Three-Part Series by Whitten & Roy Partnership
Part 2. Sales competence: increased decision intelligence (DQ) transforms sales results
In this three-part series Dr. Roy Whitten and Scott Roy, founders and directors of international sales consultancy Whitten & Roy Partnership Ltd who provide sales training and programs in 34 countries in both commercial and the developing world, share expert advice on transforming sales performance and managing sales teams. Following last month’s article on managing attitude, this second article discusses customers’ ability to take the best possible choice: decision intelligence, also called ‘DQ’. The final article in the series, next month, will explore the topic of sales execution.
Start with context, not content
Most sales competence training focuses at best on skills and technique and at worst on what we call ‘tips and tricks’. Elements of the ‘selling process’ are dissected into pieces, and then the inevitable skills parade focuses on the parts: account planning, lead generation, cold calling approaches, open and closed questions, presentations, and – everybody’s favourite – how to close.
The problem here is one of starting in the wrong place: with content instead of context. It settles for improvement when it could be aiming at transformation: a permanent change in perspective, purposefulness, and a release of natural ability that generates significantly stronger sales performance.
So let's start with context: the mindset and the foundational purpose that drives the application of the skills the salesperson possesses. A simple way to get at context is to ask oneself this question: When I talk to customers, what am I fundamentally trying to do?
We have trained many salespeople in many countries and their answer to this question is nearly always: I’m trying to get them to buy what I’m selling. It’s logical. It undoubtedly meets with management approval. It’s not wrong, but it just isn’t right enough.
Decision Intelligence – a transformative context
We suggest a different context for sales, a different place to ‘be’ when speaking to customers. We encourage salespeople to let go of getting customers to buy and focus instead on what we call the customer’s decision intelligence, or ‘DQ’.
IQ and EQ (intellectual and emotional intelligence) are well-known concepts. We coined the term DQ to refer to decision intelligence. We help our clients to make expanding customer DQ the primary purpose of their selling activity, whether it’s a B2C transactional sale in the developing world or a more complex B2B sale in the commercial sector.
In DQ Sales®, as we officially call it, the seller is dedicated to helping their customer make the best possible decision for himself and his business, even if the customer discovers that the seller’s product or service is not what he needs. In this process, the seller leads the buyer through a series of steps, which deepen his understanding of two fundamental things: the problem he is trying to solve and the solution that will best solve that problem.
Sometimes, achieving this understanding is straightforward and simple – in many transactional sales this can be accomplished in a short conversation. At other times – especially when the sale is complex – helping a customer develop sufficient DQ can take weeks or even many months.
Increasing customer DQ
To develop a high DQ, customers need to understand four fundamental things, and they need to understand them in this order: firstly, the full extent and cause of their problems, including their needs, issues and difficulties; secondly, what it is costing them to leave these problems unsolved; thirdly, how the proposed solution will actually solve these problems; and fourthly, the value this solution will bring them.
In this way, the seller’s selling process is grounded in the customer’s buying process. When a customer has a 100% understanding of the problem she is trying to solve, and a 100% understanding of the solution to this problem, she then has a DQ of 100%, and she can make the best possible buying decision.
© Whitten & Roy Partership
The challenge sellers face
Our clients tell us that none of their customers possess 100% DQ at the start of the selling/buying process. In fact, they are not even close. When we ask them to graph their customers’ DQ – not the decision intelligence customers think they have, but what they actually have – our clients report some insightful results.
Their well-informed customers have on average 70% understanding of the problem and a 50% understanding of the solution. On the other hand, their poorly-informed customers are closer to 20% and 10% respectively.
This means that even their best-informed customers come to the first conversation with an overall DQ of only 35%. The rest of their customers have a lower DQ, even as little as 2%! When customers have such a decision intelligence gap, they may actually resist learning what they need to know. Instead, they invariably fixate on the one thing they do understand, which is price.
© Whitten & Roy Partership
Applying DQ Sales® to your own situation
What does this mean for sellers who want to transform their performance?
First of all, it implies implementing a selling process that is grounded in developing the customer’s buying process – that is, one that develops their DQ. Furthermore, it requires mapping the actions the customer needs to take, and in the order they need to take them so as to increase their DQ. And finally, it means thinking deeply about what has to change in the selling style to stay true to the context of enabling the customer to make the best buying decisions.
Based on what our own clients have found helpful, we suggest the following:
- Getting good at leading customers to focus primarily on their problems rather than the salespeople’s solutions;
- Pitching less, listening more – saving the demonstrations, slide decks and proofs of concept for when it is clear what’s actually needed to solve the problem;
- Becoming skilled at helping customers calculate the cost of leaving things as they are and hence the value of your solution.
This will more than pay dividends but is one of the harder things to do, so requires perseverance.
Applying DQ Sales® is simple but not easy. It requires thought and the willingness to keep learning. The effort is worth it. Client trust increases far more and far more quickly. The sales cycle will slow down in the beginning stages but speed through the end. There are far fewer objections and delays in the closing stages. And salespeople will find themselves relaxing into their role, doing it in a way that is more natural and authentic, and producing consistently greater sales results.
Dr Roy Whitten is an expert in attitude and its role in human performance. In over 40 years as a trainer, consultant and coach, he has personally coached and trained over 100,000 people. Scott Roy, an expert in the art of selling and sales management, built and ran large sales teams as well as founding a nationwide insurance company. In 2009 they both founded Whitten & Roy Partnership, which takes a radically different approach to sales training. Today operating in 34 countries around the world, Whitten & Roy Partnership is an international sales consultancy that helps leading global businesses and organisations in the developing world transform their sales results. For more information visit their website.