Creating value is perhaps the best gift you can give your customers, prospects, and colleagues. Even better, you can do it all year ’round during the sales process—you can provide value before making the sale. A particular set of communication skills is the key. Do you and your team have them?

This time of year, especially, giving and receiving command a lot of attention. In business, we pursue these activities throughout the year, though perhaps more along the lines of “give and get” or “give and take.”

Unfortunately, business in general is too often perceived as emphasizing the getting rather than the giving. That’s not surprising, but is it fair? The common thread running through three key business-development functions—sales, negotiations, and referrals—is in fact getting others to do what we want them to do. But there’s a lot more to the story.

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’”
—Brian Tracy

Overlooked, we believe, is the simple truth that getting in business is made possible by the other, always-present force of giving or, from our perspective, creating value.

Sales, Negotiation, Referrals. Here are questions to ask yourself and your team for insight into how effective your sales skills and process really are. Do they help you provide real value during the sales process?

Sales

Are you as good at developing business as you are at doing your job?

For some professionals and others, business development is not their main function. But they are expected to bring in business nonetheless. Specific communication and persuasion skills will help here.

Do you get your fair share of new business from referrals?

While other forms of marketing and business development bring in business, most professional services firms, for example, do get a significant amount from referrals–often as much as 70 to 80 percent. Companies in other industries also benefit from referrals.

Do you sometimes feel that your sales process is designed to get prospects to buy something they don’t really need?

Good news: That’s not selling, at least in our book. Bad news: That queasy feeling can keep you from even asking for the business. A customized sales process designed to itself deliver value to your customers and prospects will quiet that nervous stomach.

Negotiations

Have you or your team been in shouting matches, lost business, or disrupted personal relationships?

No? Consider yourself lucky. These problems often do occur and, in our experience, are almost always avoidable.

Do you end up compromising to reach superficial “win-win” settlements that might actually be losses?

The truth is that today goes beyond compromise, sometimes way beyond. We help our clients achieve that goal by applying the consultative sales communications skills taught in our FOCIS® Consultative Selling course to create value for both sides during the negotiation process.

Is negotiating so emotional for you that you aren’t comfortable or confident?

For example, do you get angry or discouraged when the other side attempts to commoditize your product or presses too hard for price concessions?

Referrals

Are you unsure about the best way to get referrals?

Many, if not most, business people are. Actually, there are two productive ways. One, you ask the right people for referrals but also in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reasons. The other is to generate referrals without asking for them. Both ways involve creating value during the referrals process—just as in sales and negotiations. We teach both ways.

Is it uncomfortable-even impossible—for you to turn social interactions into business opportunities?

We’ve all faced this challenge at one time or another. Yet it can be done effectively in a way that leaves both parties feeling good about it because they both realize value.

Do you have a repeatable process to generate referrals?

Just as increasing sales isn’t magic, neither is increasing referrals. The very best business developers do have a process that can be taught.

Business simply can’t be conducted if both sides don’t give and receive. In business schools, it’s called “exchanging value.” The conventional perspective is that a “fair exchange of value” can, and should be, the goal of selling, negotiation, and referrals. Both seller and buyer should “win.”

“I now have confidence to ‘make rain’ without feeling I have manipulated or cajoled a prospect into becoming a client.”
—Graduate, FOCIS® Consultative Selling, Professional Services

We’ve learned—and we teach—how to take that conventional thinking a step further. As readers of this column and graduates of our FOCIS® consultative selling course know, our experience is that in selling the best way to give value is to create it during the sales process. Value can also be created during the negotiation and the referrals processes by using essentially the same communication skills taught in FOCIS®.

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