Sales professionals face tremendous challenges when it comes to differentiating in a sea of sameness. Rising above the competition to win a deal (and retain profit) requires more than a great personality. What if you could achieve an environment with collaboration with your prospects? I suspect you could close more deals.

My suspicions are actually true. The RAIN Group’s research presented in the book Insight Selling revealed, “The more sellers collaborate with buyers the more ownership of ideas shifts from seller to buyer. This increased the buyer’s perception of the importance of action and urgency to act.”

This past winter, I’ve trained dozens of sales reps in the art of asking questions about prospects’ business goals and analyzing the processes behind the goals. Out of this, I’ve noticed the power of collaboration to differentiate.

When sales reps begin collaborating with a prospect around helping the prospect’s most open goals, the environment begins to shift from adversarial to collaborative. It’s like the sales process begins with the buyer and seller on opposite sides of the table. With collaboration, the seller and buyer sit on the same side of the table.

How Do You Get on the Same Side of the Table With Your Buyers?

Every sales rep wants a seat at the executive table. So, how do you achieve the position of being on the same side of the table with your buyers?

Earn the Right

You don’t get invited to the executive table unless you have the credentials. Fortunately, you can build the credentials by making yourself valuable. This requires two things:

  1. A commitment to learning. Learning requires discipline to read. There’s no way around this. To build a collaborative environment, you need to be able to bring valuable ideas to the table. Make time to learn.
  2. Consistent sharing of what you learn. What you learn needs to be shared on your LinkedIn profile so that prospects can see that you are someone that adds value. In this, your prospects can see that you could add value to their business.

For more ideas on how to earn the right, here are some resources:

Build Trust With Great Questions

Dale Carnegie’s epic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People says the number one thing that people like to talk about is themselves. For a business owner or executive, a close second is talking about their business.

I’ve noticed that the more someone talks (and the more you listen) the more trust is built. Taking the time to ask questions about the prospect’s business and goals builds trust. This is an essential ingredient to collaboration.

Asking great questions about the prospect’s business aspirations also opens the door for collaboration. The more you know about their business, the better you are positioned to give insight.

Great questions don’t appear out of thin air. They require the due diligence of some research before your meeting. Take the time to get to know everything you can about the prospect and their business. Fortunately, Google and LinkedIn make this very easy. Having a background on your client combined with your general knowledge of their industry should position you to ask some focused questions that prove your credibility and open the door for conversation.

Remember, the hero in your sales story is the client. You want the position of guide or trusted advisor. Instead of blurting out all of the facts and figures about your offering, take the time to ask good questions and listen. More on this in our recent podcast episode:

Are You Willing to Make the Investment?

Are you willing to make the investment to put yourself in a collaborative position with your prospects? Are you willing to pay the price to get on the same side of the table? If so, you’ll find that you are able to differentiate and close more deals.

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