Start your meeting with “This might not be of relevance to you”.
Nothing scares the amateur BizDev-er more than starting with what they would see as “failure” – ie the end of a conversation and no chance of a sale. But nothing is more important to 21stC BizDev. In a world of excess “selling” we must adopt an “educational” approach and be simple and clear about our value (see Value Encapsulation). Then (and spot the 21stC concept here) the BizDev process stops being about “sales” and becomes about “search”.
This “search” approach is the antithesis of the archetypal “slippery second-hand car salesman”, “sell to anyone and everyone using every trick in the many books on ‘how to sell’ “. Besides as “sales resistance” has increased and customers wise-up to at least some of the “moves” that approach has got much harder (and less succesful) anyway.
So what is the 21stC “search” way? If you are clear about your value then your task is simply to find the people who would love that. At which point if your marketing phase has ended (as it should) with “this is in principle of interest” then sales is just about showing it does what it says on the tin, clarifying how it would help the potential client with some real, live headaches and thence the finer points of negotiation.
This is very similar to the adage “train hard and fight easy” … or “do lots of revision and then the exam is easy”. In most processes if we have put the hard work and clarity in the early stages the later stages are “just” performance. If we haven’t trained enough, revised enough, or worked at being clear enough, then the later stages are all about “exam panic”.
OK so if you have been reading my blog you may have got this big picture already. I was very pleased yesterday when a mid 40s business guy said he had never understood as simply and clearly before the distinction between marketing and sales. Marketing = “arouse interest”. Sales = “convert interest into a contract”. Hardly surprising given how muddied they can be and how many firms in essence dive straight into sales mode without having established whether there is real interest in their basic proposition.
So you might be thinking, “how does starting with suggesting that what you have to say might not be of interest to the guy across the table, fit in?”.
There’s a simple – but vital – answer. It sets the tone. It sets the tone. It tells your counterpart that you are not here to try to stuff something down their throat. You are not here to “sell” anything. Folks hate being “sold” to … we all have lots of resistance these days due to the constant exposure to selling.
By showing that you are perfectly happy to walk away and not hassle him for action/money they can then relax, lower their defences and take a genuine interest. What I have often found in practice using this approach is that your counterpart across the table is so relieved to not have to be on the defensive that, even if what you have to offer is of no interest to him/her, they will happily suggest who you might see – in the company (finding the right buyer is always a challenge) or in their network.
This might all sound simple in theory. And it is 🙂 But in practice it is a fine art removing yourself of any “pushyness” or “needyness” – especially when in business terms you might really need a deal. Everything from body language through to the order of slides in the presentation can derail the “pure educational” angle and raise defences on the far side.
How educational is your selling?
Do you relax your potential clients by starting with no? Or do they feel that you are “selling” to them, and implicitly want to sell to them even before you know whether they are a good search match for your product or service?
If they feel like they are being sold to do they help you sell to you or resist somewhat?