One of the most intimidating scenarios that professional sales people find themselves in is selling to an expert. At times it can feel like standing on the American Idol stage being judged by Simon Cowell.
Business prospects that are experts in their field have a tendency to make even the most confident sales people fearful of not being able to answer a technical question or inadvertently saying the wrong thing and looking foolish.
In some industries like technology, finance and other complex solution sales environments it is common that your client will have a deeper and more seasoned understanding of the technical nuances of the industry or even your specific solution than you do. It is just a fact of life.
For instance, a CIO at a fortune 500 company will almost always have a deeper technical background than your average technology account manager. You might have a better understanding of your niche or your specific suite of products but that might be where your advantage ends.
So, how do successful sales people handle these types of sales scenarios? After all, you are going to have to go through an expert if you want to close big deals and blow out your number, right?
Here are 3 things you need to do to sell to an expert effectively:
- Let them be the expert – It may sound simple but don’t get sucked into a pointless game of “who’s the smartest!” This is what the negotiating books call a “lose-lose scenario.” If you win and prove you are smarter or as smart, you have likely just lost. Acknowledge the expert’s experience and expertise early in the meeting and give him/her the opportunity to “flex” a little and show-off a bit. People like to impress an eager audience and by asking the right questions you can learn all you need to know to make the case for your solution when the time is right.
- Known your own product or service – You don’t have to be an engineer, but you shouldn’t be tripped up by simple features and functions. Knowing the “speeds and feeds” is simply table stakes for a good discussion with an expert. They will likely test you on this early in the discussion to size you up. Don’t fail and be confident.
- Focus on the solution – If you can effectively extract the specific issues the expert is experiencing and can keep the conversation focused on the business impact and not the technical minutia you will have much better long-term success with these expert clients. To do this effectively you need to do your homework on the business, be able to articulate how similar organizations have used your solution to solve essential business problems. You must listen carefully to identify the business challenges they are not ready to come straight out and admit to a sales person.
Selling to experts is challenging but if you are going to make a difference for your company and earn the big commissions you will have to skillfully navigate these types of scenarios with confidence.
What strategies do you use to sell to experts?