Here’s a  tough B2B sales challenge: Buyers who think they know exactly what they need, and believe that their purchase decision should be based on finding a supplier who can fulfill these pre-determined needs at the lowest price.

Because they think they know exactly what they need, these buyers send out requests for proposals or ask for bids, telling suppliers exactly what to bid on. They will then input the supplier bids into an Excel spreadsheet to make side-by-side comparisons.

Ugh! You know there is so much more to your offerings than price. You know that you are different than the competition, but you also know that it is difficult to showcase your differences on a spreadsheet.

How do you break this bid mentality?

Here’s your starting point: Recognize that the buyer only thinks he knows what he needs. He really doesn’t know what he needs, and you want to be the one to help him realize that.

Your goal: Through conversation, get the customer to say, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“I Hadn’t Thought of That.”

When you lead a customer to say, “I hadn’t thought of that,” you help the customer see you in a totally different light. A moment ago, you were one of many suppliers. Now you have instantly become a unique advisor.

You can’t force an “I hadn’t thought of that” moment; you can only lead your customer to it through conversation.  Let’s discuss two steps to help you do this:

Step 1: Discover What They Hadn’t Thought Of

Whenever a potential customer tells me what they want or need, my first step is to find the “why” behind their list of requirements.

To find the why, focus your conversation beyond the customer’s list of requirements. Instead of talking about the items they have outlined on their bid request, ask the customer about the higher-level goals they are trying to achieve with this purchase. What will be different in their company after they buy? What goals does this purchase support?

Be on the lookout for the real reasons they are making this buy. Then, look for any inconsistencies between these higher-level reasons for the purchase and their list of requirements. If you are alert, I guarantee you will find them.

Step 2: Lead the Customer to the “I Hadn’t Thought of That” Realization

The worst thing you can do is throw this inconsistency in your customer’s face. “Nah nah, hey hey you didn’t think of this” will never work. Instead, you want to lead the customer to this realization.

The master of this technique was the philosopher Plato, with his Socratic Method. In Plato’s Dialogues, Socrates would engage someone in a conversation that would lead them to realize that their preconceived notions were wrong.

You can apply this same principle to your customer conversations. When you find an inconsistency between your customer’s goals and their list of requirements, focus your conversation on the “why” behind the goal. Dig deep, and ask your customer to explain their goals and this “why.” Be genuinely interested, and be willing to hear all about it. As you manage this conversation, you will find the perfect opportunity to make an observation that suggests this inconsistency.

That is the point in the conversation when your customer says, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

And that is the point in the conversation where your customer’s opinion of you changes.

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