For our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we studied over 700 major purchases from buyers who represented $3.1 billion dollars in annual purchasing power.
One question we wanted to answer was, “Is it the company and offerings that make the biggest difference in the buyer’s purchase decision, or is it the seller and how they sell?”
Guess what: it’s the seller and how they sell that most separates sales winners from the rest.
The following list reveals what buyers say are the top 10 areas where sellers who win outperform those who come in second place.
1. Educated me with new ideas or perspectives
The sellers who win bring ideas to the buyer’s attention that they perceive as new. They give buyers ideas that can change their thinking. Also, note that the winners don’t just do this a little bit more than the second-place finishers—they do it almost three times as often.
This process, known as insight selling, is an evolution of consultative selling practices that have been a mainstay of sales for decades. Insight selling takes consultative selling a step further. Rather than just diagnosing buyer needs and pushing solutions, insight sellers go beyond stated needs and learn what buyers would find valuable. They then work with buyers to craft a solution that fits their needs.
2. Collaborated with me
Buyers want to be part of the solution. Think about working with your buyer not just to “sell” to them, but to help them achieve a goal with your help. This is the essence of collaboration: working together to achieve mutual goals.
For collaboration to work in sales, sellers must lead strong conversations with buyers. When sellers move away from the traditional sales pitch and toward discussions on what buyers want to achieve, they inspire buyers with possibilities they might not have considered before and stand out from the competition.
3. Persuaded me we would achieve results
There are two parts to this one. First, you have to give the buyer an idea of what the end result will be. Second, you have to persuade them that these results are achievable and not just a pipe dream.
This is all part of creating a New Reality for buyers. In this way, sellers become storytellers by establishing stakes, presenting new opportunities, and creating a compelling case for success. When you're building a solution for your buyer, consider what you want them to learn, feel, and do. Think about how to present an opportunity that tells the usual ROI story while also showing what real results will look like for them.
4. Listened to me
It’s an old piece of advice, yes, but it’s still true. The sellers who win sales listen more often than the sellers who don’t. However, just listening isn't enough. Sellers need to know when to ask incisive questions and listen to buyer responses and when to share new ideas and solutions. We call this balancing advocacy and inquiry.
5. Understood my needs
Interestingly, we found that sellers don’t need to diagnose needs as much as they have in the past. However, sellers still need to demonstrate that they “get” what the buyer wants to do, where they’re going, and what they want to achieve.
Think about this as a shift away from diagnosis and toward understanding. Sellers can diagnose buyer needs without understanding what needs to happen to meet those needs. Furthermore, buyers are more informed than ever, and a surface-level knowledge of needs is not enough to win a sale anymore. Instead, sellers must ask strong questions that deepen their understanding of how they can help the buyer.
6. Helped me avoid potential pitfalls
Be honest with buyers about what can go wrong after they buy. Do this, and it not only builds trust, but also sets an expectation of what life will be like after they purchase. Some sellers avoid discussing risks out of a fear that it'll alienate sellers. However, good sellers not only bring up risks, but demonstrate how they can mitigate them for the buyer.
Set the right expectations and not only will you win more sales, you’ll also build trust and maximize repeat sales.
7. Crafted a compelling solution
Another old, but still important, piece of advice. Make sure your buyer sees how what you’re selling will help them achieve their desired outcomes. The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled, “The End of Solution Sales.” Based on our research (see point #5 and this one) and experience, dismissing the concept of solutions in selling is not a good idea.
8. Depicted purchase process accurately
Like “helped me avoid potential pitfalls,” this one leads to trust. Set and meet expectations, don’t sugar coat anything, and don’t hold anything back, and the buyers will trust you and appreciate your advice and knowledge.
9. Connected with me personally
Another trend in selling is to diminish the importance of relationships. Do so at your own risk. I’m not suggesting that connecting with a buyer personally represents the totality of a strong business relationship—there’s a lot more to it—but making a connection with buyers person-to-person helps.
10. Overall value from the company is superior to other options
There are two important parts to accomplishing this. First, you have to be able to maximize the buyer’s perception of value of whatever you’re selling. Second, you have to be able to position it favorably against your competitors, and potentially against the buyer deciding to do whatever it is you’re selling on their own.
These 10 points aren’t everything you need to do to win sales (download What Sales Winners Do Differently for the rest of the story), but take them to heart and you’ll be well positioned to win more than your fair share of business.