Three ways to earn “Same Side of Table (SSOT)” status with Decision Makers

I referred to SSOT status in my last blog. This is when we earn the credibility to have a peer-level problem solving discussion with customer decision makers. In these settings we’re no longer sitting across the table from each other, as in a negotiation setting, but instead we’re on the same side of the table doing work together to building business solutions.

When we earn the personal credibility to have an SSOT discussion with decision makers, we create an environment where the close becomes a natural next step because we’re part of the customer’s team versus a sales agent. The critical thing to know is that we earn SSOT status during the sales process not after the sale is won. We get here via the following:

Analysis without assumptions – The customer will always know more about their business than we do. Given this, any cost/benefit analysis we do is no more than a proposal given the information we have. If we assume all our information is right we’ll approach the discussion with a meaningful difference in tone that can leave the customer seeing us as over confident or even arrogant. If we accept that that the customer conversation is a means to validate our understanding, our tone becomes more investigatory which earns us a spot on the team versus being the seller with misaligned motivations.

What-If proposals – Sometimes it’s OK to show up with a proposal that doesn’t have all the data necessary to draw conclusions. We can’t show up with a blank page but we can show up with missing data or information that needs to be filled in by the customer. This allows us to have “what-if” discussions with the customer. I had a situation where we wanted a customer to ship additional software on their PCs. I built a model that calculated additional revenue and profits but left out the price and margin because we didn’t know them. This led to a “what’-if” discussion where the SVP entered the prices he thought they could charge and the margin he expected based on his knowledge of cost. We got the business and we had pricing and margin information we otherwise would not have gotten. Most importantly, the SVP made as part of his virtual team after that meeting.

Motivations of assistance versus acquisition – People in general, hate being pitched and pressured to buy. However, people in general, like being assisted and appreciated during the buying process. The former is a certain way of remaining on the opposite side of the table from our customers. The latter is a means to earn SSOT status with decision makers which, in my experience, most often leads to sales wins and decision maker loyalty.

As I said in my last blog, selling is hard work but is made simpler when we base our plans on the reasons customers buy. Earning SSOT status is an important sign that we’re on the journey with the customer as our guide.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™ LLC


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