In this final post we review the C in the new A,B,C of selling – Clarity. Clarity in Daniel Pink’s words “is the capacity to help others see their situation in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had.” He summarizes his thoughts into Problem Finders, Framing and Off Ranp Thinking. Let’s take each in turn with my recommended execution tip to achieve sales success.

Problem Finders
In Daniel’s view the true value of a sales professional is the ability to clarify when the prospect is confused, unclear or even clueless about the true problem she has. Problem finding becomes a more valued skill than problem solving. The two skills needed to become a great problem finder? – Curating information not just analyzing it and the skill of asking the right questions.
Execution Tip: At TPP we are big fans of the diagnostic approach. You are defined by the quality of the questions you ask. We use this technique all the time throughout our sales process. Questioning leads to clarification. But the secret is to remember to listen to the answer and really tee off that answer into the consequences of staying in a bad place. When we question we want to understand some key facts about our prospects: the key players in the decision making process, the priorities of the key managers especially the key contact in the prospect. Questions need to be broken into three types, commercial, process and technical.

Daniel offers six types of framing that make a difference. The comparison framing forces the sales professional to articulate the proposition relative to something. The prospect needs a comparison to better understand eg we are a more technical version of Google, or we are a better value version of Oracle or we are like Hertz but you can rent our cars by the hour! A prospect’s understanding of your product is always helped by comparisons. The less frame based on the research says that people buy more often when you simplfy the choices. Not sure the US supermarkets have read this research. The experience frame says that people remember an event like a three week trip that they experienced much more readily than the shiny new car. The label experience says the research influences people behavior. You tell a group of people they are smart and they believe you. The blemish frame says that inserting a negative point into your story makes it more believable, more authentic. And finally the potential frame says that whilst history and track record are important it’s the potential that people buy.
Execution Tips: We believe that comparison is essential. Take pricing. The prospect says, “sounds expensive”. Relative to what we say? The real issue is the ROI % not the absolute price. Our less is more theory is that complexity often confuses the prospect. As a sales professional your job is to simplfy the issues that are both priorities and solvable. Solutions need to be right on the money, myopically focused on the right problem of the prospect. For experience we talk about “usage”. So many companies talk about features and benefits. It’s about how the customer will USE your product or service that matters. We call our third phase of the sales process, design, because it’s a label that describes what is happening. The sales professional based on knowledge garnered from the questions she has asked is able to design, configure the best solution. Our blemish technique is to ensure that in a sales process it’s important to point out potential bumps in the road. Embrace potential problems with prospects if you feel they may arise and work out a way round them. Otherwise if they do occur after the sale it comes as a surprise and it becomes a crisis of confidence, jeapordizing any future sale. Finally our version of the potential frame is to spell out the practical solution to the prospect in sufficient detail that the prospect finds their dream believeable. All prospects have a future view of how the product will work for them. The sales professional’s job is to understand that future and spell out how it will be achieved.

Finally Daniel explains using the latest research why giving people a road map is essential. Spelling out clearly how to proceed brings people closer to your cause and makes it easier for them to take action.
Execution Tip: Every single step of our sales process demands clear next steps. Now more than ever you need to spell out what is going to happen and when. It could be a demo, an explanation meeting, a review of the costs and the ROI, it could be a design sign off meeting. Sales should be about working with your prospects to project manage solutions.

I hope you’ve found this brief series on the new rules of sales helpful. You’ll find Daniel Pink’s book an enjoyable read and I’ve listed below some relevant posts on our sales process which matches the research findings in the book. It’s a process we deploy in our portfolio clients.

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