How do you move out of the expected roles of customer and vendor with well-defined roles and expectations to a side-by-side dialog that supports your customer’s expectation of value?
All of us are familiar to some degree with the story of Romeo and Juliet. We know this as a love story, but some of us might not remember that Romeo dies in the end. If you are an actor cast in the role of Romeo, you know how the story ends. You might have some “artistic” license—maybe a gasp and grab your heart before you flop down and die—but the outcome is inevitable. As a salesperson, you have to be wary of the customer who is trying to cast you in the role of Romeo. Your customers (Juliet) are often evaluating you for a pre-defined role as vendor. Much like accepting the role of Romeo, you know how that turns out. In fact, the “Juliet’s” of your world truly believe their job is to find their Romeo!
Whatever you sell, from products to services, are essentially widgets. I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s wonderful products or services, but step back for a second and answer the question—does the prospective client really need your widget, or do they need the outcome the widget delivers? Chances are they need the outcome, and that is what helps you move from vendor to deliverer of value!
So, when your Juliet asks you questions about the widget, you have a choice. You can accept the role of Romeo and answer questions about the widget—cost, delivery schedule, technical specifications, etc. If you accept the role of Romeo by simply responding to the questions, you know how it is going to end, don’t you? You are in the customer/vendor “play” with a script that clearly outlines the scenes. You can also decide to “change the play” and not accept the role of Romeo. How do you do that? Certainly answer the client’s questions, but before you do, position the fact that no one really needs the widgets—they need the outcomes:
“While I have world-class widgets, our experience shows it is more than just that—it is about the outcomes. If I can understand and then help you achieve your business outcomes, then you can be successful. The true meaning of win-win is I only win if I help your company meet your purpose first. Once I answer your initial questions, can we talk about the outcomes for the business you believe this widget will help you achieve?”
Be careful; it is easy to be drawn into accepting the role of Romeo, but if you do, you know how it ends! And once you accept the role, you cannot change the script.