Disruptive selling and the value of being ‘prescriptive’

At Indicator's Sales Syndicate we were recently treated to a presentation from Bruce Rasmussen of Carpe Diem about disruptive selling, and why it is so important in today’s B2B sales world. The week before I was also lucky enough to hear Brent Adamson at Dreamforce. He was talking about what CEB (Corporate Executive Board) have found in recent research about two sales approach models – the responsive approach and the prescriptive approach. Both topics resonated strongly with me.

Many have read the Challenger sales book by Adamson and Dixon, as I have, but it wasn’t until listening to Bruce that I had the opportunity to reflect on the role that disruptive insights can play in a sales process.

Anyone who has attended my sales training seminars has heard me talk about looking for that question when prospecting that gets a target to say “sorry, what was that you said? … how do you do that?” – and then proceed to give an appointment slot. This technique has worked for me and thousands of other sales people when cold calling over the years, trying to break the prospect’s pre-occupation, and engage in wanting to learn “how” to solve a pain point.

The use of insights to disrupt a customer or prospect’s “status quo” provides a seller with the opportunity to start the buyer’s journey by being the first one to get them thinking about a pain or need they may not have realised they had, or was a problem.

There is obviously a big need or opportunity in this area, as is evidenced by CEB’s customer base. Whether that opportunity starts with a prospecting call or an account management meeting is irrelevant – the important thing is that you are there first. You now have the opportunity to guide the buyer through their first stages of buyer’s research. You will also (hopefully) gain their trust and confidence, and hopefully be able to give guidance as to how to evaluate their options.

But, how helpful do we want to be?

This was where I was especially interested in Brent Adamson’s Dreamforce presentation.

CEB have found that many suppliers follow the “responsive” approach, and provide a lot of information, many options, adapt their offerings as required and encourage debate throughout the buying process. He has found that another group of suppliers has a more “prescriptive” approach, where they make more limited offerings, are clear about their (limited) recommendations, and control debate by providing relevant perspective from other peers or users.

I would call this approach the “grow a backbone” approach – where the salesperson is taking more control of the sale, making it simpler, quicker and easier to make. But this takes courage as it’s not always what the buyer thinks they want, and the salesperson needs some courage to take what can be seen as a “pushy” position. That’s obviously the hard part, being prescriptive without being pushy.

Brent detailed more research showing customers have an 86% greater “change in likelihood of experiencing purchase ease” when following the prescriptive approach.

He defined prescription as “A credible and influential set of do this/don’t do that” recommendations, provided to customers across the purchase process,deliberately intended to ease the customer’s movement towards purchase.

As a salesperson AND a buyer, when I compare that vision/position to a process with too many options, information overload, too many decision makers and a long drawn out buying process, I know where I want to be – with prescription!

When these two models or modes are combined I think you have a very powerful sales proposition or position to come from.

You’re the one that starts the sales process with something of value (cost saving, incremental revenue or improved customer service are at the root of all benefits, and this is what C levels are fundamentally interested in). The conversation/process is then guided with a firm hand to get a decision – or not – hopefully relatively quickly either way. You have been in the lead throughout as you started the conversation, and then ensured the buyer had sufficient information and comfort to make their decision. As a seller your position is much better, and as a buyer, the process should hold less risk, and lead to better post-purchase feelings.

Of course, the product or service needs to deliver what it said it would, but that’s another article!