Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life. – Mary Kay Ash
When you think of a “model” what comes to mind?
Is it something like a physical scale model of a building – the kind of thing an architect might build?
Is it a set of equations that describe a relationship between things, maybe even a cause and effect one – the kind of thing you could build in a spreadsheet?
Or perhaps it’s a framework, a matrix of possibilities or a collection of ideas that seem to work well together.
But perhaps what’s more important than what a model “is” is what it helps you to do.
A model should help you look at a situation where there’s a lot going on and focus on the key elements that are important – from that particular point of view.
This is harder than it sounds.
Take the last point – the one about a point of view.
The same situation will be seen differently by an engineer and an accountant, by an employee and her manager, by the shareholders of a company and a group opposed to what the company makes.
There is a tendency in some places to think of sales as an exercise in positioning and pushing product.
Set it up right and then hammer a message home until a buyer gets it.
This approach works in some situations – ones where the product is easy to describe, easy to compare and where there is a market that needs to get it.
Like insurance, for example – getting you to buy insurance now is all about share of mind – you will have certain websites in mind that make it easy for you to check options, select the cheapest and go ahead.
It doesn’t work that well in service businesses that are harder to describe and compare.
In those situations you still need someone doing the selling – and that’s where the LAT sales model comes in.
I’ve made this model up, so I should probably explain why quickly.
Often when I read about a model I’m not sure how it was created.
The chances are that there was some science at work – people like to quantify things.
Maybe they did some surveys, looked at data and came up with correlations – and then put it all together in a neat package and presented it as a model.
But in social situations numbers are not always the most useful way to look at things.
Sometimes you need to actually spend some time in the situation, looking at what is going on, grounding yourself in the reality that is in front of you and then generating theory – which might make its way into a model.
Which is where the LAT model comes from – it’s an attempt to simplify some of the things I’m seeing when doing sales these days.
How would you use this model when thinking through your own sales process?
The first element here is to Listen.
What I mean by that is to shut up and only say something to ask a question or clarify your understanding of a point.
All too often sales people spend their time with a prospect explaining everything about their product.
They might start by asking the customer what he or she needs but as soon as there is some hint that what they’re selling could come in, they jump into the conversation to talk about themselves.
I think that’s an issue.
When you simply listen and ask questions, forcing yourself to stay quiet even when you know exactly how to solve the problem being described, what you’re giving the prospect a chance to do is work through everything that’s in their heads with you.
When they finish doing that – when they’ve said everything they have to say – and look at you to ask what you think – that’s the point where you start to talk about yourself.
What happens if you do this is that you should understand much more about what their problem is and zero in on the areas where you can help.
What you’ve got to do is Agree that you and your prospect have the same problem in mind – the same image of what needs to be done.
All too often salespeople think that you have to change the mind of the prospect with your pitch.
Instead, what you need to do is put yourself in their shoes, look at things from their point of view and see what they’re seeing.
And then you can talk about what you would do to make things better – and you’ll get a more positive response because you’re both talking about the same thing.
At this point there is still one more thing to do.
You both need to Tell a story.
The chances are that you are both now clear on what needs to happen next – but you probably need to get agreement from a larger decision making group.
They don’t need all the detail, all the hard work you’ve done to listen and see things from the prospect’s point of view – the work that’s gone in to making sure you’re aligned.
But they do need to be comfortable with the plan that’s being put forward and to do that you need to tell them the story of why it’s the right thing to do.
You need to take them from being negative or neutral to being positive and supportive – because that’s how you’ll get your contract signed.
And this takes work because you might think that your existing material – the deck you have is just fine – and it may be.
But you’re better off telling a story in a way that will engage an audience rather than describing things from your point of view – which is what most presentations do.
They talk about things that are important to you and the audience dozes off.
Your presentation should be all about them – about what they’re going to get, how they’re going to get it, and how you’re going to take away all the risk because you know exactly what you’re doing.
Now, this is a simple model on the surface but there is a lot of depth to it.
Many salespeople operate using a model that seems to follow a Talk, Pressure, Whine model.
They talk about themselves to a prospect, try to pressure them to make a decision and then whine about how ungrateful the prospect is.
In their minds they’re the most important people in the room.
But you know that person is your prospect.
So start by taking the time to listen to them.