Not so Basic Sales Basics!

For the past several months, I’ve been using our blog to highlight the various elements that we focus on as a company. Writing the posts has been great, but every now and then I hit an area that is so many “miles deep” in terms of content that I become completely stumped on how to boil it down (which is why we have, oh, 50 or so posts in the hopper for the future).

Revenue generation is one of those areas.

Why is revenue generation complicated? It’s complicated because every company is unique, and because there are a million marketing “tips and tricks” out there to try. I wracked my brain for a bit on this one and have decided to keep it basic. Since a blog is not the space for eight-point “how-to’s” and twenty-quadrant charts, I’m simply going to share a truth I’ve found to be fairly universal for companies when it comes to boosting revenue (specifically pertaining to sales and marketing):

The right approach to your audience is critical; it’s the lifeblood of your sales success.

Sales and Marketing 101, right? If this is old hat to you, see this post as a reminder and maybe a nudge to take a closer look at how you’re handling the sales piece of revenue generation. Here’s my point for the day:

Companies should be pursuing the “Discovery” approach rather than the “Tell & Sell” approach with prospects. Stop selling and start discovering…

Let me toss in a little refresher on what these terms mean:

• Tell and Sell: This is an approach where you take all you know about your product or service, throw it at your audience, and hope something sticks. You are relying on the prospects ability to decipher what really matters to them and connect the dots to select one or more of your solutions.

• Discovery: This is an approach where you get to know your audience as intimately as possible by asking significant questions and listening to their needs – what they look for in terms of what they buy, how they make decisions, and what is going to benefit them. Once you really ‘know’ what matters, then you can provide relevant solutions that match perfectly to their real needs and desires.

So why are we talking about this? Because the “tell and sell merry-go-round” is one of the primary hang-ups I see with companies in their approach to sales. It’s interesting – I think the media infers that companies are getting better at understanding their audiences because the companies with the big bucks that invest in consumer research are always in the spotlight. The truth is, many companies might go through the motions, but are still stuck in an old approach because it is easy. Memorizing a list of features and benefits and reciting them to an unfamiliar prospect is easier than listening and getting to the heart of their situation.

“Tell and sell” is easier, cheaper, and it requires less listening and research. A door-to-door vacuum salesman uses a “tell-and-sell” approach, a mass mailer is “tell and sell”, a sidewalk sale is “tell and sell”. Those are overt examples, but with this approach, you are essentially trying to create a need instead of working to understand and cater to needs that already exist. It’s mostly ineffective and really only works when you are marketing to impulse buyers. There is a place for this approach, but it is a rare situation where it will be effective the majority of the time.

“Discovery” is actually a legal term that is used to describe the pre-trial process where each party asks questions of the other in order to uncover information that would give them an advantage in their case. I share that definition because “discovery” in sales and involves an in-depth process of inquiry and a thorough examination of all the facts before the recommendation (and ultimately sale) is made.

Companies steer clear of “discovery” because it takes more time and because it may lead them away from their current products or services as they discover that the market has changed or their prospect really needs something other than what you provide. It’s also just plain hard to start the process if you’ve been entrenched in a “tell and sell” approach for a long period of time. It takes a true commitment to do things differently, and it takes courage.

The bottom line is this: When companies opt to make the shift to a “discovery” approach, they will ultimately see an improvement in their revenue.

I really believe this and have seen it transform organizations when they’re ready to take it on. If you’re wondering if any of this applies to you, ask yourself the following questions:

• Do I consistently follow a script to sell my product or service?
• Do I do most of the talking in a sales meeting?
• Am I more concerned with finishing my list of benefits than finding out what matters to my prospect?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than maybe you need to learn the practice of Discovery.

TruNorth Partners works with organizations to identify revenue deficiencies and key opportunities that will aid them in successfully growing their businesses. Discovery is a foundation of revenue generation. Contact TruNorth Partners to explore your revenue issues and how you can significantly move your revenue generation forward.

About the Author

Scott Philips

Scott Philips is an interim executive with over 30 years of diversified experience in enterprise wide leadership. He is recognized as an action-oriented leader with strengths in strategic management, business assessments, employee engagement & productivity, business development and enterprise selling. Scott's experience in analyzing market data, developing solutions and effectively executing plans have resulted in significant revenue growth and operational improvements for a number of companies in a wide variety of industries.