Sell your Big Idea — get clients involved in developing the exact solution for their needs.
In business, complex or expensive products and services are often obscured in the sales process for lack of a clear BIG IDEA. This can be an insurmountable deal killer. That’s because persuasion starts and ends with a clear big idea. It’s true whether you’re convincing your spouse on vacation destinations or leading your client’s purchasing committee to select a vendor on a seven-figure deal.
We’ve developed the following methodology to successfully develop and present successful solutions. But before I start, here are some ground rules form greatest effectiveness:
• There is no inherent solution. Solutions only exist in the context of a problem to solve or results to achieve. This may feel disquieting. After all, in business we are constantly offering ‘solutions’. To illustrate, you may convince me that Alberto VO5 is the most incredible shampoo. But if I’m bald, it’s not a solution that fits my needs.
• Work with Integrity. Your intention in sales or persuasive negotiation is felt more than heard. In addition, uncovering the truth is the best way to find the issues that matter most to your client.
• Find out early if there is no means or interest in your offering. Be prepared to walk away from bad-fit discussions, and spend your time productively on other clients. The worst no-deal is the one you’ve spent lots of time and effort on before losing it. As they say: you’re not ready to talk unless you’re ready to walk.
• Don’t guess about what’s going on for your client—seek to understand. So often, after only gathering a few cursory facts, we take big risks by running with our assumptions about what the client needs.
I hope by now it’s clear that we’re talking coming around to the client’s perspective in order to present a solution they perceive as valuable, which of course also has the best chance to create value for you, too.
Here are the keys to finding the right solution, and to develop it into the BIG IDEA.
Step back from the solution. Avoid running with the product you want to sell and all its features. It’s tempting for both you and the client to do this, because it avoids the more difficult work of uncovering the true, underlying needs.
Instead, identify all the issues behind why they might want your solution. Business issues are either challenges or envisioned results. Go for a complete list, by asking for what other pain they are trying to reduce or goals they are trying to reach.
Develop each issue in detail by asking about how they know the problem is there or what the goal will allow them to achieve.
Look for quantitative impact—what are things now, how are they measured, what would they like it to be, and what’s that worth to them. Convert the benefit into dollars where possible, or strong statements of qualitative improvement.
Probe for whom else will be affected by your solution, and how the decision to implement the solution will be made.
During the process, you will be helping the client see their own issues in clear terms. If done well, your process will feel natural and create an aura of confidence. This is your path of mutual discovery, providing both of you a much deeper understanding of their needs. And the dialog involves them in the process.
Create impact — focus your solution and give it a headline. With this level of insight, you can propose a clear solution that really fits their needs, with a high chance of achieving a successful outcome for both of you.