Recently, I’ve been reading a series of discussions debating the concept, “Can we really be driven by helping our customers while still focused on selling?”
Some of the comments revolved around, “How can we sell if we are focused on being helpful? It’s incompatible to be driven by a goal to be selling a certain solution.”
I have to confess reading the discussions several times, trying to understand the arguments being made. To be honest, there were only opinions suggesting sales people need to focus on selling products, less so being helpful.
Somehow, it seems the argument is “It is incompatible to be truly customer focused, care for your customer, and simultaneously be driven by achieving our own goals and selling products/services.”
I believe the opposite, selling and being helpful are perfectly aligned and compatible—when we are selling properly. Moreover, doing this maximizes the value we create with our customers and maximizes our own performance.
Sadly, too few sales people do this, which creates this false dichotomy.
Let’s dive into this a little more deeply.
First, we have no business chasing after customers not in our ICP. Our ICP consists of those customers having the problems/challenges that we are the best in the world at solving.
We waste our customers’ time/good will, as well as our time, chasing “opportunities” outside our ICP. Sadly, too many do this. They haven’t defined their ICP rigorously, they don’t take the time to determine if the customer is likely to have the problems we solve, or they don’t really understand the problems we solve, forcing the customer to figure this out.
None of these behaviors are “helpful” to the customer.
Focusing on customers in our ICP, focuses us on those where we can have meaningful discussions about the customer challenges/problems and have expertise about solutions to those problems.
It is not incompatible to have/represent certain approaches to solving those problems. “Experts” of any type, whether they are internal experts, outside consultants, “influencers,” or sales people will tend to represent their approaches and solutions to those problems, strongly.
And our customers recognize this in seeking help/alternatives to addressing their problems.
Helping the customer understand their problems, define and evaluate alternative solutions is not incompatible with being helpful and selling our solutions. We create great value with our customers in helping them through this process.
We, also, have the obligation to back away, when we find that we know longer can be a great solution to the customer in their problem solving. This isn’t just about being helpful to the customer, but it’s the only responsible thing in representing our products and solutions. We don’t want to over promise and under-deliver. We don’t want to create customer satisfaction problems. Selling the wrong solution adversely impacts our short and long term profitability with the customer.
It is simply bad business.
We, also, have to remember, we can’t be successful until our customer is successful. It is naive to think we can get an order, if the customer doesn’t see that as part of the problem solving/success journey. As a result, we want to focus on helping the customer address those issues and begin solving their problems, so that we can achieve our goals.
Finally, our customers are overwhelmed with “good choices,” but they need help (sometimes called sensemaking), to understand and sort through the information, choosing a course of action that best achieves their goals.
Being helpful and being on quota are not in conflict and are, in fact, complementary. But only when we viciously focus on customers having the problems that we are the best in the world at solving.
Only irresponsible, poor performing sales people/organizations would do anything else. And customers are smart enough to see through this.