The 3 Words Every Salesperson Needs To Understand

Randy Illig

There is an unforgettable formula to help stand out and win over potential clients.

I had to deliver some bad news to salespeople recently: Their prospective customers wanted to do anything but talk to them.

Now I am returning with more hopeful news: There’s something they can do about it.

The bad news came as a result of a stunning statistic. According to a new poll of B2B buyers, three out of four preferred to have no interaction whatsoever with salespeople. It’s the understandable result of a handful of factors, including pandemic-era exhaustion from too many hollow LinkedIn requests. But it can be overcome.

How? A lot of hard work and even more patience, boiled down to what I hope is an unforgettable formula: Be relevant. Be distinct. Be memorable.

Relevance might not mean what you think it means. It is most salespeople’s instinct to talk about how they and their product are relevant to a customer. Don’t do that.

It may sound obvious, but relevance is gained by connecting to something that another person or business cares about. Most salespeople will read this last line and say, “Well, I already do that.” No, you don’t. Because if we really analyzed it, I bet what we’d find is you talking about yourself and your product, rather than talking about them.

This is hard work. Analyzing, actively listening and gently cajoling out a customer’s story takes time and, again, patience. The reward, however, is a true understanding of what that person and company truly needs, rather than what you’re prepared to sell them. That’s true relevance.

But to truly be valuable, being distinct meansonce again viewing the world through a customer’s eyes and not your own. Anyone can put on an orange suit and set their hair on fire to stand out. Instead of telling them what makes you different, ask what differences would be important to them. If you want to be distinct, you have to ask the right sort of questions that will illuminate what distinctions truly matter, rather than the long, practiced list you’re prepared to spout off at the first sign of any interest.

Memorable also seems like an easy goal. But it might not mean what you think it means.

The Most Trusted Leadership Company

Learn how your organization can use our people, content, and technology to create collective action and meaningful change.

Sales decisions aren’t a solo act. At some point, even if you’ve done the hard work of selling an individual within a company, you know that it’s then their job to sell your product internally to their colleagues.

This sales handoff represents a point at which you no longer control the process. That can be scary. To compensate, it’s best to leave your customers with a memorable and realistic summation of what your solution might mean for them.

Say this is a customer in the business of responding to RFPs. They’re all about fulfilling already present demand. Now think in terms of headlines. “Demand fulfillment to demand creation” is five words and, hopefully, a tight enough synopsis that it won’t become unwound and unwieldy when the target you’ve spent time talking to takes it to the other decision makers within their company.

Sales, at its best, is a synergistic process. But synergy doesn’t come quick and it doesn’t come easy. It takes time to discover which things that work for you will also work for your customers. Take that time and use it well.