The more sophisticated and advanced sellers become, the more they make selling about conversations and collaboration, not presentations and pitching. Even their presentations become interactive collaborations when done right.
Collaboration is powerful and persuasive, yet it's often underutilized as an influence on decision making and buying. When collaboration happens, sellers:
- Deepen relationships and trust
- Deepen understanding of need
- Strengthen the quality and applicability of solutions
- Spark insight and innovation
- Differentiate themselves in the minds of buyers (because most sellers don't collaborate with buyers)
- Create a sense of psychological ownership in buyers
To this last point: when a seller pitches something without interacting, I always picture in my mind's eye a gladiator in front of a Roman Emperor, waiting to get the thumbs up or down verdict on their life. Similarly, a seller performs a dog and pony show and the buyer judges it, but doesn't feel any particular attachment to the seller's agenda.
It shouldn't be like that. It doesn't need to be like that.
When sellers collaborate, they build the buyer's psychological ownership of the issue so that buyers become invested in moving the process forward. At the same time, strong collaboration helps buyers see things in ways they hadn't considered previously. When sellers can redefine buyer thinking and improve buyer decision making, the seller becomes much more valuable to buyers.
Collaborate Online – (Almost) Nobody is Doing It
Historically, sellers have thought about collaboration as a face-to-face, or even phone, activity. But this is changing rapidly, presenting a new opportunity for sellers willing to take advantage of it.
These activities, which used to be done primarily in person or on the telephone (analog), are increasingly moving online (digital). And it's not just that they're moving online—in the right situations, they're more effective online. As noted in the Harvard Business Review article "Collaborating Online Is Sometimes Better than Face-to-Face," online collaboration has a number of benefits, including solving time problems, distance problems, and communication problems:
By solving time problems it creates the benefit of 24/7 production cycles; by solving distance problems it enables diverse new teams; and by solving communication problems it lets us work together in ways that tap into a broader set of skills and capabilities.
The author also notes that online collaboration can accommodate a broad variety of communication and work styles. For example, some people like to remain quiet in live meetings, but when they are able to mull things over and express themselves through writing versus speaking, they not only interact with vigor, they provide ideas that move the conversation forward.
It's always been the role of the consultant to draw out the best ideas from everyone involved in tackling a challenge. As a complement to live collaboration, new technologies like Slack, BeeCanvas, Yammer, Postwire, Wimi, GoToMeeting, and RealtimeBoard provide the consultative seller with an expanded set of tools to collaborate online.
In fact, if you look at some of these companies' websites they don't even list selling as an application of their tools. The technology is there. Use it to collaborate online, and you might just find stronger relationships and more committed buyers as a result.