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What’s Your Type?

Oct 28, 2020

Modern day selling is anything but simple. Today’s sales arena has more levels of complexity than probably ever before. Indeed, if we look at the military VUCA model, we could argue that all of the elements of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are at play in any given marketplace to some degree or another. (Sales teams can actually use this model as a way to structure their thinking in planning sessions to great effect)

 We need to try to simplify how we consider approaches to sales that use a collaborative ethos. For this I will use a model based on ‘value’ and ‘complexity’ that will help you as a reader work out which type of sale you are closest to and so how you can use appropriate tools and techniques to tailor your approach.

Value and Complexity

Just as a successful salesperson looks at things from different perspectives so the value axis takes into consideration value both to the salesperson and to the customer.

Value to the salesperson is perhaps easier to define as this is most likely relate to the size of the deal, the revenue or lifetime worth of the customer. It is probably thought of in monetary terms.

Value to the customer is harder to define, in fact much of this book addresses just that; as this is a key challenge for salespeople. For the purpose of this model let’s think of this broadly as the benefit they enjoy as a result of working together. It might be that a direct link can be made to increased revenues though it may be that it is wiser to focus on ‘business outcomes’.

An outcome is basically the result, or the consequence, of something and with our sales hat on we can say that it is doing something related to our product, service or solution. The business bit is the impact it has on the customer. These impacts can be wide and varied depending on industry and could include increased retention rates, improved acquisition rates, increased revenue, reduced costs, process improvements or efficiencies, culture change, increased profitability, increased word of mouth, increased conversion, and more upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Shades of grey

Look up shades of grey and a whole host of different ones are listed including such exotically named versions as Silver, Spanish, Davy’s, Jet, Xanadu, Battleship, Marengo and Rocket. They vary depending on their make-up (achromatic in which the red, green, and blue colours are exactly equal and chromatic in which they are not, but are close to each other, which is what makes it a shade of grey)

It is like this in sales. We are essentially talking about the same thing – selling – but the make-up of the sales approach can be slightly different. The types identified are to help work out where on the scale your sales sit with the titles meant as indicators just as with Achromatic, Off, Cool and Warm in the grey colour spectrum.

The types we will consider are Classic, Consultative, Value-Based and Enterprise selling…

Classic Selling

Needs a response

In this section we are not talking about ‘transactional’ selling, where no human interaction is required, though surprisingly some organisations still use that valuable and expensive resource to make the deal. Here we are talking about the type of sales where people interact, so that the salesperson can understand the customer’s need and then provide a response to this.

Consultative Selling

Addressing the problem

Consultative selling is a method in which the salesperson spends time with the customer to understand the problem the customer is trying to solve and then recommends a solution that will specifically address that problem. It is different from a traditional sale in that It involves suggesting a solution to a problem, rather than a focus on selling a specific product.

Value-Based Selling

It’s a mystery

What is value? The answer is key to understanding Value-Based Selling, so it makes sense to first define what value means. The Oxford English Dictionary helps with this by stating it is ‘The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something’

However, I like the response that value selling expert Mike Wilkinson often gives, which is ‘It’s a mystery’. I like it as though initially it appears to be rather unhelpful; it is actually a perfect starting point for a salesperson to approach Value-Based Selling (VBS). The mystery is in the fact that though we might have a nice tidy dictionary definition and even an idea as a salesperson what our customers will probably value in our offer, we cannot be totally sure.

It’s rather like ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. The whole point of VBS is to understand the customer and what they value so that the proposition can be tailored to match. It is essentially about what a salesperson can do for the customer and their business.

Enterprise Selling

AKA Strategic Selling

Enterprise Selling is also known as ‘Strategic Selling’ due it’s considered, planned and structured nature. This type of sale involves a complex interaction of people and exchange of information.

It is about delivering more sophisticated solutions that require a more orchestrated approach in their implementation. As result it is likely a high degree of ‘team selling’ will be required needing a high level of communication, collaboration and integration.

As a result of the impact the solution might have on a business and the level of investment required, purchasing decisions can bring in those at the very highest level and so involve ‘selling into the C-suite’.

The longer sales cycle usually associated with Enterprise selling often means that both the direct and indirect costs incurred in trying to win opportunities are higher.

Parts extracted from the book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills – A modern approach to winning business by Fred Copestake