What’s a ‘leaner’?
It’s a prospect that’s leaning your way after having heard your ’un-sales’ pitch over a rather lengthy engagement period.
And it’s a prospect that, once they fall your way, will never have to be sold again.
They’re all in with you and the organization you represent. They believe you and they trust you. They are convinced that you will forever look after their best interests. They treat you as family, that’s how strong the bond is between them and you.
And as a result they believe you when you tell them that you need a new solution to a persistent problem they have. They believe you when you say a significant new investment in your product will deliver an order of magnitude increase in productivity.
They’re on cruise control with you in the driver’s seat (at least until you do something stupid that destroys all the currency you’ve built up with them).
How does this happen? How do you as a salesperson spot a leaner and secure them as advocates?
1. Look for the cream
You need a high potential leaner because the time and effort you devote to them must have a big potential payback if it’s to make any sense at all.
Work with your marketing colleagues to develop a list of leaner candidates; those targets—The WHO—with the potential to generate substantial additional revenue for the organization.
Start with a list of 10 high potential leaders; don’t try and boil the ocean by having a list longer than you can reasonably manage.
2. Hunt for the fox
This is where you need good detective work to identify the person in each top 10 organization you should be paying attention to.
The fox is the one who will be making the buying decisions and who will decide whether you get the business or not, so be sure they are the right person in the client’s organization you should be dealing with.
It’s important that you don’t spray your efforts among many people in the target organization; focus on the fox to ensure your efforts are justly rewarded.
3. Discover what they crave
The innermost desires of people - what they crave - are powerful influencing agents, far stronger than what they ‘need’ so you need to put in the time to find them.
Fox cravings are essential beacons that will allow the salesperson to make inroads quickly to establish credibility and trust with the leaner.
Everyone else will be generally looking for client needs which are basic and quite frankly boring client requirements—inventory, communication, CRM, and financial systems for example. These relate to basic operational matters rather than the specific wants and desires of the fox, which could be completely different.
They may have a specific problem, on the other hand, that they want solved to make their life easier and more pleasant in performing their immediate role. If you can discover what this craving is, you will differentiate yourself from the hungry sales pack and be in the best position to capture their affection.
4. Know their strategy better than they do
To be successful with any business client, you have to understand their business plan at a granular level to really appreciate the problems and opportunities available to you.
So, take the time to study their plan and to translate it in terms of what it means to the fox and their operations.
Generally foxes are too busy running their operations and don’t spend the time determining how they specifically relate to the overall strategic game plan of the organization, so if you help them develop the critical few priorities they should be concentrating on to make the greatest strategic impact, you will be ‘a friend for life’ and earn their loyalty.
5. The devil’s in the details
People are generally impressed with someone who can remember details, particularly about them and the issues they face and to capture their attention and have them lean in your direction requires that you are concerned with more than their ‘big picture’.
Pay attention to the micro matters surrounding the fox. Make copious notes on ‘pinch points’ that define their reality so you can study them and come up with potential solutions.
First, the fact that you are paying attention to the small stuff and second, that you are offering viable solutions will make you that special salesperson who gets more learners than anyone else.
6. Keep your promises
Strong relationships are moulded by placing more emphasis on the fox as a person than on the organization as a whole.
Loyalty isn’t commanded from a business, it’s earned from the way an individual inside the organization is treated and served.
And at the most fundamental level, it’s about keeping promises. How do you rate as a promise-keeper? When you promise your fox to do something, do you always deliver as promised? Or do you keep some and make others?
Or, so you even know what your promise-keeping performance is? You need to keep track of the promises you make and the promises you keep. Make it a daily discipline and ask your fox for feedback on how well you are doing.
Looking for and capturing a leaner isn’t rocket science; it’s about doing the no-nonsense little things that make a big difference.
You won’t find leaner-gathering tactics in a classic sales textbook, they’re learned from ‘in the trenches’ real life experience.