A short story to illustrate Principles of New Business Development for Selling Professional Business Solutions
Once upon a time, a mother and her school-going daughter went to the marketplace to buy oranges.
At the marketplace, they saw 4 shops selling oranges.
- The first shop was called LOW COST. This shop had black-board with a chalk message that read, “CHEAPEST ORANGES SOLD HERE!”
- The second shop was called CREDENTIALS. This shop had a flashing neon signboard with a long list of all the fancy equipment they used to harvest the oranges and to pack and transport the oranges to the shop.
- The third shop was called CLIENT LIST. This shop had a big bill-board at the entrance with photographs of a number of pretty Bollywood actresses! The bill-board read, “BOLLYWOOD ACTRESSES BUY THEIR ORANGES FROM HERE - SO SHOULD YOU!”
- The fourth shop was called EMPATHY. This shop had a neatly designed message board that read, “FOR FREE CONSULTATION ON HOW ORANGES CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY, WALK IN NOW!”
Mom was obviously intrigued. She had a limited budget but did not want to risk buying bad oranges at the LOW COST shop. “Why else, would someone sell at low cost?” she wondered.
She was quite intimidated with all the fancy equipment described at the second shop. Frankly, she didn’t understand half of the list. And wasn’t sure if this would help her buy tasty, healthy oranges.
She didn’t want to appear dumb by asking too much about what she didn’t understand so she decided not to walk into CREDENTIALS.
The Bollywood actresses’ pictures at the third shop looked gorgeous! She was quite tempted to walk into store CLIENT LIST. Perhaps the oranges in shop 3 were organic and healthy which is why all the Bollywood actresses went there and looked so good!
But then the invitation of a free-consultation at shop 4 was tempting. So she walked in, intrigued, to find out how oranges could make her happy. She decided she would take a quick look at shop EMPATHY and then perhaps go back to shop CLIENT LIST and buy her oranges.
In shop number 4 called EMPATHY, she found a number of options neatly laid out in counters. The first counter had a jolly old man demonstrating how a simple juice extractor could serve up a fresh glass of orange juice. Just adjacent to that was another counter manned by a short, stout lady who exuded so much energy! She was efficiently taking the orange rinds left over from the orange juice counter and demonstrating how to make marmalade and jams from the rind of the orange. A bunch of happy teenagers, keen to learn seemed to be enjoying the demonstration. A third counter was manned by this pimpled boy who neatly pealed the oranges, removed the seeds and put them in small boxes with a toothpick making for an easy snack. And right beside this boy was another counter serving orange ice-cream with scores of recipe books on how to make sorbets and ice-creams. And guess what? A pretty Bollywood actress was actually standing there licking an ice-cream at the counter too! Guess some actresses came to EMPATHY too and relished oranges and orange ice-cream!
The lady noticed her daughter skipping lightly to the light-hearted music playing in the store as a well-dressed man called Mr. NBD walked up to them and began describing the wonderful ways in which oranges could share happiness with all. He then attentively listened to why the lady wanted to buy oranges. The woman explained how she was looking to buy them to prepare fresh juice for her family at breakfast.
The well-dressed man suggested that she should then consider the Valencia variety which was sweet and ideal for breakfast juice. In fact, he suggested that she should use a metal juicer (vs. plastic which is not good for health).
He then also added that ideally, the lady should consider serving some orange fruit for breakfast on alternate days since the fruit has a lot of fiber that the juice misses out on. The woman found that very informative. She knew orange juice has vitamin C, but did not realize the fiber had such health benefits.
The man also described how the woman could actually save some money and enhance her family’s health – by making her own fresh marmalade and jams at home as opposed to buying expensive jams from supermarkets (which are loaded with preservatives to increase shelf life). “Sodium benzoate is used liberally in bottled jams and that can play havoc on your health you know! On the other hand, fresh orange rind is awesome for you!” he explained. “The leftover rind from the orange juice can easily be used.” He wisely pointed to the mother to observe how the short stout lady expertly made the fresh jams and marmalade. The mother watched with rapt attention as did her daughter.
The recipes looked simple and the book would pay for itself in less than a month the mother figured. Besides, her daughter may have fun trying to make Jam!
In about half an hour, the lady walked out of EMPATHY STORE with a bagful of oranges, two boxes of freshly pealed fruit with the fibre for the next day’s breakfast, and a recipe book for making jams and marmalade. She had also taken Mr. NBD’s telephone number to ask him for help if she got stuck when making the marmalade.
Moral of the Story:
Most of us tend to sell solutions predominantly using either or all of 3 C’s – Credentials, Client List or (low) Cost. These are important, but not sufficient. They at best demonstrate technical competence. The 4th C in solution selling is the most critical – (instilling) Confidence. The buyer must believe that she can trust you with not just her fees, but also her reputation. And that your input is not from a self-serving need to “sell” but a sincere attempt to “help.” This is so obvious because typically most professional sales have financial and business impacts several times larger than the fees involved.
A sincere attempt to help is not possible without investing the time to comprehend the problem at hand, helping the client think through proposed options and then suggesting a solution that reduces uncertainty for the client.
Closing the sale once both competence and trust are established... is merely a formality!