Don’t Go into Your Next Sales Conversation Without the Answers to These Four Questions

Are You Wasting Your Time with Research?
In my last post, I discussed how many sales professionals’ research misses the mark by focusing too strongly on individual characteristics, rather than the business position of their prospective customers. Not only is this a huge waste of time, it also prevents you from gathering the intelligence you need to close the deal.

So how do you focus your research on your prospective customers’ business position? I recommend a tool that I call a Status Quo Profile. This tool helps you focus your research on the company’s “status quo”—where they are now—and will also help you uncover what you need to know to move the decision makers off their status quo and choose you.

Because this Status Quo Profile focuses on the company’s characteristics and not the individual decision makers’, you can create one Status Quo profile to act as your guide when you tailor your messages and conversations to each of the decision makers you need to reach at a particular company.

Your Status Quo Profile will compile answers to the following four questions:

#1: How are your prospects currently addressing the challenges that your product or service can resolve?

Your prospects believe that they are already doing something to solve their problems and meet their business goals. If they didn’t, they’d be beating down your door asking for your solution.

To dislodge your prospects from their status quo, change their perception and help them realize that your solution can resolve existing issues, you need to understand your prospect’s current solution thoroughly.

#2: Why do your prospects believe their current approach is working?

Don’t forget, prospects live in their world, not yours. Before they deployed their current solution, they probably had another previous approach, so it makes sense to assume they believe they’re already doing something “better” than the last approach. They might even believe that they don’t have a problem nor do they have a need to change.

By researching their understanding of the current solution, you’ll open the door to uncovering insights. Ask yourself: What does their current solution NOT do? Why haven’t your prospects addressed it? Can you bring some more importance to these issues to motivate them to make a change?

#3: Since your prospects have implemented their current approach, what challenges, threats, or missed opportunities have come to light?

In other words, given an upcoming change or trend in the market, where will the gaps be in their current solution?

Any factor or situation that your prospect’s current approach is unprepared to handle or that your prospect may not have considered will be strong leverage to encourage them to consider another solution. Additionally, if you’re the one bringing forward these industry insights, you’ll position yourself as the front-runner.

#4: What are the holes in your prospect’s current approach and why do they matter?

No one likes change. This is part of human nature. Be prepared for this to play out in your conversations with prospects. When you first tell prospects that their existing solutions may not meet all of their needs, they will respond by trying to “stretch” their solution to overcome any of the challenges and threats that you’ve brought to their attention.

So How Does This Play Out in the Real World?

Let’s look at an example of a global packaging supply company called Stewart Packaging Company, headquartered in Georgia. They were targeting a large, European cereal company to be their newest customer. Here’s how they used the Status Quo Profile to gather the intelligence they needed to close the deal

#1: How are your prospects currently addressing the challenges that your product or service can resolve?

After working with many packaging companies in the industry, Stewart became aware that the European cereal company was using an older package design that didn’t accommodate newer, higher-speed closing technology. They had helped several other companies redesign their packaging to accommodate this new technology, and they believed the European manufacturer could benefit greatly from the product redesign they could provide.

#2: Why do your prospects believe their current approach is working?

As it stands, the European company was meeting its existing production and quality demands within their cost containment restrictions. Essentially, the cereal company had “normalized” their problem. Because they were reaching their internal goals, the cereal company believed their packaging was functioning perfectly well for them.

#3: Since your prospects have implemented their current approach, what challenges, threats, or missed opportunities have come to light?

Thanks to their industry experience, Stewart was well aware of the higher-speed closing technology and the package design required to accommodate it. In order to reinforce its reputation as an innovator, Stewart pitched the package redesign initiative. They focused their messaging on the fact that the redesigned packaging would deliver significantly greater manufacturing efficiency in the customer’s fill lines. Additionally, the increased efficiency delivered significant cost savings by allowing the cereal company’s production line to move from a seven-day, three-shift production schedule during peak times to a five-day, two-shift operation.

#4: What are the holes in your prospect’s current approach and why do they matter?

In this example, the European cereal manufacturer assumed they were using best-in-class technology and that their approach was as efficient as it could be. However, when Stewart pointed out the issue in the current approach—and the fact that Stewart was well-equipped to deal with it—Stewart added tremendous value to the customer and created a convincing pitch.

Can you see how the answers to these four questions can help you develop a tremendous advantage over your competition?
In addition to reducing the amount of research you have to do on the individual decision makers, the Status Quo Profile’s four questions helps you focus on the information you truly need to win your deals.

Try it the next time you prepare for a customer conversation, and I know you’ll see results.

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