The Power of the Right Story at the Right Time

Great salespeople are great storytellers. They know when to tell which story and to whom.

This month we’re going to explore the power of story, the types of story that help you win a new customer, block the competition and keep an existing client, and how story affects decision making.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then, I’ll begin …

Broadly there are 2 phases into which we have to sell:

• New Wins in Greenfield Sites & Plunder Competitors’ Accounts

• Protect & Grow Existing Customers

If we tell the wrong story or tell the right story at the wrong time in the sale, it can have the opposite effect to one we intended, losing us business instead of helping us to win. Knowing which story and when to tell it is a major part of the battle.

Let me begin by reminding you that people buy emotionally, THEN and only then, do they justify using reason and logic.

Why Change?

Inertia is your enemy in a new customer scenario. You’re facing your toughest competitor of all – the status quo. You’ve heard the crap statistic that buyers are 60% of the way through the buying process EBFORE they invite in a salesperson. It’s an ill-conceived and misguided piece of research that is wrong. Wrong? But surely not? Everyone seems to be quoting it.

If it is correct, then why do 60% of buyers make no decision and stay with their current set up?

Most don’t know what they want and in the majority of cases stick with what they know and are familiar with. It is your job to help them see value in changing. If you don’t, you will be among the hoi-polloi who are lucky to close fewer than 3% of new business opportunities and have forecasts with lower accuracy than a coin toss. Those folks rarely hit quota and in such a tough economic environment as we are entering, you cannot afford to waste ANY genuine opportunities due to ineptitude or ignorance on your part. This literally is the difference between surviving and not, thriving and merely surviving. Listen closely.

Bids & Tenders Are For The Birds

On average, 40% of pursuits end up in a purchase decision. 74% of them get awarded to the vendor that changed the buyers’ perception. 74% of 40% = 29.6% of buying cycles going to them.

The remaining 26%, end up in a beauty parade. 26% of 40% is 10.4%. The average win rate on bids is 1 in 4.

10.4% divided by 4 = 2.6%. You read that correctly, TWO POINT SIX PERCENT. If you don’t want to spend your time with a true average win-lose ratio on pursuits of 1 in 38.5 you had better get your act together!

The Status Quo Bias

Prospects have a preference for stability, for what’s known. They fear making a mistake and being blamed, they fear upheaval, they fear regret. Even if what they’re doing isn’t great, unless you can allay those fears, they’ll stay put which means to encourage change, you have to undermine their current preferences by opening their eyes to an undiscovered problem or needs they’ve not yet considered. And you need to do this quickly and early in the sales cycle for it to have a positive impact. If you leave it to the end of your conversation or sales cycle, it has no positive impact and may drive buyers to the status quo. So lead with an upper cut to the jaw!

The Value Added Fallacy

And before any of you get the idea that it’s enough to listen to the voice of the customer, it isn’t. Odds are, that your competition are doing that too which means you will position yourself as a “me too”. That just serves to make you another commodity provider, and you drive them to “buy”… the status quo option because they will still struggle to find any real contrast between what you’re offering and saying, and what your competition is offering and saying.

Urgency, Uniqueness & Premium Fees Live In The Realm Of Unconsidered Needs

Do you know something that they don’t?

Chances are as a business, you’re speaking to dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people like them. Are you able to offer them innovative insights that they will want to share with their Board? What are the gaps? Are there hard and soft costs they are carrying that they don’t realise they are paying? How are they giving succour to their competition by not addressing them? Where are they leaving the door open for their competition to outperform, steal market share and above all win highly valued customers away from them? What are they doing or not doing that might be losing them talented people, upsetting their critical suppliers or driving away their best partners?

• What significant issue is the prospect undervaluing or not appreciating?
• Have they been working around for a while that they’ve grown used to wrapping in duct tape or putting plasters on a cancer?
•What do they not even realise is a problem, and consequently if they ignore it, it will bite them in the bum?

Watch #CorporateVisions excellent video “Insights That Insight” to put more flesh on the bone of this approach

Why Stay?

If you are the incumbent provider, the evidence tells us that bringing a message that disrupts the status quo works best mid-contract and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER bring the disruptive message to a client AT RENEWAL. As a result, you will probably encourage them to go to a bid situation and you will find yourself fighting to keep your account.

The Stamford research says that if you are at renewal, do everything you can to reinforce the status quo. Watch the next excellent video from #CorporateVisions explaining the why, the what and the how of keeping clients at renewal.

“Why Stay” – A Framework For Winning More Renewals Business

In the “Why stay?” conversation there are 5 critical components all of which reinforce the status quo as the best option:

  1. Document the results your partnership with your customer has delivered to date
  2. Review how they reached their decision to bring you in as their provider
  3. Mention the risk of changing from you to another provider
  4. Highlight the cost of change
  5. Detail how they have made progress whilst they’ve been working with your company

I urge you to watch everything you can and read everything written by Erik Petersen and Tim Riesterer because their research is brilliant and cutting edge. Get their books. Make notes, Modify your approach and develop stories in line with what they suggest and you will not be disappointed with the result.

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