The Voice of the Channel


Collaborative Selling, Part III

Do You Have the Skills to Implement a Collaborative Selling Approach?

By Theresa Caragol, Achieve Unite

Selling to one or two executives in the organization is a thing of the past. Today, success is determined by building relationships with numerous contacts within your customer environment and your ability to align your product or services with these audiences. In this post, the third in our six-part series, Theresa talks about the key communication skillsets that can help you build connections, strengthen relationships and unlock new opportunities. I hope you continue to find our blog series interesting, informative and valuable. We'd love to hear your stories of success.

Jim Schwartz, Sr Director, Global Channel Programs, Sungard AS

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Effective Collaborative Selling rests on one's ability to build relationships with their customers – and this starts with forming connections. As the adage goes "people buy from people they like." It takes time and skill to strike up a relationship.

In my work with Channel companies, I find that that the skills development sessions that we deliver are especially impactful because they help build confidence in a fundamental way that influences partnership performance more than most would expect.

Historically, soft skills training has been perceived as "fluffy" and possibly regarded as not as important as more role specific training like product or process training. However, with the age of digital disruption, it's more important than ever that people are agile. People need the skills to be able to reinvent themselves as business models evolve. This is driving great demand for soft skills training.

Take interpersonal skills – one of the 5 foundational elements of a partnership. In my last post, I discussed how building relationships among partner teams fosters communication, which encourages collaboration, which builds trust, which drives business, and so on. The circle of life in the business world, if you like. Business will thrive when individuals have the skills necessary to move to the next stage: Collaborative sellers have strong communication skills which allow them to quickly connect with individuals, build trust and expand conversations to uncover business opportunities.

Let's review some of the critical skills to implementing a collaborative selling approach:

  • One way to demonstrate that you are truly listening is with active listening skills. This is the art of asking related questions to show that you're listening and to elicit more information from your customer about their business challenges and struggles. For example: Tell me more? It sounds like downtime is a concern? Do you know what the cost of downtime is to your business? Or you can ask one of Sungard AS' Million Dollar questions like Why haven't you moved everything to the cloud yet?

  • Understanding your audience is another important component of good communication skills. In the technology space, we're used to talking to CIOs/CTOs about the technology aspects of the solution. However, the typical buying process today involves, on average, as many as 4-10 decision makers so more people in the buying process. Each of them represents varying roles and interests within the organization. For instance, the CEO is going to be more focused on business strategy and increasing shareholder equity while the CFO might be concerned with mitigating risk and reducing capital expenditures and operating expenses. Operational buyers might want to make large scale operations run more smoothly. Understanding your customers role in the organization will help you to ask targeted questions to get to their pain as well to know what benefits of your solution will be most appealing to them.
In summary, relationship building is an integral component of Collaborative selling. Effective questioning techniques and understanding one's role within an organization will help you to foster a connection, which will eventually become a trusted relationship that will lead to more business.

In our next post, we'll illustrate how fostering discussions on both a business and technical level will enable sellers to bridge the gap between the C-Suite and the CTO/CIO to deliver a better, more holistic solution.

Theresa Caragol is founder and CEO of TCC, LLC, and Achieve Unite, a strategic advisory firm that provides business acceleration services to global enterprise. She has more than 20 years' experience in building and managing multi-million-dollar indirect channel teams and strategic alliance business and programs from inception to sales success. Prior to founding TCC, Theresa held senior executive roles at Extreme Networks, Ciena and Nortel.

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