By Abhay Chauhan
What is the secret ingredient while creating a successful solution to any problem? An accurate diagnosis. This is a principle applicable to most fields, and the art of selling is not exempted from this category. In fact, it is the premise of the world-renowned Sandler Selling system.
A prospect may come to you with a problem, unable to gauge where their issue stems from, or what are the pain points that created the problem in the first place. These pain points may not be apparent right away and may require a consultative dialogue to unearth them correctly. The Sandler Selling system propagates a buyer-centric funneled approach, one that moves from the generic know-how of a client’s business to a deep dive of the root cause of their problems. Unlocking this information correctly is the stepping stone to qualifying a lead and crafting a meaningful solution.
Consider this - you have prepared a pitch for a client after reading up on their history, analysing their current performance, and undertaking thorough competitor analysis. You are confident that you can pitch your proposition to them because you think you understand what they need. But what you have arrived at is your interpretation of their needs.
A corollary to this would be a client that has approached you. Numbers are down, performance levels are low, and they are losing their market share. Can you simply fix their problems by fitting your latest products/services into their service delivery landscape? They may be attempting to address their symptoms, but the solution will work best if it uncovers and addresses the actual pain points. This gap constitutes the difference between selling and providing a solution.
The Sandler Selling system helps ensure effective selling by focusing on qualifying a lead instead of simply making a sales pitch. The system transcends the traditional buyer-seller dance and gives way to a more educated and open conversation, thereby winning the trust of the buyer. It is also ideal for sellers as it assists in qualifying leads early on and allows sellers to move on to the next prospect if the buyer isn’t aligned.
The system is driven by one mantra – creating a solution through mutual conversation and a funneled approach. Salespersons need to evolve into consultants and approach their clients with the intent to detect their pain points. The technique demands a patient and interactive approach, and entails a line of strategic open-ended questioning that increasingly becomes process-specific. This process is best suited for longer sales cycles that are led by senior decision-makers who are subject matter experts and can diagnose issues correctly.
The methodology is divided into seven stages, under the umbrella of its three overall phases -building a relationship, qualifying a lead, and closing the sale.
1. Bonding & Rapport: The relationship between the buyer and the seller anchors Sandler's selling strategy. The prerequisite to honest and open communication regarding the intricacies of any business is trust between the parties involved. Hence this stage is the start of the phase ‘building a relationship’.
2. Upfront contract: This stage requires both parties to set expectations – what each of them is looking to achieve through this exercise. Essentially, all cards are laid on the table before the deep dive. This stage brings the first phase to a close.
3. Pain: When the roles are established, we move into the second stage of the methodology. The emphasis of this model is not on closing the sale, but to qualify a lead, and this is where this mode is activated. The sales team is tasked with the job to ask the right questions here to get to the core of the issue, instead of merely scratching the surface. It is through this systematic and pointed dialogue that both parties can uncover the actual pain points and discuss applicable solutions.
4. Budget: After understanding the requirements, this is the critical phase where sales teams can take a call on whether the solution suits the budget of the client. It is good to get this covered and out of the way initially as they can qualify the lead or drop the consultation accordingly. For firms offering custom solutions, there is a chance to customize their offerings to fit the bill.
5. Decision-making: The last stage of the qualifying process, this is where both teams determine whether to proceed with the deal or not, and all the intricate details are worked out.
6. Fulfillment: This stage is the start of the ‘sales closing’ phase. The priority is to check whether every requirement has been met from both ends and whether the final contract is beneficial to all parties involved, before getting it approved.
7. Post recall: The final stage involves providing maximum support to the implementation of the solution and an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell other relevant products/services to the client.
Eliminating unnecessary negotiations and demands, the Sandler system of selling helps sellers qualify quality leads while taking control of the discovery process. While this may seem obvious, very often we sales professionals miss out on this structure and rigor that can help close a sale without selling.
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