I'm a pretty tough critic of a sales experience. I have high expectations and find that most people only deliver a mediocre experience, at best. When I do see a sales process executed well, I like to let people know, including the sales people themselves.
And I've recently had a great experience. One that was so well and naturally done that I think you should know about it.
Answering the call
I was searching for an accountant. I asked for referrals from some trusted sources, and I received one that sounded like a good fit. I reached out to make contact and never heard back. Not one word. Remember the post I recently wrote, "Clients See Your Brand One Employee at a Time"? Well you can imagine how I now feel about that firm. I now think of them as "the company that doesn't respond".
Through some searching, I found another accountant who provided good information on their website about the practice and the philosophy. It gave me a sense of confidence. After further searching, I saw that we had some connections in common, so I reached out for a referral and got very good feedback. I then filled out the contact form, got a response back in 24 hours as promised and was sitting in their office for an appointment two days later.
The set up
This woman was friendly and welcoming. She asked a couple of open-ended questions to get me talking. Which is always a great way to start because you know business owners love to talk about nothing more than their businesses!
As I talked, she took a couple of notes. She prompted me with a few more questions that made me explore the future-looking situation. I then asked her some questions about what she thought, and instead of answering my questions directly, she started giving me some education on tax law and accounting practices. She wasn't trying to avoid answering, but instead she was letting me get a feel for the bigger picture, rather than just looking at things from my own myopic perspective. I enjoyed this approach and asked some questions. The more I wanted to know, the more education she provided.
Now, do I really want to know all that much about tax law? No. But I want to know that someone I hire does know all that and is willing to and interested in talking about it for hours on end. Because if they're not, they probably won't be doing their job for long.
She made some statements about things we'd want to explore if we were to work together. She gave me theoretical ideas like, "When clients have this situation, it's a good time to start looking at some solutions which might include x, y, and z. However, we won't know your specifics until we dig deeper into it."
Who's doing the closing?
As it became apparent we were a good fit for one another, I started asking about some related issues because I wanted to know what type of advice and recommendations she would offer. Would she make a good advisor or was she just a singly focused accountant? She answered my questions openly and explored the topics with me. She then opened her contact book and gave me referrals to other related professionals. She also shared some information about herself, which allowed the business connection to take on a personal feel.
She raised new issues for me. She made me say several times, "I never knew that or thought about it that way before." She let me know how she worked with clients and what the process would be like to uncover all my needs. She didn't solve my problems in that meeting. She educated me. She proved her knowledge and interests, and she let me develop confidence in her abilities by being willing to do some consulting during this meeting: she gave me some advice; she held some back; and she didn't try to overwhelm me with too much all at once.
What the buyer wants
It's often difficult for sales people to stop themselves from solving the prospect needs right there in the meeting. And it's also difficult to not just push the benefits of a product/service, thinking that these things will secure the sale. However, especially with a commodity product/service, the buyer knows he can get it from any number of suppliers.
Instead, what the buyer is looking for is someone that will provide more just that products or services. The willingness to explore and share advice and insight based on knowledge and experience is by far the most important factor in choosing a business advisor.
This was a sales experience that everyone in B2B sales should be striving to achieve. When the prospect is anxious to wrap up the meeting by securing a next meeting or solidifying a relationship, you've done it right.
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