With 10 years of experience working with Southwestern Advantage, Will Metscher currently holds a position in the Elevating Sales division for Southwestern Consulting in Portland, Oregon. His job primarily covers sales training & development, one-on-one sales coaching, and a bit of life-coaching. Will is a long time friend of our CEO, Brett Riley, and it happened that he was recently in town providing sales consulting for a few area businesses, so he stopped by to give an informal presentation on a topic of his choice. He shared with us what he calls, the concept of “CLASP.”
The idea that there is an underlying agenda is to some degree unavoidable in an introductory business setting. For one thing, the concept of “business,” any way you look at it, involves trade and negotiation. Will is frequently contacted for guidance leading teams that commonly share fear about coming off as “salesy,” or pushy when approaching a prospective client. We’ll certainly acknowledge having experienced visible preoccupation on the faces of folks sitting across the table; However, a really good business development company isn’t trying to sell more– our goal is to sell better.
It’s imperative to step back from the misguided goal of attaining some kind of commitment, and instead, prioritize the task of gleaning a holistic understanding of the problem that business is experiencing. It’s important to listen and evaluate if you’re in the right position to help them, while also keeping in mind that healthy long-term relationships are inarguably built upon transparent communication, trust, and equal business stature. The goal is to identify a well-matched partnership by listening and asking the right questions.
By following Will’s CLASP Concept, business development reps have a way of identifying ideal partnerships based on the context of their individual situation — before any documentation enters the room.
Currently — It’s imperative that a baseline is uncovered so that you can determine if you can help them in the first place. Start the conversation by asking about the current state of the project, the campaign, the business, the tools being used, methods for prospecting, etc. By taking the time to inquire, opening the floor for them to provide context, and demonstrating your attentiveness to listen for their needs are all that which help to build a relationship, rapport, & understanding between you. Ask questions like,
What are you doing, currently?
What is your strategy?
What’s going on with this project?
Like — With acquired context, follow-up by asking what they like about the current situation. Start by asking questions like,
What do you like about what you’re doing?
What methods have doubtlessly been beneficial to your business?
By asking them to express the positives things they like about the current state of business, the conversation is likely to naturally steer toward the binary — that being what they dislike. Listen closely – what they dislike may present itself less explicitly. Your client may say things such as, “well, although I really like X, I wish Y was better at making Z happen.”
Alter — Again, if the natural conversation hasn’t already brought you to this point; if they haven’t already told you what they want to change… that’s the next question you want them to answer.
What is it that you would’ve done differently?
What would you have changed?
How does that make you feel?
How did that change the way you feel?
How does that affect your business?
What would you prefer, instead?
Getting them to talk about emotion they have around the work they do helps to logically tie-in that there are reasons for a change to be made. Regardless of the industry, changing is a hard thing for humans to embrace – we all get stuck in habits– and the older the company, that difficulty compounds. Given the opportunity to verbalize ideas about what could be altered is the first step in confronting, addressing, and making a plan of action to responsibly make it happen – and also provides insight for you to better understand their company.
Signer — Meaning, it’s important to make sure that you’re spending time talking to the right person– that that person is included in the conversation. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable that you have to talk to someone with less authority, but those conversations don’t have to be wasted. There is still the opportunity to build rapport & glean context. Ask,
Who else would you want to be involved?
Who else should we include in this conversation?
Is everyone here that needs to be?
Painting the Picture — Finally, demonstrate that you’ve listened to all they have shared with and expressed to you from the beginning. Restate everything they told you. Summarize what you’ve gleaned from the conversation. At this point, you’ve built the framework to place your role within the frame – you will know at this point if the business you represent can help. Take the opportunity to ask them questions like:
If we’re able to help out with X, would it be helpful?
Would you like to move forward?
Would you like to continue our conversation about this?
If we can give you the things that you like while taking away the things that you don’t like, would that be exciting to you?
Is there any reason why we shouldn’t work together?–closing question.
CLASP Concept is a method that discards any worry about coming across as “salesy,” because there will have been no pressure to sign or commit to anything. The stage is set for a positive working relationship surrounded by open communication and keen listening. Creating a culture around asking good questions and learning to find where that potential client falls on the grid will help to find out how willing they are to confront issues, make changes, and reveal how you can help them if you are at all able to.
In many cases, a poorly-suited partnership will be obvious and you’re going to know early on — if there’s nothing they want to change, you won’t have anything to offer. From our perspective, if we aren’t solving a problem or relieving the pain a client or customer is experiencing, we aren’t the right fit for that company. Our focus is on the viability of a long-term relationship that can grow over time, rather than selling projects or campaigns that provide short-term revenue and questionable value to the client.
Will Metscher is a High-Performance Sales Coach for the multi-million dollar sales coaching and consulting division of the 160-year-old Southwestern Company. He has been a top producer in sales and recruiting with Southwestern Advantage. Today, Will travels the country training sales organizations on the techniques and principles that make top producing sales professionals. He also personally coaches individual top producers to achieve their greatest potential.