Guided Selling

Improving the high-value, high-touch sell.

 

Ian H Smith

At Being Guided, as our name implies, we are focused on Guided Selling.

Guided Selling, in the context of a high-value, high-touch sell, refers to a consultative approach aimed at assisting customers through complex purchasing decisions. This is particularly relevant in environments where the products or services being sold are expensive, highly customisable, and involve a significant decision-making process.

My personal experience spans many years working in manufacturing (plastics product design and engineering) and information technology. In recent years, this has broadened to include healthcare and non-profit organisations. In both business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets Being Guided is all about optimising interactions between the Buyside and the Sellside.
  

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Method and Purpose

At Being Guided, our sales method is called Demand Creation Selling. This can be tailored for any Buyside-Sellside interaction where the solution value is high, and where human interaction is complex, yet vital to success. This is the opposite of Demand Fulfilment Selling:

  • Demand Fulfilment Selling > Demand Creation Selling
  • Respond to RFP > Engage in Discovery
  • Meet Requirements > Co-create Requirements
  • Lowest Price Wins > Best Value Wins

Think of this as applying structured curiosity as a series of questions. It follows the 5W, 1H Model: Why?, What?, Who?, Where?, When? and How?

In Demand Creation Selling we are appealing to the Buyside curious minds. The Sellside is asking questions that help the Buyside to properly explore the relationship between their problem and the proposed solution fit.

This is where Design Thinking is key - focusing especially on its first stage: Empathize. In practice this means the buyside and sellside engage in a four step evolution of conversation:

  1. Build receptivity.
  2. Create rapport.
  3. Generate trust.
  4. Achieve truth.
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Buyer-Validated Forecasting

Let's drill into the 5H, 1H Model again: as it related to a sales forecast.

In my work at Being Guided, in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer environments, it is defining time-based value of the solution on offer and defending it over price that is crucial to avoid deal slippage. When implementing Salesforce Sales Cloud, we focus on a big challenge: enable reliable sales forecasting.

In Salesforce Sales Cloud, the Opportunity Object is where two important Fields are completed by the Sellside User: Opportunity Amount and Close Date. The first problem with a Sellside Amount value is that it is rarely, if ever, tested in a meaningful way with the Buyside. It may relate to a Proposal for products and/or services, but it will be purely what the Sellside hope to win.

So, the first thing to look at strategically on the Sellside for all Opportunities is value, not price. This means Buyside Value: what the buyer is willing to pay for a particular product and/or services solution - relative to its time-based value. To enable this as a series of Return On Investment (ROI) Models, we help our customers at Being Guided apply Value Engineering to each Sellside offer.

As you will see in my Value Engineering blog post, this translates into customised, forms-based ROI Calculators integrated with Salesforce Sales Cloud. The transformation here is to bring the Buyside into determining the time-based value of the Sellside offering. It effectively means enabling buyers to tell sellers the optimum price and timing of a purchase. This is Buyer-Validated Forecasting.

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As you can see with Value Engineering, a Buyer-Validated Forecast enables the Buyside to determine Buyside Amount and Buyside Close Date, as custom Fields added to the Salesforce Sales Cloud Opportunity Object. As the infographic illustrates above, these values are 'Upserted' into the correct Sellside Salesforce Org Opportunity Record via ROI Calculator Web Form.

Now the Forecast has a direct comparison between what the Sellside hopes to achieve and the reality of what the Buyside is prepared to pay. With Value Engineering, the ROI Calculators provide a rigorous analysis of the time-based value of each Opportunity. From the Buyside perspective, this includes the calculation for the Cost of Delay or even the Cost of Doing Nothing compared to the value generated by commiting to the purchase in particular timeline.

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Mutual Value Discovery

Culturally, Buyer-Validated Forecasting requires an open conversation between buyer and seller from the outset. This often a cuture change in the high-value, high-touch sell: less 'pitching', more listening. This is where the true 'DNA' of a sales professional gets tested.

As illustrated in the earlier part of this blog post: this sales professional DNA is the inherent ability to turn receptivity into rapport, and in turn, turn rapport into trust. Then what follows is truth - and therefore, a Buyside openly engaging on what matters - the real problem.

Although I am proposing the design of prescriptive ROI Calculators in the Value Engineering process, I want to stress how important it is to bring Value Engineering into each prospect-specific Mutual Value Discovery. Yes, there will be patterns emerging out of each Discovery that provides the foundation for prescriptive ROI Calculators, but the inherent ability to tailor per prospect is vital.

A Mutual Value Discovery is best implemented through applying Design Thinking. Again, this where getting the buyer to be comfortable with opening-up to a conversation (versus an arm's length robotic procument dialog) requires a focus on the first and most important stage of Design Thinking: Empathize, applying the practice of Empathy Mapping.

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Summary

Guided Selling is all about navigating the complex interactions between the Buyside and the Sellside in a high-value, high-touch sell - business-to-business or business-to-consumer. This means:

  1. Be empathetic. Apply Design Thinking.
  2. Defend value over price. Apply Value Engineering.