-involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.; judicial: a critical analysis
Are you critical of your customers and prospects? Do you skillfully judge them? Do you critique their environment, their choices, their current solutions, their approach? You should, it’s the only way to make a difference.
Being critical or critiquing your customers and prospects allows opportunities to be found, problems to be uncovered, waste to be spotted, growth to be identified, etc. Critiquing is the process of putting what you see through the brain blender. When we critique, we take information we’ve just acquired and bash it against the knowledge we have stored in our brain and produce validations AND alternative ideas, options, actions, approaches etc. Critiquing is the mash-up of information and knowledge and spitting out compelling ideas, solutions, suggestions and more that separates the best sales people from everyone else.
If you’re not critiquing your customers business processes, their go to market strategy, their procurement strategy, their social media plans, their sales process, their green initiatives, or what they are doing, where you offer a solution, then what exactly are you doing? If you’re not critiquing what they are doing, if your not being critical who is — the customer? Good luck with that.
Customers and prospects do critique themselves. It’s usually at the point when they reach the decision they need to call you or your competition. But, even then, it’s a surface critique, lacking any real depth. Relying on the customer or prospect to critique themselves is a hard way to make a living in sales.
Being critical of customers and prospects doesn’t mean being an ass-hole or a pompous know-it all. It means having more information than your customers. It means being as knowledgable or even more knowledgable about the industry, the trends, the processes, and the competition than your customers. It’s turning this information and knowledge into powerful solutions and suggestions for them.
To successfully critique your customers requires four things:
Information: Be an information hound. Be on the cutting edge of new tools, processes, technologies, players, research, political mandates, regulations, etc. Make a goal to never let your customer tell you about something new, but rather always ask you what is new and coming down the pike.
Knowledge: Be able to do something with the information. Understand “how” things work. Understand the intricacies and relationships of the industry, and the market. Understand how the processess work. Know why they are in place. Be aware of the competitive landscapes. Know as much as you can. From this knowledge, develop the skill to craft well thought out and probable prognostications. Be able to make credible predictions. Develop the knowledge to do something with the information you are hounding. Without the knowledge, the info is useless to you.
Lead: I talked about this the other day. Leading is one of the biggest changes in today’s sales environments. Customers and prospects no longer have the inclination or time to lead. They expect sales people to lead the sales process. Be deliberate. Use the the knowledge and information you’ve obtained to lead the customer through the sale, highlighting your critique of their environment and their challenges. Waiting for the customer or prospect to lead undermines your credibility. Step-up.
Get comfortable, making your customers uncomfortable: Critiquing takes guts. You need to get comfortable pushing your customer. You need to be OK, saying; “I disagree.” or “There are better ways to do what you are doing.” or “Are you aware of . . . ?” Getting comfortable, making your customers uncomfortable is a critical skill. If you aren’t OK pushing, if you become unsettled with the thought of challenging your customer, being critical won’t work. You’ll just water down your observations. You’ll avoid sharing the truth and truth is at the core of critique selling.
The best sales people have learned the best way to sell, to gain the confidence of their customers and prospects and be seen as a true trusted advisor, is to be very critical of them. They’ve learned that by leveraging information and mashing it with the knowledge in their noggin, customers get more than just a product. They get the value of a well thought out, well crafted solution that meets, not only their perceived needs, but needs, issues, problems and opportunities they never realized they had. Customers need coaches too.
Go on be critical. Your customer and prospects will thank you for it.