Over the past year and a half, I’ve used the term ‘situational selling’ as I talk to financial firms about improving their sales effectiveness. It’s a term that applies whether the firm is focused on increasing opportunity close rates, acquiring new customers, or cross-selling existing customers. I sometimes forget, while ‘situational selling’ is a standard part of my vocabulary it may not be a term that’s readily understood by everyone I speak with…especially, when related to enabling sales effectiveness.
Simply put, situational selling is the skill or ability to present the right information, tools and materials to a prospective buyer based on what’s important to them in their unique situation, at any given time. It’s a skill that’s practiced effortlessly by the most successful sales professionals and can be taught to virtually anyone. In fact, many sales methodologies focus on the process of ‘situational selling’, although they may use terms like ‘consultative selling’. But, where a methodology or process is the science of situational selling, effectively leveraging and presenting the right information is the art. Fortunately, this is one art form that can be enabled by the right tools and technology.
Imagine a wealth manager getting ready to meet with a client who has children that she wants to send to college, or an investment professional who’s meeting with a retirement plan manager that’s worked with a consultant to define their near-term investment strategy for their plan.The science – executing a discovery process to ensure that the investment professional understands the current state, future goals, and overriding concerns related to the buyer’s situation. While, the art is pulling together the right information and delivering it in the most effective way to address the specific needs of the situation. That’s situational selling!
Now, more than ever, I see firms transitioning their relationship managers away from pitching products to presenting solutions using situational selling skills. So, how does a company ensure the highest probability of success occurs in the transition?
- Augment product-specific tools and materials with situation-based tools and materials: Whether it’s a focus on Investment Strategy, Life Stages/Milestones, or Business Banking Goals, it’s important to utilize tools and materials that focus on the common buyer situations that a relationship manager encounters in their sales efforts. Product-specific materials should support the situation-based materials, not the other way around.
- Align sales tools and materials to buyer situations: It’s not enough to make the information available, you also need to deliver it in the context of the buyer situation criteria that they’ve uncovered in discovery and meeting preparation activities. Since information delivery is typically done via web-based mechanisms, it’s important to have a taxonomy defined to map different pieces of content to the relevant buyer situation. This drives the effective delivery of the various tools and materials to the relationship managers in the proper context to enable situational selling.
- Provide ‘push’ and ‘pull’ mechanisms to address various relationship manager needs: Use delivery technologies that allow your more seasoned relationship managers to simply search for the relevant information to support a particular buyer situation. The technology should also provide the ability to guide your less experienced ‘situational sellers’ to the right information based on the answers to a few basic discovery questions about the buyer situation.
- Automate customizable documents and presentations to address the specific needs of the buyer situation: Content authors become more efficient by creating fewer sales tools versus having to create a unique document or presentation for each buyer situation. Relationship managers spend less time performing manual customization of generic sales and marketing tools. And, the Compliance team will be thrilled with the level of command and control that ultimately, reduces compliance risk by eliminating manual, one-off customization processes.
- Enable collaboration across the sales team to reinforce situational selling: Enterprise social collaboration allows the marketing team, subject matter experts (SMEs), and relationship managers to share best practices and highlight successful sales execution to reinforce situational selling teachings.
Using a sales enablement solution to enable situational selling is the key difference in improving a firm’s sales effectiveness. I encourage every firm I speak with to explore the possibilities and impact that this has on the successful execution of their strategic initiatives.