Collaborative Selling – Is it the key to selling in the future?
Promise Plenty and Always Deliver More
I am sure that I am not alone; when I say there has been a massive shift in the way we do business.
- There are new competitors springing up all the time
- Competitors have become more aggressive in their approach to customers
- It has become more challenging to differentiate your products and services
- Selling your product or service has become more difficult as markets change
- Customers have become more discerning and demanding
In truth if your product was differentiated yesterday, they may have become the commodities of today. Your competitors, respond very quickly to any differentiated elements that you offer and they very quickly match or exceed your own value propositions, differentiated parts. This means that you need to constantly be innovating and introducing new elements into your sales mix.
When FedEx introduced overnight deliveries, it was a huge differential advantage. Today, if you don’t offer overnight deliveries, you will not even feature in the courier business.
Differentiating your Product or service
Technology has made differentiation more challenging, but as you know differentiation is the only way you can achieve the sales success you desire. So how can you differentiate your product or service?
There are only a few ways that you can use to differentiate your product or service, namely:
- A technological breakthrough that revolutionizes or changes an industry. An example of this would be the Apple iPod or Facebook.
- You can create a perceived value around your brand, so that using your brand becomes a status symbol. Examples of this are BMW or Prada.
The first two options are obviously the best two to follow, as it is difficult for competitors to quickly respond to them. It is also very hard for anyone to introduce them into their own businesses too.
This leaves most organisations with three basic ways to differentiate their products and services, namely:
- Price – This is the easiest way to differentiate your product, but unless you are indeed the lowest cost manufacturer, it is also a very dangerous philosophy, as you can very quickly go out of business.
- Quality – you can build very high quality products that are difficult to copy.
- Service – You can uncover innovative ways to provide, outstanding levels of support to your customers.
Collaborative selling is an approach, where sales professionals are focused on collaborating with their customers, so that a modality of fair exchange exists. These sales professionals, promise plenty, but they do everything in their power to ensure that they deliver, way – way more. In fact these sales professionals are constantly innovating, so that they can become an integral part of their customers businesses.
The benefits of collaborative selling are huge:
- You have very satisfied customers, who remain loyal
- Your customers gladly refer you to other future customers
- Your customers become raving fans, who gladly record video testimonials for you
- These raving fans are open to accepting cross and upselling opportunities, as they realize that everything you offer is for mutual benefit.
Understanding Collaborative selling
To effectively engage in Collaborative Selling, requires sales professionals to follow a new philosophy. This new philosophy is the guiding light, which guides their behavior and the way they interact with their customers. The approach to collaborative selling is built on the premise of co-operation, support and engagement, where both parties win. The cornerstone of collaborative selling is based on developing and nurturing a meaningful partnership with all your customers.
If you want to successfully introduce collaborative selling into your organization, you will need to address the following ideas:
- All efforts must be focused on creating trust. This requires openness and honesty from both you and your customer.
- Learn to probe effectively, so that you can really dig deep and uncover your customers real needs, values and expectations
- Make sure that you listen to your customer’s answers, as all partnerships require understanding. Your customers want to feel that you understand their specific challenges.
- Understand your own value proposition and become an expert at linking the differentiated elements of your value proposition to your customer’s needs, values and expectations.
- Ensure that you make the customer an integral part of the solution you provide. Even go as far as giving them credit for any solution you created.
- Explore your customers business and find innovative ways to integrate into their business, so that you become an additional free resource to them.
If you want to thrive as a sales professional, then you need to understand that todays customers buy differently. There is no urgency for them to buy, as great deals come along every day and new sales people are knocking on their door all the time. Believe it or not PRICE is no longer as much of an issue for buyers. They are looking for partners, who can support them in the long term.
How do you allow your Collaborative sales process to develop?
- Carefully target your customers
Collaborative selling takes a lot of effort and time, so invest the time before hand to properly qualify your future customers.
- Make contact with your future customers, in a professional and cost effective way.
Use various methods to connect with them, so that you can already create a perception of high-perceived value:
- The most effective is always via some kind of networking opportunity. Create your own events for maximum impact
- Use a combination of telephone, letter, social media and other means of personal contact, to connect with your future customers.
On making contact, with your future customer, set the tone for cooperation, solution seeking and long-term relationship building.
- Invest the time to really explore innovative mutually beneficial solutions.
Conduct meaningful research to really dig deep and uncover ways to integrate into your future customers businesses.
- Meet with future customers regularly to deliver insights and uncover needs.
- Explore and uncover as much information as possible to support you to become an expert on your future customers business.
- Consistently show your commitment to be of service
- Ensure that as you uncover innovative way to collaborate and form a meaningful partnership and that all discussion around your product is customer centric.
Allow your future customers to play an active role in the identification of and acceptance of all solutions. It is crucial that you ensure that a spirit of “Lets go do it” prevails at all times.
- Ensure that you communicate effectively throughout the process.
As you move from one phase of the collaborative sales process to the next, ensure that there is complete understanding and buy-in from your future customer, before moving on to the next phase.
- The cornerstone of collaborative selling or partnership selling is one of ongoing support.
Collaborative selling is never about closing the sale. It is all about initiating a partnership, between two people, who will find mutual benefit in the relationship. This is the time that the sales person starts to over deliver on all the commitments they have made.
Collaborative or partnership selling is one of the best ways you can use to differentiate yourself in the market. It is a philosophy and practice that is used by true sales professionals, who want to build long-term mutually beneficial relationships that stand the test of time.
This philosophy allows sales professionals to build a large, loyal customer base that supports them to generate sales into the future. This sales philosophy allows sales professional to build lifetime annuities, in the form of repeat sales.