As COVID-19 panic grips us, ripple effects are crashing markets and effectively cancelling economies around the globe. It’s time to reset our marketing and sales, finding new needs, new insights, and new benefits our products can deliver. Here’s how…
In good times, we get lazy, building repetitive patterns for our marketing and sales. Our clients provide features and benefits, we align those with consumer insights, then help our clients put together marketing materials and sales training that will convince their customers to buy.It's time to bring your clients bold ideas. Unsettled times are the enemy of safe, cautious thinking. Click To Tweet
Today, assaulted by the global drumbeat of economic doom, clients aren’t listening to prefab pitches. Most of them are careening between slack-jawed disbelief, existential dread, and mad scrambling for plans B to Z. If we knock at their door preaching how important it is to keep doing what they’ve always done, they’ll punch us in the nose. Rightly so, I might add.
Does that mean you accept your fate, like a disgraced samurai shining up his seppuku sword? No. It means you reset.
The challenger perspective
In their seminal book The Challenger Sale, Dixon and Adamson demonstrate the inadequacies of conventional relationship-based selling (You know / respect / like me, and therefore buy from me) and show how disruptive challenger selling (I educate you on a weakness in your company, show the ramifications of that weakness, and lead you to a solution that solves for that weakness) convinces clients they need to open the door because it’s in their urgent self-interest.
As challengers, we don’t spend our time calling clients to ‘check in’, take them golfing or send birthday cards. These actions build friendships, but they’re no guarantee of a sale. Instead, we double down on doing forensics on their companies. Are they wasting opportunities, dollars and labour because they’re missing key insights? How can we solve for these weaknesses with a solution that involves our product?Building a relationship with your client is nice, but it won't keep them (or you) in business. Challenger thinking is what's needed. Click To Tweet
Challenger thinking isn’t limited to sales. Shifting your perspective from being nice to a client to being an indispensable source of money-making intel to a client are two very different things. In unsettled economic times, clients will pick up the phone if you can quickly demonstrate how to make them money. If you just want to be liked, not so much.
So you’re ready to show your clients their blind spots, and insert your product as part of the inexorable solution. Great. But why settle for great, if you can get to greater?
Key to getting a client truly excited about a solution is to let them co-create it with you. Here’s where Edward de Bono’s classic Lateral Thinking might need a re-read.
Lateral thinking means starting with a problem, and mapping out multiple solutions that could work before pursuing the best option. It makes common sense, but it isn’t common practice. In a status quo world, we usually come up with an option or two, then move forward, certain we’ll be at least relatively right. Truth is, going wide on solutions is hard work. It’s far easier to just pick one and execute it from start to finish. It’s nice, clean, and easy for you.It's easy for us to come up with one or two solutions for a client. But working together with that client to draft multiple solutions is what generates excitement, and contracts. Click To Tweet
But put your client shoes on. If you’ve exposed a weakness in your client’s operation, and highlighted a solution that includes your product, they might buy. But if you can get them in a room and map out multiple ways to design that solution, it might fire up their imagination, and get them riffing on other areas of weakness and other potential solutions that involve your product.
At the very least, they’ll appreciate your creative approach and the thoughtstarters it generated. More likely, they’ll start promoting your product across the board. After all, they had a hand in crafting all those great solutions.
Perspective and bold ideas
Your greatest strength when it comes to challenger and lateral thinking is your outside-the-jar, objective perspective on your client’s business.
Now is the time to trust that perspective, and deliver bold ideas. Anemic, safe thinking is for status-quo markets, big thinking is what’s needed in a global economic meltdown.
How big? Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling, created a wonderful matrix for vetting ideas called the Safe-Bold Framework. I’ve reproduced it here for you. Print it out and keep it nearby, in case you’re tempted to proffer a safer solution to make the deal happen. And remember, safe doesn’t pay when you’re helping your clients generate opportunities in unsettled times. Fortune favours the bold.
Need a hand?
I help companies turn complex propositions into simple, compelling ideas. I use tools like challenger selling and lateral thinking every day to create marketing that is bold, and powerful.
If you want my help putting any of these concepts in place at your company, grab a time in my calendar and let’s talk.
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