Only 22% of buyers believe traditional sales engagements actually make progress.
If all you had was 60 minutes to make a difference with a buyer what would you do.
We all remember of course (fondly or not ) the classic elevator pitch approach to capturing the interest of a prospective buyer. When all you had was the elevator journey to stamp your ‘why buy from me’, then your pitch was everything. Or at least it used to be.
Research tells us that from a buyers’ perspective the more traditional elevator pitches do not work. Comments like “sales people talk too much about themselves”, and “it feels like an interrogation and not a real dialogue” do not bode well . And when we reflect on our own personal buying preference we can probably empathize.
So why 60 minutes to make a difference?
Firstly, it is feasible that most potential buyers’ will give you 60 minutes of their time. Why?
60 minutes is a convenient slot in a calendar — neither too long nor too short. Concentration levels will probably sustain, and it suggests enough time to get across a subject with a positive outcome. One cup of coffee should do it.
Furthermore, if your brand is strong enough to warrant the time, then a buyer will give it you. Intellectual curiosity often wins over skepticism and cynicism of the more traditional ‘can I book some time with you’ approach. Getting them interested in you and what you have to say will always win — and a buyer will give you the time.
So now you have the 60 minutes booked, let me present the 9 Box Grid. ( read Right to Left please ).
The rules are very simple. You can draw it on a whiteboard, formalize in a slide ( if you have to ?), draw on your writing pad, use PostIT notes, scribble on a napkin even, or just bounce around in your head as the conversation flows.
Why 3? Well as a race the human likes to group things in threes. Three ghosts in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, three levels of Olympic medal for Gold, Silver, Bronze, and three primary colours — Red, Blue and Yellow. And as humans we need to breathe air, eat food and drink water to survive. Another 3. ( If you go looking for it, you often find it — right? ).
And importantly, if you only have 60 minutes how many items can you discuss and reach a positive outcome. More than 3? How much more? 4? 5? 10? Run the risk of complexity and confusion? Better to stick to the point so you can guarantee that second meeting?
So the first set of boxes you focus on is all about WHAT IS IMPORTANT to the buyer. Call it their business imperative, strategic intent, short term goal or long term aspiration, the buyer will know this. Something they are measured against. A KPI or target. Whatever is the most appropriate language it is crucial you capture this. In fact, you cannot move forward until you do!
At this point you are using the 9 box grid to let the buyer feel that they own the content and are in charge of the conversation. Your job is to paint the frame and the purpose (to let you align what you have that relates to the important things that the buyer cares about ).
Remember its all about empathy and being in the shoes of the buyer. Yes, you can think about these intents and imperatives and do your homework on business plans, vision statements and industry norms, but there is nothing like letting the buyer share with you their version. After all, there is only correct answer — theirs!!!
The second set of boxes is called WHY IS IT IMPORTANT or put more simply, what does their heart say.
Yes their Heart. The ‘fire in their belly’. What really really matters to them. What is their personal goal, whether it is a career progression, a bonus payment or a competitive streak to win, we all have our own version of this. Or pure ego. We all have this so make sure we find out.
Some buyers will of course show theirs’ on their sleeves, others will never expose unless there is a strong level of trust and mutual understanding. Again moving past this point without capturing some level of personal stake can be a mistake. The skill is finding out and often the direct question “So why is this important to you personally” can often get the desired result.
And finally, every buyer you meet is either DOING SOMETHING OR THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING. Rarely are they sitting their waiting for you to turn up and inspire them. If only it were that easy!
The 9 box is now complete, and you probably have 20 minutes left.
At this stage you now need to go through the usual reflection, playback and verification stage, where you use your industry experience ( colleagues or tools ) to sharpen your understanding of what you have heard. Clarification questions and all the usual building your knowledge will kick in.
If you have chosen the right person in terms of adjacency to your value proposition, and steered your way through the 9 box grid, then you should be in a good place with about 5 minutes left.
As you eye the clock and focus on a positive outcome to close the time, you should be by now thinking 3 things;
- How does my value proposition line up? If you have done your research, know your solution well and have the appropriate backup then this should work. In fact, what should happen is that you can identify ways to ‘chunk up’ your value statements by connecting to what you have heard from the buyer. Now is the time to reflect back to the buyer how you can help. Don’t lose that opportunity — doing it later often will fall on deaf ears.
- How can I demonstrate that my organization has the relevant capability to demonstrate tangible evidence that we are ‘good to go’ with helping the buyer with their needs? This is where you can weave in a few anecdotal stories of previous success — provided relevant to the buyer’s 9 box grid. Don’t go all random and woolly just to be able to say something.
- Am I gaining enough trust to start to close the 60 minute session and move on? Am I in a position to (A) go away and execute on in a prompt way, and (B) gain the commitment from the buyer that we are now sufficiently engaged and have a way forward — together. ( Am I in the 22% of buyers’ who believe there is progress?).
For the seller there are some skills that are needed of course. Simply throwing up a 9 box grid in the hope all the magic flows and orders start to appear is not what is being suggested.
9 box grid is a simple frame. It is a starting point. It is place to focus what matters for both of you. It demonstrates balance between you and the buyer.
You still need to be a great listener. You still need to observe body language and non verbal signals as you work through the 60 minutes. You still to know when to encourage and suggest the direction as you steer the 9 box grid to meet your outcomes too. Remember you are there to make a difference — not just for the buyer but for yourself too!
60 minutes can fly by if you are on a roll — or if you are making a difference :-).
“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie