Lean Communication - Sales

Lean Communication for Sales: Talk Less, Sell More?

Asset or annoyance?

I’ve written almost 40 articles about lean communication, and hundreds of articles about sales, but this is the first time I’ve written about lean communication as it applies to sales. Is it possible that talking less can help you sell more?

To better answer that question, let’s first look at what buyers need, and then consider how well salespeople are meeting that need.

The principal purpose of a buying process is to produce an effective decision at the lowest possible cost, and that requires a lot of information, some of which is readily available on online and some which can only come from talking to a sales rep. But buyers would prefer not to talk to salespeople if they can help it. By now it’s a well-known fact that buyers are up to 60% of the way through their decision process before they contact a salesperson, according to the CEB.

Why do buyers avoid talking to salespeople as long as they can? According to The Challenger Sale, “…the celebrated ‘solution sales rep’ can be more of an annoyance than an asset.” In lean terms, that statement simply says that salespeople are seen as providing more waste than value.

The bigger and more complex the decision, the more information needed, and the more opportunity for waste in the process of acquiring it. At every step in the buying process, there is a tremendous amount of waste, including:

  • Unclear understanding of their own needs
  • Time and effort to uncover the information they need for a decision
  • Differing internal perceptions of needs and priorities
  • Effort to clarify ambiguity—much of it deliberate
  • Incorrect information
  • Delays in obtaining answers to their questions
  • Information that is not tailored to their unique situation
  • Sitting through 43-slide presentations to get the answer to one or two crucial questions
  • Risk of making the wrong decision

And it’s not just buyers. Deep in their hearts, even though they would never say it, CEOs wish they could get rid of their sales forces. They cost a lot of money and they can be difficult to manage. Yet salespeople are not going away, despite all the predictions that the easy availability of information on the internet would make the sales profession wither away. That’s because they still serve a critical function: they provide information to help buyers make decisions—decisions that improve the buyers’ business and personal outcomes.

Salespeople are still needed because they add value, by communicating useful information that improves business and personal outcomes, while preserving the relationship. The first is essential, the second highly desirable. In the long run, it’s the product that delivers value to the customer, but it can’t do that until it’s chosen and implemented. And for that, it needs a salesperson.

But salespeople still have to do better. If they want to keep adding value in the final 40%, or—even better—get brought in sooner, lean communication can be a powerful asset. Look at it this way, if you are a buyer who has to undertake the time, effort and risk to make an important decision, how would you respond to a salesperson who:

  • Has a sincere desire to create value
  • Thinks and communicates from your side of the desk
  • Is prepared to answer your most pressing questions, and does so candidly and completely
  • Is transparent about their intentions
  • Gives you only what you need when you need it to make the best decision
  • Keeps things simple
  • Does not waste your time
  • Listens and actually responds to your concerns
  • Lowers your cost and risk of making the best decision

I truly believe that lean communication and sales are a perfect match, and in the next five blog posts, I will show how each of the five principles of Lean Communication can significantly boost your results and your relationships: Value, Organization, Waste, Making Work Visible, and Pull.

Who knows, maybe you will be seen as more of an asset than an annoyance!

Other posts in this series:

Lean Communication for Sales: Value

Lean Communication for Sales: Top-Down Communication

 

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The Accidental Salesperson
October 5, 2015
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