My first sales training included role playing with this phrase as a focus. Effectiveness in getting customers to recognize that your solution is something they need to care about, is still a primary challenge for sales people and sales leaders in the tech industry.
Our companies invent or innovate with new technologies, products, and services and we believe that these exciting innovations hold significant revenue potential. Executive management teams are confident that customers will want this new technology and buy it. They conclude that with a handful of good sales people this new technology will be adopted by many customers and be a big success.
When sales goes out they find out that in the real world, buyers often doesn’t act in alignment with these beliefs. When introduced to a new technology, buyers often act like they “don’t care.” The challenge becomes finding the triggers or identifying the needs of the customer so they care enough about what you are offering, to buy it.
In my early sales training, we were instructed that when we meet with customers to imagine that they had the words “Who Cares!?” written on their forehead. This was meant to be a constant reminder when meeting with prospects, to stay focused on providing the buyer with a solution that they care about. The successful sales person would be the one who could explain their product or offering to that buyer, in terms that connect with their needs. This sales skill engages the buyer and motivates them to act (buy). In other words, “who cares!?” was a representation of the “solution selling” process.
It is still the case today that providing a solution to the needs of a customer is a key selling skill. However, today’s buyers don’t feel compelled to meet with sellers. A buyer who does want to meet with a sales person, may not want to do so face to face. He is unlikely to tell you what he thinks except when he is ready to buy, thereby limiting the effective use of this sales skill. In addition, each purchase often involves multiple decision makers within the customer each of them having different “Who Cares!? perspectives written on their “virtual” foreheads. How can sales people be effective selling new innovations given this limited access to buyer’s inputs?
More importantly, how can sales leaders ensure that their sales teams are effective in selling technology to today’s buyer? It easy to conclude that “solution selling” doesn’t work anymore. What then, is the preferred alternative sales methodology?
The answer lies in adapting sales processes to the buying processes of your customers. It requires parallel but mutually supportive customer engagement practices being employed with them. CRM systems and other tools need to be utilized to get better visibility on what customers care about, what they act upon, and for identifying when they will buy. Sales practices supported by data from websites and other customer interactions coupled with practices that allow sales people to act decisively when a customer reveals what they care about, must be implemented.
Astute and knowledgeable salespeople working with informed buyers are finding ways to drive revenue growth. The best have also learned that they serve as the “voice of the customer” to drive adaptations by their own company so it can more effectively (and efficiently) provide more customers with what they care about.
The role of the sales leader is to facilitate the integration of company innovation and knowledge of customer needs into decisive revenue generating action by sales teams. The evolution of their role, requires that he/she take primary responsibility for aligning company resources around discovering and providing the real solution which customers buy.
“Who Cares!?” It must be everyone in the company who wants revenue growth and successful engagement with today’s buyer! Sales leaders need to serve as Chief Revenue Leaders (CRL) within their company, to drive internal as well as external practices that accelerate adoption and use of technology solutions by customers.
In addition to identifying and utilizing better sales methodologies and practices, an expanded view and acknowledgment of the key role of sales leaders in shaping as well as implementing customer engagement strategies, must be a business adaptation that tech companies make. Sales leaders must be proactive in assuming this role.