Too often, our enthusiasm to simply close the sale clouds our perspective. Not only are we leaving money on the proverbial table, but we are leaving something far more important on it. Opportunity! When we sell collaboratively, we roll up our sleeves and get a little dirt under our fingernails. We ask both finite and the broad, sweeping questions. We probe. We reflect. We engage. In the end, we, as sales professionals, position ourselves as the non-expendable resource that our clients are craving. We become the catalyst of opportunity making.
Don’t assume that collaborative selling is merely the evolution of consultative selling. You would be mistaken. In a consultative selling relationship, sales professionals offer value, steer dialogue and uncover issues that could impede progress. In collaborative selling, sales professionals are highly involved in the inner workings of their clients’ businesses. Collaborative selling demands that we work lock-step with a variety of people within the companies where we collaborate. Selling collaboratively is not for the faint 0f heart. It’s not for the sales professionals who are happy to close the deal. Collaborative selling is for “sales rock stars”. If you don’t know whether you are a sales rock star or not, you probably aren’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be one . . . eventually.
If you’re interested in selling collaboratively, then take note. Here are three ways to jump-start the journey.
1- Understand your clients’ industries. It’s not enough to understand the clients of your clients. Selling collaboratively means digging deep into the industries of your clients and discovering the nuances and trends that can impact how your clients might need to do business in the future.
2- Insert yourself into the infrastructure. Certainly not an easy feat, but one with amazing payoff potential. By inserting yourself into the infrastructure, you’ll have a voice (maybe not a vote, but a voice). You will achieve the greatest of all sales rock star levels, the level of “influence”. When clients trust you and value your contribution to their company, you gain influence, which is invaluable in the collaborative selling relationship.
3- Build something together. That’s right! Offer up your most prized possession . . . your intellect. Help your clients expand their product lines, add to their suite of services or create something new altogether. Do it freely without regard to recognition or compensation. Do it because you can afford to be liberal with your ideals. Why this level of generosity? Because there is nothing more telling about whose interests you are looking out for (yours or theirs) than helping your clients achieve greater profits.
In my Breakthrough Advantage™ system for business owners, I share three “magical” questions that are essential in paving the road for selling collaboratively. Here’s one of the three questions: “What’s working, but could be better?” You might not believe this question has magic when you say it to yourself, but when you say it to a client, it opens a gate that no other question can.
In collaborative selling, asking a potent question like this means two things: 1- Clients trust you enough to fully (not half-heartedly) answer you and 2- You are sharp enough to listen for the opportunities cleverly disguised as problems. For in those moments of asking and answering and listening and speaking, sales rock stars know that the seeds of collaborative selling are hiding and the chance to be the catalyst of opportunity-making grows.
The decision is yours. You can choose to simply sell and do alright by your clients, or you can sell collaboratively and make a difference in a way you never thought possible.