How to Connect with Your Customers’ Career Goals with Mark S.A. Smith
The Sales Conversation
I met Mark S.A. Smith on LinkedIn. He’s an avid writer with 14 books under his belt, and has years of experience working with executives. He’s a master at selling complex things as fast as they possibly can be sold. In this episode, Mark talks to us about an unusual topic – how to connect with your customers’ career goals. Why do we want to do this? Well as Mark breaks this down for us, the bottom line is it’s the fastest path to selling success and having customers make what Mark likes to call high consideration decisions to purchase your solution.
A Misleading Question – How Can You Beat the Competition
Mark mentioned he often has people ask him, “How can I beat my competition?” And that’s the wrong question. The real question is, “how can I help my customer beat their competition?” When you help them do this there isn’t competition. The focus is how can you make my customer look so good that it’s impossible for them to buy from anybody else who’s focused on their product versus on the success of their customer.
It’s About Your Buyers’ Careers
In getting a customer to say “yes,” they will also being saying “yes” to how the decision to work with you and go with your solution will affect their career. In the world of corporations, there’s only one way you can make serious money. And that is through getting a promotion. And the only way you get promotion is by illustrating consistently that you have good judgment. That means that if you make a few bad decisions that have an impact on the business, you become toxic. You cannot be promoted. So, to net this out, your customer must consistently show good judgement to ascend up the path towards the executive ranks of their firm. So as you are selling to them, just know they are asking themselves “is this going to be good for my career? Or is this going to damage my career?” This is the subtext of every decision-making criterion that everybody makes in the world of corporations. And if you’ve ever lost a deal, even when you had the best overall solution, the buyer probably didn’t see you and your solution as in the best interests of their career. This is most often what you don’t hear. Instead, you might hear your price is too high, or the executive committee went a different way. And they’ll use a word that when you hear it you’ll go, “oh, that’s what that means.” They’ll say it was a political decision. That’s the indication that you didn’t support their career. They chose a lesser product because it was better for their career, it was less risky for them. And in the world of technology, the number one vendor in the industry is rarely the best technology but the best at supporting the career of their customers.
Does the Best Product Win? No, but if it Impacts Your Buyers’ Careers…
You probably remember the old campaign and commercials for IBM with the theme, “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.” In the case of Microsoft, it wasn’t the best operating system, but it was often the most politically correct operating system. With EMC in the world of storage, it wasn’t the best storage technology. But politically, it was the best storage company. And with IBM, rarely did IBM have leading edge technology but they did lots and lots of research. They were not always the fastest, but politically they were the correct solution. And so if you just kind of open your eyes to this concept of people are making decisions based on what’s best for their career, you’ll realize that you’re surrounded by examples of why that’s the case. It’s not the product, but the product’s capacity to improve their career position.
Focus on the Outcome, and Connection to Career Progression
So, to shift things up, you need to stop talking about the product, and start talking about the outcome that this person has been tasked by their scorekeeper to deliver. Think about their objective, and their objective is set by their scorekeeper. The scorekeeper can be a boss. It could be a spouse. It could be a parent. But there’s somebody keeping score. And that’s who we also have to satisfy … that scorekeeper. Next, what’s going to allow them to win in their job? What will allow them to feel comfortable, confident and certain. Also ask what creates value for them and what might be different in their criteria that’s different from their scorekeeper’s. Then align your value, once you understand their objectives, priorities and criteria, and then have a conversation about what you are offering that maps to their motivational set, as illustrated by these elements.
Resources and Links for this Episode
- Connect with Mark S A Smith on LinkedIn
- Mark’s Book “From MSP to BSP” on Amazon
- Or Download MSP to BSP as a Free PDF at this site
- Mark’s Weekly Executive Communication at Marksezine.com
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