This week’s Flip Slide notes are from ValueSelling Associates, a sales training and professional skills development organization. The audio from the webinar as well as the slides are available on their website.
As with the other content we cover on The Flip Side, the message of this sales training session is absolutely applicable to a procurement audience. In fact, if once I’ve shared the list of the ‘5 Keys’ with you, it doesn’t even really look like advice for sales.
Collaborative selling – or for our purposes let’s think of it as buyer/supplier collaboration – requires at least two parties that are working together with a common goal. In order for that goal to be common, it needs to be defined and clearly understood by both parties. The way to reach a mutually desired goal is through improved communication and collaboration through active listening.
It is important to make sure both sides understand each other’s situation and perspective. They need to be able to work together and educate each other as to the root cause and potential solution to the challenges being faced. As simple as it sounds, the answer is a conversation where both parties are listening to each other, and give themselves sufficient time to process the information exchanged.
He who talks most - is happiest?
One of the comments made by the speaker in the webinar was that the person who talks the most in a conversation enjoys it the most. For a sales person, this translates into an opportunity to keep the customer or prospect talking – both so they feel optimistic about the meeting afterwards and so the supplier can collect enough information to help diagnose the situation and recommend the optimal solution from their company’s offerings. The problem with this is that it represents a lost opportunity to procurement to learn from the person sitting across from them. Having a series of solid conversations with knowledgeable suppliers early in the sourcing process may even be so beneficial that you can eliminate the need for an RFI before you can collect pricing.
To keep the flow of information moving back and forth, each party will need to ask the right types of questions at the right time at to the right individual. Open-ended questions, meaning there is no right or wrong answer, force detail in a response to open up the conversation. Give the other person the time to finish what they are saying and then leverage what you have learned as a result of the information sharing. Be prepared with probing questions to help you get the right information. From a sales perspective this means getting to the root issues even when procurement is not objective enough to self-diagnose their situation or needs. From a procurement perspective, it means collecting information about the types of solutions available even when the sales person is only knowledgeable about their own solution, rather than the market to which they belong.
Be sure you are really listening.
When you are actively listening, you should be able to state back what the other party is saying. Don’t have any judgments or biases getting in the way of completely understanding hat they are saying. Be in the moment – and FOCUS. If you are taking notes, make sure it is not prohibiting you from hearing. Don’t interrupt – allow the other person to finish their thought. Pick up on both verbal and on-verbal cues: make eye contact.
Some of the advantages of this collaborative approach go beyond the immediate information sharing. You get an opportunity to establish your credibility, something that you can leverage in a negotiation later.
Finally, here are ‘The 5 Keys to Success’ as defined by ValueSelling Associates:
- Your professionalism: Be a business person - keep your level of professionalism high to raise expectations of the other party as much as possible.
- Cooperative Relationship - Interrogation v. Conversation – fitting the questions into a natural, comfortable, conversation format.
- Collaborating to find the best alternative (for your prospect) - Are you in a position to explore all of the alternatives?
- Asking questions and allowing time for discussion – Don’t interrupt and focus while you are in the meeting.
- Exploring alternatives – are you listening to the message without judgment?