There must be something in the air that has created a flurry of books about how to sell by understanding how customers buy. In Selling to the C-Suite we learned that to sell to the C-level executive, you have to do your homework, gathering information and understanding what it is that executives need so that they can choose you.
The next book I received for review with the same focus on how customers buy was Slow Down, Sell Faster: Understand Your Customers’ Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales. The author, Kevin Davis (@toplineleader on Twitter) has over 30 years’ experience in sales and wrote Getting Into Your Customer’s Head back in 1996, so you know that he’s been drinking this lemonade for a long time.
What’s Inside the Book
Davis combines academic research and practical experience to generate a sales system you can use to not just improve your top line, but your bottom line as well.
Part I of the book is devoted to the actual sales system. One thing I really like about this book is that it is actually written for an industrial or complex buying process. Davis references established experts Webster and Wind, who have studied how bigger organizations make decisions to select a supplier. And he uses decades of research and melds it with practical, real-life ways that business-to-business purchases are made.
Part II expands on the selling system by introducing what Davis calls the eight roles that you have to play in the customer’s buying process:
- Student: Use Knowledge to Gain the Edge
- Doctor: Diagnose Small Problems, Define Big Needs
- Architect: Design Customer-Focused Solutions
- Coach: Make a Plan to Defeat the Competition
- Therapist: Understand and Resolve a Buyer’s Fears
- Negotiator: Reach a Mutual Commitment
- The Teacher: Teach Customers to Achieve Maximum Value
- The Farmer: Cultivate Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Part II contains one chapter on coaching to the eight roles. It’s written for sales managers and the people who work for them. It provides a series of cheat sheets and troubleshooting tables to help sales managers and sales reps debrief sales calls.
If you’ve had any professional sales training, you will recognize many of the principles and techniques represented in this book. For example, I’ve had Sandler Sales Training, and I easily recognized what I call the 10-point scale technique. Simply ask your customer to rate the solution you’ve come up with like this: “On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘not at all what I want’ and 10 is ‘this is the perfect solution,’ how would you rate the solution we’ve discussed?” If they answer anything less than an 8, ask, “What would you need to see to bring that to a 10?”
The book is full of strategies, tips and hints at every level and at every point of the selling process. Davis uses a layered approach where he introduces the selling system, then overlays the roles of the salesperson through the buying process and guides the reader to success.
Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite pieces of information:
The Decision-Making Hierarchy: This is perhaps the simplest and best description of what’s important to each level of the organization and how you should structure your message:
- CEOs – They are at the top of the pyramid, and profitability is what you should focus on when talking to them.
- Mid-Level Managers – The middle or core of the pyramid. These people are most concerned about solving operational problems. The departments typically represented here include marketing, operations and customer service.
- Support – This is the base of the pyramid and includes accounting, purchasing, training and legal departments.
While most books tell you to aim straight for the top of the pyramid, Slow Down, Sell Faster reveals the truth that most salespeople don’t have anything of substance to say to C-level execs until they’ve gotten their feet wet a little further down the pyramid.
Slow Down Sell Faster Is a Serious Sales Book Focused on Sales Training and Improvement
This is a fantastic book for any business-to-business, technical or industrial CEO with full-time, direct salespeople who sell high-priced, high-involvement products and services to companies where more than one person is involved in the decision.
Don’t expect to read Slow Down, Sell Faster in one sitting and then see immediate results. This is a comprehensive, detailed and perceptive book about complicated sales situations. You’ll want to read this book section by section and then take the time to implement and practice specific strategies. I’d recommend that you visit the Slow Down, Sell Faster section of Kevin Davis’ website where you can download Chapter 1, “Why Slower is Faster,” and experience the book for yourself.
Overall, this is an extremely powerful book that will challenge your thinking and your sales process. And like a good workout and diet, I think you’ll find the results well worth the effort.