Sales is hard enough as it is. Don’t make it worse for yourself by pushing products from the beginning. In a B2B context, there’s a better way of doing it.
Selling products may be the end goal, but if you emphasize products from the beginning you’ll have trouble keeping your client’s attention. Take time to understand your client’s unique situation so you can present them with a solution that fits their needs perfectly.
This is a win-win situation. You won’t be shooting in the dark and they won’t be wasting time with cut-and-paste products that don’t quite do what they need them to.
So, how do you do it? How do you walk into a sales meeting and NOT talk about your products?
Making a First Impression
This method of sales revolves around building a good relationship with your clients. You need to start off on the right foot by working to establish their trust from day one. First impressions are a huge part of it.
Studies have shown the importance of making a good first impression. While you can work to change people’s impression of you over time, the first impression they get will often define your relationship for a long time.
Starting things off with a heavy focus on things that have a direct benefit for you won’t always give a good impression. It may end up being negative or simply neutral and uninspiring. You’d rather leave your clients with the impression that you’re focused on providing value to them. This is a positive way to kick off a relationship and it gets you in the door faster next time.
4 Steps to Pitching without Products
If you’re going to focus on customer value in a meeting, while not talking about your own products, you should make sure you check all the boxes. Having a nice chat with your client is friendly, but not helpful unless you’re learning what you need to know while you’re there.
Ask targeted questions to root out the information you need. These are all questions related to a future partnership between you and the client. When you meet them first, let them do most of the talking. Instead of looking for every opportunity to sell yourself and your company, ask to find out what they really need and how you might be able to help them.
Follow these steps:
1) Find their pain points
Pain points are the areas where they’re struggling. Every company has weaknesses. You’re not looking for areas to exploit, but opportunities to help them solve a problem. To carry on with any sort of win-win relationship, you have to ease a pain point for them.
When you know a client’s pain points, you can base a later product recommendation off of that. If it doesn’t address the pain point or help them in some other way, it’s irrelevant to them.
2) Uncover their goals
Ask your clients about where they are now and where they want to be. Separate that into short-term and long-term goals. Where do they want to be in 3 months? 6 months? 12 months?
Understanding goals is an important part of relational selling. People don’t just buy things because they like the price, quality, or features. They make purchases that feel like the right choice for their existing needs. Sales happen when a client feels like what you’re offering will get them to their goals.
Your job in this initial meeting is to make sure you thoroughly understand where your clients want to be so you can match a product to that need later on. Once you know their pain points, you can combine that with what you learn about their goals to get a good overview of the issue.
3) Learn their history
If your client has been in business for a few years, they’ve likely worked with others before you. Learn about what they’ve tried before and how it worked for them. Ask about other solutions they’ve done before, their track record with those solutions, and why it worked out as it did.
The goal of this line of questions is to make sure you’re not repeating the mistakes of previous sellers. You don’t want to come to your client offering the same things that they already know don’t work. It’s better to understand how their previous attempts to solve a problem or meet a goal ended up and to get their perspective on why.
4) Ask to follow-up
At this point, your information gathering is complete. Now, you need to work on getting a follow-up meeting. You’re looking for buy-in from them. Practically, this looks like an agreement for another meeting where you can discuss a specific set of options.
This follow-up meeting is where you’ll be pitching your product as a solution to a problem they’re facing and as a way to accomplish their goals. Don’t pitch your product at that initial meeting. Ask for a little time to go over their situation and come up with a recommendation based on what you’ve learned.
Emphasize that you want your solutions to be tailored to fit their needs. You want them to leave the initial meeting looking forward to hearing how you plan to help them achieve their goals.
Why This Works
A client-centric view helps you address their actual needs more often. This is very appealing to your clients. They’re not concerned with making sure you’re doing well as a business. They’re more likely to be persuaded if you can demonstrate that you’re in the business of providing as much value to them as possible.
Play the long game. Build a relationship that’s based on mutual understanding first. If you focus on pitching your product initially, you’ll miss the opportunity to learn what they care about most.
Addressing customer pain points and goals directly is the easiest easier way to sell to them. It’s difficult to sell something when you’re not fully aware of the problems a client faces, what they hope to accomplish, or what they’ve already tried before.
Start with a focus on them. When it’s time to follow-up, recommend products that would actually address their needs. You’re more likely to find a good product match if you give yourself some time. You’ll also have a better idea of what your client is looking for and why they should care about your products.
Client value can be tricky to balance. Reserving the first meeting for information gathering helps you kick the relationship off right and solidifies you as a value-focused, intentional partner.