There are only two questions you need to answer for your prospects when you are selling your services or products:
- Why should I buy from you now?
- Why should I buy from you instead of your competition?
And, if you are doing any kind of cold outreach then the vast majority of prospects you reach will NOT be actively looking for your services/solution at the time you reach out to them – meaning that you’ll have to work to convince them why they should buy from you now.
But these days, answering that question is harder than ever before.
The sheer volume of companies selling services and solutions B2B has risen dramatically in every niche. According to recent research, the average enterprise uses a minimum of 25 different cloud services per department. That can rise up to 91 different services in certain departments like Marketing. (1)
This infographic of the Marketing Technology landscape (2) demonstrates what’s been going on in that space alone over the last few years:
The sheer number of competing companies in that space has gone from a mere 150 in 2011 to nearly 7000 in 2018 - that’s an increase of over 4500% in competition in the space of 7 years!
And each one of them is pumping out marketing content and adverts to the same number of prospects.
With so many more companies vying for their budget, your prospects are being pulled in multiple different directions and, as such, the status quo is a much easier choice to make. It might not be perfect, but it works (otherwise they wouldn’t still be in business).
But, if you want to be able to sell these prospects that you need to convince them that they need to ditch their status quo in favour of your solution.
HOW TO CONVINCE THESE PROSPECTS TO DITCH THE STATUS QUO AND BUY FROM YOU
Obviously, you need to give them a compelling reason why they should do so.
But the traditional sales approach, with its focus on features/benefits and solutions/problems, does nothing to answer the question as to WHY they should buy from you NOW.
You might well be able to make them more money, save them money and/or save them time – but change comes with all sorts of additional costs and risk.
The money that you claim to be able to save them might well be completely offset by the huge amount of disruption (even if you don’t think there will be – there always is) that integrating your solution will cause them.
In order to give them a compelling reason why they should buy from you NOW – you need to come at them with a different angle.
SELL THEM A PHILOSOPHY…NOT A SOLUTION
Rather than give you the dry theory with no context, we’re going to look at two companies – a software company and a service company and show you how they have implemented this idea of ‘selling a philosophy’ within their business.
I’ll then give you the steps that you can follow to implement this within your own business.
On with the first example.
Note - I have absolutely no affiliation with this company, I just noticed that they use the approach that I learnt over 10 years ago.
Drift sells an automated web chat bot that runs on Artificial Intelligence.
When you land on a website that has Drift, their automated chat bot pops up and engages you in a conversation.
This is a pretty cool feature that has some great benefits – saving money on customer service reps, 24/7 interactive customer service etc.
But Drift doesn’t lead their marketing and sales messaging with the features and benefits of their solution because they know that these features won’t do anything to change the minds of the majority of their potential customers.
The majority of Drift’s potential customers have already got a competing solution – usually not an AI bot, but a standard human run customer chat.
It would seem totally logical that people would automatically change solutions because Drift’s offers superior benefits to a standard, human run chat.
But this doesn’t take into account how resistant we are to change.
If Drift sold their solution based on the features and benefits then the vast majority of their prospects would probably agree that it’s better than what they have...but would refuse to switch because the pain of change is too high. It would require relearning a new system, it costs more money etc.
Instead Drift sells a new philosophy – and this gives their prospects a compelling reason to change their existing solution (their status quo) for their chat bot.
Instead of selling an “AI chat bot”, Drift sells the philosophy of ‘conversational marketing’ and packages it in a story that proves why their prospects need to embrace this new way of working.
Drift’s messaging is all around how the world of the B2B buyer has changed – they are so used to chatting amongst themselves on Skype, Slack and other IM platforms that they are becoming more and more resistant to filling in email capture forms.
These days, Drift argues, B2B buyers prefer to have a conversation and hand their contact details over whilst chatting with someone from the company they are interacting with.
This is a change in the world that Drift’s prospects have seen themselves – it’s not just an opinion that Drift has thrown out there.
Drift demonstrates through their own (and their customer’s) experiences that the amount of qualified and engaged leads a sales team receives through their AI chat bot is much higher than the ones that they receive through email forms.
By selling the philosophy of ‘conversational marketing’ first – the solution, which is perfectly designed to help companies implement this philosophy within their business, is a no-brainer purchase for prospects that buy-into the idea that that they must implement ‘conversational marketing’.
Remember that there is also a second question that must be answered – why should your prospects choose you over the competition?
By selling a philosophy, Drift is able instantly differentiate themselves from their competition.
If they sold an AI bot then they would eventually look very similar to their competition who all sell AI bots as well. Instead Drift sells a philosophy and, by continually talking about it, they become the ‘conversational marketing guys’ – a label that only they can own.
By selling a philosophy, it also gives Drift enormous latitude to create seemingly unrelated products that they can sell to their customers.
Because Drift sells ‘conversational marketing’, not an AI bot, they are able to create new solutions based off this idea – to this end they now also sell an email solution. This email solution works hand in hand with their AI bot to further help their customers implement the ‘conversational marketing’ philosophy.
By cross connecting different products under one philosophy, they have carved out their own niche for themselves that only they play in.
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CONSULTING FIRM
This is a client of mine who, for reasons of confidentiality, have asked me not to identify them by name.
This firm has business consultants all over the world that help local businesses run more efficiently – specifically they help business owners save time in their working day, make more money from their business and save money by identifying and eliminating inefficiencies.
I worked directly with local coaches in the UK to help them with their outbound efforts as they were running up against a brick wall when trying to connect with and sell prospects on their services.
They found that most of the businesses they were reaching out to simply weren’t interested in their services – they weren’t really in enough “pain” to actually spend money on consulting.
Their prospects believed that they were “doing fine”.
This was aggravating for the coaches because they knew these businesses could benefit from their help, but they really struggled to get that across to their prospects.
There was simply no perceived urgent need for these businesses to buy a coaching/consulting service.
This was compounded by the fact that they had also been pitched the same services by other business consultants as well – all of whom were using the same pitch and the same benefits (save money, make money, save time).
In other words, they had heard it all before and had decided it wasn’t for them.
These consultants simply stood no chance of getting through to their ideal clients because they were lumped in with all the others that had been rejected already.
They needed to approach them with something new.
By working with me to create a philosophy for them to sell, they were able to double the number of weekly bookings they got from their outbound marketing efforts – generating hundreds of thousands in revenue.
I’ll go through the steps I used for them (and all my clients) – these are the same steps that you can apply to your own business.
STEP ONE - FINDING THE INDUSTRY GOALS, CHALLENGES AND BELIEFS
In order to create a philosophy to sell, you need to understand the industry goals, challenges and beliefs of your prospects.
The philosophy that you sell must help them achieve their most important business goals or overcome their most important business challenges.
Otherwise they simply won’t see the value in implementing your new philosophy in their business.
As part of the research process for this firm, I did some analysis on businesses that had said yes.
It turned out that the majority of the businesses that booked time with the consultants did so because they were looking to sell their business, and wanted to maximize profits for the sale.
Note how this differs from what the consultant's assumption about their prospect's goals were in the first place.
Many businesses selling B2B assume that the goal of any prospect is 'make more money' but, whilst this is ultimately true, this leads to vague marketing and sales messages that could be applied to virtually any B2B service or product.
Reaching out to businesses that had already rejected the approach of the coaches, I discovered that these businesses were also looking to sell their company in the future - that was their exit plan too. But not straight away.
It seemed that these businesses believed that what they were doing now was sufficient to get them a good deal when they came to sell their business in the future and saw no reason for business coaching.
STEP TWO - FIND THE CONTRARIAN PHILOSOPHY THAT SETS UP THE NEED FOR THE SERVICE OR PRODUCT BEING SOLD
A contrarian philosophy is one that goes against their existing way of thinking AND the thinking/approach of the competition – this provides the reason why they should change their status quo AND why they should choose this firm over the competition (the two important questions that need to be answered).
Examining the service that they provided, it became clear that their service was perfect for setting a business up for an eventual sale.
We knew that the existing philosophy of the potential clients was that they believed that they were doing every absolutely right to get a good deal on their business when they went to sell it.
And we knew that the philosophy of the competing business consulting and coaching firms was based around generic making money, saving money and saving time and nothing to do with selling the business.
The contrarian position and philosophy was therefore obvious - these businesses needed to get business coaching now in order to set their business up for a future sale.
This set up the need for the services of the coaches – and only theirs, as they were the only ones to specialize in setting up a business for a future sale.
But this is never enough - there always needs to be a compelling reason why this philosophy is true and acting upon NOW.
That's where step 3 comes in.
STEP THREE - FINDING THE CHANGE THAT SUPPORTS THE PHILOSOPHY
The best way to provide a compelling and urgent reason that the new philosophy is worth acting upon is to find a change in the world that forces prospects to adopt this new philosophy.
Through research and conversations with business brokers, I found a specific change - that businesses buyers were now looking primarily at tech companies and not at the industrial companies that made up the vast majority of the prospects for the coaches.
This was hardly completely brand-new information, but it provided a valid enough change (and one that the prospects could see themselves and could be proved) to justify WHY they should act upon this new philosophy right now.
They needed to act now so that by the time they were willing to sell their company, it was as attractive an investment as the technology companies that business buyers were currently more interested in.
STEP FOUR - CREATING THE SALES NARRATIVE AND OUTREACH STRATEGY
We used a specific narrative format to introduce the new philosophy, justify it and present the coaching service as the solution to implementing this new philosophy.
In order to get the consultants in front of prospective clients to pitch this we needed to have a specific outreach strategy that intrigued them enough to want to take a meeting.
This is an in-built benefit of finding a new philosophy to sell – all businesses want to hear about new ideas and, as such, setting up meetings is a lot easier than approaching them with a business proposition straight off the bat.
We created a detailed outreach plan, with a precise follow up schedule and pre-written content to share and then launched it.
With this new philosophy, narrative structure to sell it and outreach strategy, these business consultants managed to double their weekly bookings and generate hundreds of thousands in additional revenue as a result.
HOW YOU CAN APPLY THIS TO YOUR BUSINESS?
Let's look at the steps you need to follow to apply this to your own business. The steps are the same regardless of whether you sell software or services.
Speak to a cross-section of your existing prospects and previous clients – what are their goals, challenges and beliefs about how they can go about achieving their goals/overcoming their challenges.
To do this, ask them about their future plans - what they are trying to do, how do they plan to get there, what challenges are in their way?
Ensure that you speak to a complete cross-section of your market – otherwise you’ll find goals and challenges that only apply to a small section of them. You need to ensure that your message works with all the companies you want to work with.
I thoroughly recommend recording your interviews (check the legal obligations regarding consent depending on your region and country) in order to be able to listen completely and not waste attention on taking notes.
Collate the information from your calls and list out the most common goals, challenges and beliefs.
Choose the most common goal and/or challenge to focus on creating a philosophy for.
Now that you have your market’s most important goal/challenge and their beliefs about how they are going to achieve that goal/overcome their challenge, you will be able to find your contrarian philosophy.
List out your competitor’s philosophy – it’s not going to be overt (after all they sell features and benefits) but implicit.
For example, a client of mine sells SEO services – their competitor’s philosophy is that “getting to the top of the search engine results automatically means more sales for your business”.
Take both your prospect’s beliefs (their philosophy) about how they can reach their goals/overcome their challenges and your competitor’s philosophy & work out how you can take a different position to your competitors and your prospects.
This requires an understanding of your solution and industry that I cannot give you via an article, so you’ll simply have to ask yourself – how are both my prospects and competitors wrong about this? What new approach can you use to help your prospects get to their goals/overcome their challenges in a better and different way than the way they are currently using and the way that your competitors are promoting?
Now that you’ve found your new philosophy, you need to be able to justify why they should implement it in their business.
Simply telling them it’s better is not going to cut it.
You need to find a change in the world that makes it a) necessary to implement your new philosophy in their business and b) implement it now.
Here are some areas to look at:
- Changes in technology
- Changes in your prospect’s industry
- Changes in your prospect’s customers world
- Government/Regulatory changes
- Changes in social norms/business norms
Now’s time to create your sales narrative based on this.
A very simple (but effective) approach is the following:
Start with the change in the world that justifies why businesses should implement your philosophy
Back up with stats (or common-sense observations) that this change actual exists and is having an impact on the world (and your prospect’s world)
Introduce your philosophy as a way to achieve their goals/overcome their challenges in light of this change in the world
Show them why it is hard to implement without you – what specific features of your solution/service do you have that means that only you will enable them to implement this new philosophy/way of working in their business
Make your offer of working with them
Start reaching out to potential clients (using whatever means of outreach you use) offering to share information about an important change in their world that will impact how they achieve their goals/overcome their challenges (be specific with their goals – reference the industry’s most important goal/challenge that you have uncovered in research).
Use the sales narrative from step four in the meeting and close the deal with a prospect that wasn’t previously in the market for your services.
Repeat again and again until you own your niche!
But won’t my competitor’s copy me?
They certainly can try to copy your philosophy and approach – this is why you need to ensure that you are constantly working to:
a) ensure that you bombard your market with your philosophy and make sure that you become known as the ‘X’ (your philosophy) guy
b) improve your service/solution based on your philosophy (like Drift) to ensure that the best option for implementing your philosophy is you
This takes work, and that’s a great thing – because it will put your competitor’s off trying to do what you are doing.
Now get out there and start selling a philosophy!
- Image credit https://www.chiefmartec.com
About Chris Monk
Chris has sold & marketed services and software B2B for the last 12 years. He now helps businesses selling B2B to create more compelling strategic sales & marketing narratives based on selling a philosophy, not features and benefits – an approach he learnt whilst working with companies like Microsoft, SAP & Oracle. To learn more about this approach and to read more case studies visit https://www.persuadem.com