We all (hopefully) remember the term “hypothesis” from science class. It’s an educated assumption that requires further examination but serves as a starting point for investigation. The hypothesis of need in the sales process is similar as it allows the seller to prepare prior to the first call using customer profiles to form a hypothesis about what problems they can solve for the customer. This preparation allows the seller to have answers ready before ever speaking with the customer.
As a salesperson researches a lead (here are 6 tips for that), they are collecting data to help inform their hypothesis. What are the customer’s pain points? What are the trends in the industry? Where can your solution help? Knowing this information allows salespeople to hypothesize a reason for the call. If that reason is strong, objections can be more easily overcome.
Put Yourself in The Customer’s Shoes
The first step in developing a hypothesis of need is to put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Think about what type of accounts they target, who the competition is, what they’ve recently done, and how their industry is positioned. Understanding these areas gives you great building blocks from which to form a hypothesis.
It’s about being relatable to a customer. When they see that a salesperson has done their homework and can understand their frustrations, prospects feel more comfortable discussing their business needs in a consultative manner. No one wants to be sold to. We just want someone who can help with our problem. If a salesperson can demonstrate that they are there to find the solution, the buyer becomes interested in learning more.
“70% of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems. 30% make decisions to gain something.”(Impact Communications)
I’m sure we’ve all had experiences with this. Recently it happened when I purchased a suit for my brother’s wedding. With the suit picked out, all I needed was a pair of shoes to match. However, the salesperson refused to listen to my immediate problem and instead tried to repeatedly upsell me on the cardigans the store had on sale. I love a good cardigan, but the salesperson was focused more on selling me something instead of addressing my needs. He missed out on an easy sell by not discussing my needs first.
It’s the difference between selling to the customer, and being the consultant wanting to help solve a problem.
Have a Purpose
Amazon is famous for knowing what you want to buy before you buy it. This is no accident. Armed with consumer data and buyer profiles, they can deliver consumer goods quickly and efficiently. Salespeople can take this lesson in predictability and apply it to their roles. Get to know your prospects so that you can deliver the right solutions at the right time. “Winging it” isn’t a sales strategy. Not a good one, anyway.
There is no way of predicting every objection. If I had a crystal ball, I wouldn’t be writing this… I’d be in Vegas! What a salesperson can do is use research to form a hypothesis and come to meetings as a consultant. By having a purpose and a well-thought-out approach, you come across as knowledgeable and present yourself as an expert in the field. This builds trust with the customer and strengthens the relationship.
Understanding the company can help sellers navigate alternative solutions and differentiate themselves from the pack. Asking open-ended questions based on the hypothesis of need further develops the theory. Being able to pinpoint unique advantages over the competition is possible when a seller understands how a company is positioned and the prospect’s pain points.
Have Relatable Content Ready
With the purpose clearly defined, the next step is to prepare materials that help a salesperson be seen as an advisor and to relate to a buyer on their level. 80% of survey respondents believe that personalized content is more effective than “unpersonalized” content (duh). Don’t leave home without it, as the saying goes.
Case studies are an excellent way to showcase how your product served as the solution for a similar company. When developing a hypothesis, you should reflect on customers that experienced comparable situations. Sharing those success stories not only helps a sense of empathy with a prospect but also provides a real-world example of how your solution solved a similar problem.
If you, as a salesperson, hypothesize that a company has difficulty with pipeline management, then personalized content addressing that specific issue could be the ticket to get your foot in the door. Relatable content that provides valuable information to the customer helps generate more interest in your solution. If pipeline management is an issue, then why speak at length about coaching solutions? Focus on what’s important to the customer and address their needs directly.
For example, suppose a customer wants their reps to spend more time on the phone to be more effective. Content centered around telephone capabilities would be appropriate. Materials that demonstrate the benefits of solutions like Live Call Studio and LocalDial that address the customer’s problem directly. This positions the seller as someone who listens to needs and finds solutions that will help a customer achieve their goals.
Hypothesize and Define Value and ROI
At the end of the day, buyers want to know one thing: what’s the return on investment? It’s the old “WIIFM” concept (ICYMI: that’s “what’s in it for me”). The seller’s job is to demonstrate the value that their solution provides, and what type of long and short-term results they can expect. An easy formula to remember is:
Motivation = Perceived Benefits – Perceived Cost
Motivation is the fuel that transforms a prospect into a customer. We tend to get comfortable and set in our ways; it’s a seller’s responsibility to nudge the customer to take the first step in finding a solution. Motivation is created when the buyer is shown the benefits they can expect to see, minus the cost to implement. It’s all about the ROI!
Demonstrating the ROI can be done several ways. For instance, if a seller anticipates that a company’s sales team spends too much time on administrative tasks, the ROI might be the amount of free time they will gain to do actual prospecting. The extra time could lead to 10 more calls per day, and we know (from our open-ended question asking) that X percentage of those will turn into meetings. The ability to use all of the information gleaned to reach a real ROI calculation again shows the customer that a seller is prepared and looking at the solution from all angles.
A prospect won’t buy something if there isn’t value in it for them. No reasonable person would. When a seller can demonstrate the value of their solution and the return a prospect can expect to see in their investment, it sets them apart from the competition. Getting to the ROI and, consequently, the “yes,” is more natural when a salesperson begins with the advantage of a hypothesis of need.
The hypothesis of need is a critical step in preparing for a successful sales call. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and understand their perspective; be an advocate for your customer. Spend time preparing your hypothesis of need, have a well-thought-out purpose, provide supporting content, and be able to demonstrate the ROI for the prospect. It’s hard to say no to someone who is offering you the answer to your problem and can lay out a timeline for an ROI!
Are you missing a critical step in preparing for sales calls? Read up on the (sales) hypothesis of need.