Sales is one of those areas that is shrouded by myth and legend. Stories abound of phenomenal sales people through the ages, and writers all over the globe try to distill their lessons into something that can be duplicated by people such as you or I.
For me, one of the areas that always gets overlooked is the ability to tune into the client.
I don't mean defining the needs or the wants, and I don't mean developing a strong trust based relationship - I mean something a little deeper and a bit more psychological than that.
Tuning in means understanding not only what the client wants but also why they want it.
For example, today I visited a client who are reputed to be leaders in their field. My own research as borne out by our conversations in proving this to me.
They are organized, they are leading the field in many areas, and they are confident in their leadership.
What does that mean to me? it means they do not want to be led, they want to be supported. I am sure there are things I could show them, and I am also sure there are things that (over time) they may ask me to provide thought leadership on - but right now they just want to be supported in what they are doing.
Others know they are laggards and are desperate to find quality thought leadership that can get them where they need to go. Yet others are in need of help in a way that prevents them from losing face in front of their industry peers. (Yes, it gets to be that basic sometimes)
Tuning into the client is part research and part profiling. Are they cost effective and profitable? Are they recognized as leaders? What are they saying to you?
Clients who talk to you about benchmarking opportunities are generally looking to fill some sort of void they have identified in their business model. If they speak about templates and rapid implementation models want to cover ground very quickly.
If they are confident in what they are doing, they may be after a supporting service - or they may actually be projecting a brave front to try to hide deeper issues.
I worked with a guy in the UK who moved like a hurricane. he took decisions at the speed of thought and moved masses of people around the company getting things done. His motivators - getting results. How did I get on his good side? I gave him results. Period.
Being able to read people is a key skill for consultants and sales people. But tuning into them goes far beyond sizing people up, it means understanding their fundamental motivators and using these to anticipate the type of service you can assist them with.
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