want, but why they want it, and how they will be affected by change that are the real issues change-agents care about. And by the way, what customers really care about most is avoiding problems, more than capitalizing on opportunities.

According to The HR Chally Group, customers rate (39%) the sales person's effectiveness as their number one criteria for selecting a product or service. The value of the change-agent is there to bring context, not their content. This is how they are rated on effectiveness.

Change-agents look at the big picture of their customer's business, not just their immediate needs. They run the call like a business meeting, not like a sales meeting. Background information is critical to them. They take the time to find out what it is like to be their customer, what they are personally wrestling with, what are their conflicted interests, and what they are really concerned with. It takes a lot of focus, business chops, energy and non-biased analysis to take their customer through this process.

Through their soft sell strategy, the change-agent tries to mediate the burdensome conflicts of interest that hover over all sales calls; the customer wants to give as little information as possible and spend as little time as possible, while the traditional stereotypical sales person wants to give out as much information as possible, spin it and take up as much of the customer's time as possible. Both these agendas represent the foundation for mistrust and inefficiency.

Change-agents are into delayed gratification and so are their customers, assuming there is trust. So long as they are helping their customers look at their challenges differently, spending their time wisely, solution and product information is premature and specious. Because customers so often do not really know what they want, why they want it, and what they are trying to avoid until the very latter part of the sales call, anything you give them beforehand is suspect and possibly confusing.

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