In the 20-plus years I’ve been working in the imaging industry, I have noticed that only a few elite solution and professional services salespeople have become truly successful. One of the secrets to their, and my, success in solution and professional services sales has been an old, tired-out approach called the consultative approach. You might be thinking, “Did he really just call his own technique tired and worn out?” The answer is, YES!
Today, the idea of the consultative approach is old, worn-out and is simply another “me too” sales approach. In fact, about five years ago the word “solution” itself was listed as one of the most overused, useless and meaningless words in corporate America by CEOs across the nation. So when a C-level or senior leader hears that a “solution consultant” is calling on them, what chance will the consultant have to be taken as relevant? They won’t. The leader will take the attitude that, “Another worn-out, tired, behind-the-times company is calling on my business to sell me something.”
In an interview I conducted with the CEO of the Navy Federal Credit Union in 2016, I asked him about the multiyear IT project that his company was entering. I was curious to hear his opinion on the types of people who had called on him as a partner to help with the business. I asked him directly about common “me too” types of salespeople and about a “solutions consultant” approach. For each example, he told me that the person might as well have not even called. He wouldn’t even take their phone calls. I asked him, “What type of calls would you take?”
I then described to him what we call a LEAN G7 approach to selling. LEAN is a continuous improvement methodology that helps organizations cut out waste and become more efficient, while G7 Process Control methodology promotes the idea of being effective. When you put them together, you and your organization accomplish your goals at a high rate of excellence in the shortest amount of time possible. His reaction was as if I had struck gold. He said, “Anyone who takes that approach, I would listen to every time they called.”
When we conduct a strategic sales training session, we teach our attendees how to become business analysts. They learn how to differentiate a company from a business, how to see things from an investor’s/shareholder’s point of view, and how to find a talk track that will join into a senior leader’s discussion on their plans and initiatives. We then turn them loose to make contact, with the idea that their company will help senior leaders accomplish a goal effectively and with business velocity.
Why does LEAN G7 click with the C-suite and senior leaders?
The C-suite and senior decision makers don’t care about what your product or service is. They couldn’t care less about you droning on about all the latest technology, features and functions your software or machines have. They care about things such as COGS, ROM, ROS, EBIT, percent of SGA expense to revenue, VSO and other key business indicators. LEAN is a term they are familiar with; it makes their ears perk up. If you are selling into the commercial print market, G7 is a term people hear about but don’t know much about, so it peaks their interest.
Now what you must do, my friend, is find a way to make the connection between your product or service and how it will have a positive effect on a company's ability to be effective and efficient. Show how your service affects the many key business indicators that describe the health of the organization, such as:
- Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
- Return on Marketing (ROM)
- Return on Sales (ROS)
- Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT)
- Sales and General Administrative (SGA) Expense as a percentage of Revenue
- Value Stream Organization (VSO) quality control
- Cash Flow
- Percentage of Profit Goal
Using a LEAN G7 approach you can attach your product or service to any of these key business indicators, and that will get the attention of any good decision maker, setting you up to have them release the funds required to buy your services and products.
TIP: Ask your VP of Service about how and why things like first-time fix rates, parts inventory, and service technician utilization rates are important to them and how they affect profit goals. This will start to give you an understanding of the business metrics in which leaders are interested. Ask them what would happen if you could reduce color-quality related service by 60 percent, and listen. Every department leader has similar metrics, which you can talk about with them, and they WILL listen.