Work Side by Side: Selling to a Business World in Flux
Listen to everybody, connect with them, and hear what they need.
There’s a wealth of resources on the best ways to run conversations “across the table”: salesperson to client. How can you dazzle your prospective and current buyers? Close down the trickiest objections, offer the strongest evidence, gain a one-on-one with the most influential contacts?
We think the strongest salespeople are also masters of a different kind of conversation—the one we hear when groups of people collaborate. Thinking, speaking, and writing “on the same side of the table” is a skill no one can afford to ignore. With training in client-centered language, active listening, and presence, it’s not hard to get there.
The business environment has changed quickly and significantly in the past 10 years.
Companies are cutting budgets, hoping to become both strong and lean. One full-time person’s duties may span several departments, and contractors flicker in and out of the picture. New technologies, new mergers, and new competitors mean that more people than ever have multiple jobs to do.
While it’s hard to find time and money for intra-organization development, bosses are expecting individuals to achieve more. Many of us are overwhelmingly busy, zipping from task to task and even job to job.
Purchasing decisions have changed in ways that are difficult for sales people to cater to.
Business-to-business salespeople can’t always form stable relationships with single clients. In our own industry, training and development, it’s now less common for a buyer’s job title to neatly reflect a connection with the “training department.”
Instead, salespeople work with multi-departmental committees. The buyer, once a long-term personal contact, becomes an entire team with members always in flux.
Even harder, in some ways, is the committee-rep-as-buyer. You may find you need to impress listeners “behind the scenes” while writing only to your one contact. This single person is the one with the time to field your calls and texts—but must speak for her group’s interests in your conversation.
Selling to one person is complex enough. It often takes several rounds of discussion to figure out the prospect’s real wants and needs. When you’re selling to a group, especially one that’s cross-functional, fine-tuned interpersonal skills are vital. Lots of stakeholders mean lots of priorities—and Operations may want a result that Marketing hasn’t pictured.
If you’re change-averse, you’ll be left behind. What skills should you learn to succeed?
To help members of dynamic teams unite to support you, you need to show that your value is universal. Don’t rely on showing off yourself and what you offer—it’s no longer enough to list a well-known name or a set of great features. You’ll succeed if you can function as a consultant or trusted advisor.
Is this more difficult? Of course! It takes genuine attention and thoughtful communication. It takes deep critical thinking and the confidence to make yourself vulnerable.
But when your presence shines and you know how to listen, you’ll be able to weave what you sell right into the fabric of clients’ success. It’s a service far better than constantly patching their holes, but never fixing the problem’s source.
You must help the whole group of prospects/clients figure out
- what their problem really is
- how you can help them solve it
- how implementing a solution will improve their lives
- how not solving the problem might worsen their lives.
That’s a lot broader, and a lot more desirable, than merely filling a gap.
Why do the skills we’ll train you in work so well?
They teach you to listen to everybody, connect with them, and hear what they need. That way, you’ll be able to present a truly appropriate solution—and do it in a way that minimizes objections. Improved communication doesn’t just lead to better insight about the problem. It also helps you sell better and more by knowing just how to frame that insight to your customer.