What salespeople really need is not more processes but more data, that is, more information concerning their customers’ needs and how they can meet those needs better than the customers’ alternatives. When salespeople have this additional data, they will be able to recognize that deals are not that different from each other. While it is true that customers all have different needs, and that both the solutions a supplier provides and its alternatives have wide ranges, when needs, solutions, and alternatives are viewed from a high enough level, it becomes obvious that the issues that must be dealt with fall into very specific areas, or follow patterns. And while these areas may change with different customer verticals or solution types, they continue to be similar. These areas include:
- The customers’ strategic and operational needs
- The types of products, services, and competencies a supplier can bring to bear to help customers achieve their desired outcomes
- The products, services, and competencies that differentiate the supplier from its alternatives
- The items most commonly receiving the most negotiation pressure, such as price, service, terms, conditions, etc.
While differences do occur, we found that tracking these aspects of any deal enables sellers to see that 80% of the time they follow certain patterns. And since these patterns can be anticipated they can be leveraged, creating greater organizational learning, faster new rep ramp ups, more customer value, and higher returns for the organization. This is the key to shifting from simply selling to helping customers make better decisions and creating more value for both sides in any sale. In fact, it is recognizing and understanding these patterns, and making sure a company’s salespeople know how to leverage them, that allows organizations to create more business value and be compensated for that value in both better prices and more equitable risk sharing.