When I started in sales 15 years ago, “prospecting” primarily consisted of walking into a business and speaking to the owner face to face.  This approach really helped me quickly understand their point of view (POV), and better connect my product to solving their problems.

Today’s sales environment is very different for most of us.  Business development reps (SDR/BDR) generally conduct all of their interactions via email or phone, never giving them the chance to “look their prospect in the eye.” For account executives and other reps in the field, their face-to-face meetings often come later in the sales process.  These common scenarios can make it extremely challenging to truly understand our prospects before it’s too late.

Having trained hundreds of sales reps and observed the top performers, here are three steps that have emerged for gaining a better understanding of our prospects’ POV, earlier in the game:
  1. Identify your “Ideal Buyer Profile” – For most products, there is generally a defined set of criteria that indicates the ideal buyer.  This includes type of company, conditions in that company, and challenges they face (ideally ones that our product can address better than anyone else), AND most importantly for understanding POV – the typical role/title that will make the decision for a product like yours.
  2. Research that role – Once you have identify the “Ideal Buyer Profile,” it’s time to understand more about the world they live in.  Check LinkedIn for groups that role may be part of, and look for association websites that cater to those titles.  This will give us the background and credibility to effectively execute the critical next step.
  3. Interview an Ideal Buyer – Next, schedule time with someone that fits our ideal buyer profile.  Let’s start by leveraging our network, finding someone we know personally (or can get an introduction to) that fits this profile.  When setting up the interview, make sure the purpose is clear to this person:
  • This is not a sales pitch.  We’re not trying to qualify them as an customer.  
  • This is simply a conversation to better understand their role, their day-to-day, and the challenges they face.  
  • We can also explore what they like and don’t like about vendors, and how they are approached.  Find out why they say YES and why they say NO.
  • Keep it exploratory, be curious, and remember, DON’T SELL!  The information they give you will scale to all of your sales conversations, and be worth much more than a single sale you may or may not get.  

Following the three steps above gives us a much clearer picture of our prospect’s POV, and enables us to approach our entire sales process in way that brings a great deal of value to our ideal buyers.

Good luck and happy selling!

Download Dale Carnegie’s latest white paper on “Recognizing Leadership Blind Spots.”

Posted by Graham Bowman

Graham Bowman has over 13 years experience selling B2C & B2B solutions and in parallel 15+ years training salespeople. He is a certified Dale Carnegie trainer and coach with extensive experience in classroom and on line delivery.

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