Develop commercial insight

In their seminal 2011 work, The Challenger, Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson set the stage for the sales strategies needed in the digital age. They focus on developing commercial insight as a way to sell and present four key rules for using it effectively.

Four rules

  1. Lead with your strengths – “The sweet spot of customer loyalty is outperforming your competitors on those things you’ve taught your customers,” according to Dixon and Adamson. The well-trained distributor will lead with their unique strengths. Those strengths are added-value tools such as Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), AI (artificial intelligence), predictive analytics, Kanban manufacturing strategies, system engineering, ‘customized’ containers and delivery equipment, etc. In the atmospheric gas industry (oxygen, nitrogen, argon, etc.) where I worked, innovative telemetry systems to measure and report gas change in volume, pressure and temperature, were added-value selling tools. Offering resources that help the customer create a better return on investment differentiates the distributor from other channels and direct supplier selling.
  2. Challenge customers’ assumptions – Help your customer reframe the way he thinks about his business. Spend time learning about your customer so you are able to offer a path to a complete solution, even if it involves bringing in another vendor. For example, if your customer might benefit from an AI program, introduce a vendor who can explain how to integrate that technology into his manufacturing process. This will strengthen your sales position.
  3. Catalyze action – For a successful sale, you need to get the customer to act. Build a compelling business case for why action matters. “Unless you can convince your customer they’ll get incremental value for that premium price, your solution strategy is doomed to fail,” write Dixon and Adamson.
  4. Scale across customers – Once you have successfully used commercial insight with your added-value tools to gain a customer, use that sales process with your other customers.  Develop a set of well-scripted insights along with two or three easy-to-remember diagnostic questions, and you are ready to go.

Be an educator

Dixon and Adamson urge sales teams in this new era of digital selling to use commercial insight, “to teach customers what they really need by challenging the way they think about their business altogether, providing them with new means to address their toughest problems in ways they would have never identified on their own. Customers are looking to their distributors to challenge their thinking and teach them something they don’t know.”

Get tips and tricks like the above in The Art of Sales books. Or subscribe to the FREE monthly articles here.