The Six Elements of Selling

As managers, it is imperative that we recognize, respect, and reward the unique
skills of each of our employees. After all, our goal is to attract and retain the best. Our passion for identifying, recruiting, developing and retaining high performing talent led to the development of The Six Elements of Selling™.

The Six Elements of Selling™ is based on the research conducted by Michigan & Manchester on the most effective sales methodologies used to up-skill salesmanship. Ironically, we also discovered clients value these six elements in other key extensions of sales enablement. Our methodology is designed to serve as a bridge between sales, marketing, operations and most importantly customer communications. In this article we are going to focus on how the six elements can be used to support the sales organization. 

This framework is comprised of the following characteristics: 

  1. Inquisitiveness – High performing sellers maintain a position of curiosity to solve their customers’ (internal/external) needs.

In the sales industry, a curious mind can separate a superior sales rep from an average one. Why is this distinction important? Because, high performing sales representatives use their inquisitiveness to explore customer needs and goals instead of asking questions. For far too long, traditional training companies have over emphasized the role of questions but overlook the importance of conducting research to understand the needs or goals in comparison to industry insights/trends. 

When looking at the sales rep-client relationship, a high level of inquisitiveness correlates to an active presence during sales calls. Having an active presence drives the sales representative to ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions based on research conducted in advance allows the sales representative to close gaps in information. Top salespeople want to know if they can win the business, and they want to know the truth as soon as possible.

This feeds into the development of the second phase – Strategy.

  1. Strategy – Aligning sales strategies and behaviors with the customer’s goals and expectations.

A sales strategy involves understanding your unique selling points, identifying your target market, developing your pitch, and identifying the best sales channel. But the most important thing in all of this is to align your sales strategies with the customer’s goals and expectations. 

It’s important to get as much detail as you can about your customers, this includes a detailed profile of the company size, psychographics, and the buying process. At its core, strategy is about creating a roadmap for execution for each decision maker, in each opportunity and measuring progress toward the client’s goals.

  1. Credibility – Building trust through a series of commitments, actions, behaviors, and results.

Let’s face the truth: today’s B2B customers don’t trust sales representatives. In fact, a recent study found that 59% of buyers would rather do research online to avoid interacting with a human sales rep who pushes their own agenda and doesn’t listen. For B2B brands, adopting some B2C tactics can directly boost trust with business partners. When it comes to content, B2B clients seek expertise and expert advice on a very high level, but B2C clients seek content with a lighter tone. Mixing these two ways of delivering content can end up being beneficial to that end client.

Take the time to build trust in your B2B experience, both online and in person. Being proactive and providing personalized recommendations to customers will put you in an advisory role to gain their trust and build a strong, loyal customer relationship.

However, it’s important to not only build trust with your customers but also within the company itself. Building trust between sales leaders and their team members is essential to driving high performance. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies.

  1. Identifying Solutions – Sharing insights, solutions, and industry-specific best practices to help customers avoid business and personal consequences.

Analytics plays an increasingly important role in B2B sales—and high-performing sales organizations take it to a new level to differentiate themselves.

If possible, build data-analytics talent. This means hiring people with advanced skills in statistics and machine learning but complementing them with experienced sales-analytics experts who can translate the insights into actions for the field. This allows you to fully understand your customer and be able to give your customers exactly what they need.

  1. Articulating Value – Effectively communicating the benefits of a product, solution or service, in alignment with the customer’s stated goals or needs. 

With 42% of B2B sales opportunities ending in no decision, articulating value is   big part of the selling process. Customers are not ready to believe in the viability of the salesperson’s product until they realize they have problems that this product can solve.

It is important to show the value because every customer is slightly different, so sales representatives must adapt the stories to suit the customer’s unique situation versus just stating a predetermined pitch. 

To help your salespeople better articulate value, we suggest you split your salespeople up into five to eight groups to create and then deliver customer stories. Then it takes, practice, practice, practice.

  1. Gaining Commitment – Summarizing business needs, required actions, and positive outcomes required by the customer and the seller to achieve the desired outcome(s). 

Arguably, this is often referred to as one of the most essential elements of the six. Despite common misperception, this stage is far greater than merely achieving a verbal ‘yes’ from the prospect or client. 

Gaining Commitment confirms that the seller has created value for the customer and established a strong foundation based on the the previous elements. There is a sense of value recognized by the other party. 

Value is the delta between the cost (whether perceived or actual) of the products, solutions or services and the benefits (tangible and intangible) received by the customer. 

Through the process of creating value the sales person begins to transform the relationship from a transactional nature into a consultative partnership in which the client seeks new advice, insights and knowledge from the sales person. The culmination of value and the consultative partnership encourages the customer to engage by taking action, providing insights or granting access to information or influencers to move the process forward to the most logical next step in the process. 

This is the very essence of Gaining Commitment – creating value, partnering and progressing through established milestones. 

In the end, It’s important to ensure your prospect is engaged in the sales process. Selling is a two-way process, it’s not just one sided to force someone to make a decision. Work with your prospect to come to a collaborative decision. 

We invite you to share how you have used these elements in your sales process and what lessons have you learned?