What Is Objective Based Selling? [Q&A with Sales Expert Tibor Shanto]

What Is Objective Based Selling? [Q&A with Sales Expert Tibor Shanto]
October 17, 2016

Sales enablement technology is designed to improve sales productivity. There are two avenues for driving better productivity - efficiency and effectiveness.

  • Efficiency: Maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort
  • Effectiveness: Degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result

To explain the difference, here’s an analogy that appealed to my baseball roots:The Baseball Hall of Fame doesn’t induct members based on their amount of batting attempts, but instead induct players with an impressive number of hits. In other words, sales leaders don’t care how many conversations reps had. They want to know how many deals reps closed.

Tibor Shanto: What Is Objective Based Selling? But what if there was a way to close more deals (get more hits) while gaining new leads (getting more batting attempts)? B2B sales expert Tibor Shanto, is leading the shift towards objective-based selling, a framework that enables salespeople to help buyers achieve their objectives.

Unlike selling methods that ask salespeople to find pain points, objective-based selling is designed to help reps learn how they can help customers reach their goals. Not everyone has pain points that warrant an investment. However, everyone has goals and objectives for their role and organization.

Here's more from Tibor on objective-based selling:

What exactly is objective based selling?

TS: Objective-Based Selling is a methodology that looks beyond pain, needs, and solutions, and instead focuses on helping customers achieve specific business objectives.

When you ask most sales people to define selling or value, they most often talk about helping customers with their needs or finding their pain point. But only about 10% of the market recognizes an existing pain or need. 20% may experience a need in the next year or two. However, 70% do not see, recognize or admit to pain or need. 

What’s left? Objectives. Every business and business person has objectives. Base your narrative on that and you change the discussion, direction and outcome.

What type of sales frameworks or methodologies are organizations most often using?

TS: It varies, which is a nice way of saying it is not as “all over the place” as it used to be. 

For the most part, I think frameworks and methodologies have failed to evolve at the same pace and degree as sales technology. As a result, many salespeople mistake a change in tools as being a change in methods or frameworks. But those specifically are still rooted in the same things we have seen in the last decade, but a new coat of paint, labels, and titles. I think framework is often overlooked in favor of methodology, which is why I recently wrote an article talking about the difference between the two.

In case you’re looking for a shortcut to understand the difference, a framework is a construct, allowing for a logical means of classifying, segmenting and categorizing things, whereas a method is rooted in action, a defined way of executing or doing something.

Related: 5 Cringe-worthy, Ineffective Sales Prospecting Approaches to Avoid

What are the benefits of focusing on objectives instead of pains or needs?

TS: The benefits are infinite.  First, focusing on objectives allows reps to sell to the whole market, not just subsets. Every business has objectives, so regardless of their current state, connecting with their objectives and the future state of their business enables you to connect in a more meaningful, fruitful and differentiated manner.

Most salespeople talk about wanting to differentiate, but then approach sales the same old way with new technology. Sellers and pundits are fixated on “pain” and “need” because they have been trained for years to lead with that. This creates two problems:

  1. Only a small percentage of buyers are thinking about their business through those filters.
  2. Buyers have learned block out these communications, so if you are looking to differentiate yourself, you need a new lead. 

By focusing on objectives, you not only sound different, but you take the role of subject matter expert and business partner. No one budgets for pain - don’t be the vendor selling Aspirin for temporary relief.  Instead, look to the future, full of promise, opportunity and plans – something for which companies create budget to achieve. 

The challenge is that many salespeople are stuck in product mode. Although they use the right buzzwords, like solution (which implies you are solving a problem), they are not resonating with 70% of the market. Now if you can hit quota on pain and need, go for it, but the stats suggest a large number of sellers are nowhere near their quota.   

The hard part is identifying likely objectives and being able to speak to the impact you have delivered for others trying to achieve the same objectives and the impact you had on their business. This means no product or buzzwords, just impact. It involves reviewing every deal, not just being selective.

Your favorite ball team reviews the game take over and over, why shouldn’t sellers? You need to be able to take those accomplishments to the various people involved in the purchase decision, which takes work at the beginning but pays dividends forever. 

How can technology enhance the objective based framework?

TS: To properly implement the objective-based selling framework, you need proper data, inputs and the ability to identify trends or changes in trends. This is much easier to accomplish using technology, which can help teams reorient their conversations with prospects. Technology can also help ensure reps are speaking to objectives everyone in the company agrees to, rather than just individual objectives.

If you look at the work coming out of CEB and The Challenger Customer, objective-based selling is a great way to ensure you are simplifying things for yourself and your customer.  

For more information on objective-based selling, read Tibor’s blog at sellbetter.ca.

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