Strategic Human Capital Insights

Tangibilizing© Ambiguity: 2 Challenges Facing Your Sales Team

Challenges written on desert roadIf you can’t define it – you haven’t ‘tangibilized’ it.

This blog is the second in our Sales & Business Development blog series. Read our first blog, 6-Step Approach: Increase the Probability of Sales Success With a Disciplined Sales Methodology.  This will help you understand how to approach your sales methodology and sales strategy.

Before we continue you might be wondering what 'tangibilizing' means. ‘Tangibilizing’© is the process of taking ambiguous language and through the questioning process precisely defining the terms.  You can then completely describe the client situation in concrete, defined, specific terms. Keep that in mind as you continue to read this blog, and our entire business development series.

The Basics of the Relationship Sales Process

In the relationship sales process, clients want you to be a confidante and resource who understands and is working to help solve their business challenges.  They are looking for someone to provide advice and partner with them, moving up the trust ladder together.  They don’t want to feel like they are ‘being sold’!  (Clients can definitely tell if you're there just for a quick sale.) If you want to succeed at relationship selling, everything about your approach must reflect this proposition.

Challenge #1 - The Complexity of Ambiguity

Relationship selling is a complex process due to all the potential ambiguity and assumptions involved. This ambiguity stems from salesperson’s assumptions together with a lack of clarity, understanding and direction from the client.  So what do salespeople tend to want to do?  Very quickly simplify the complexity into a paradigm the salesperson can process – the shift from a client to a sales focus.  What’s the problem with this approach?  In speeding up the process, salespeople can oversimplify the intricate nuances unique to the client, understanding only the most shallow level of client information. In effect, salespeople have made the client generic and simply a commodity, defined in the salesperson’s image. This results in ‘genericizing’ the client base.  A client once said, “If you treat me like a commodity, I will pay you like a commodity.” Those are very powerful words every salesperson should continually consider. Relationship selling requires salespeople to gather information at the deepest and broadest levels. This information gathering is not a superficial or quick process.

This information gathering focuses entirely on: 

  • The client, their business and their business challenges
  • How the client sees their business today?
  • How the client sees their business in the future?

By understanding this information at the most detailed level, in the client’s words, salesperson and client achieve mindshare. The salesperson is fully able to understand how to bring value, solve problems and help clients meet and anticipate business challenges.

Challenge #2 - Client Information from the Client’s Perspective - The Art of 'Tangibilizing'

At this stage, we are not talking about selling, pitching or presenting your product.  This part of the relationship sales cycle is all about the client. It’s all about how well you ask questions about their business and how well you listen to and process the information. Information at this point is everything.

However, the information they give you can typically be very ambiguous.  The client knows and understands their business, but is not necessarily skilled in explaining the relevant information in a linear or clear way. (Appreciate, it is very linear and clear to them – since this is their operating world.) So this makes understanding the details of different businesses a challenge.  As a sales professional, you may be hearing a lot of confusing and conflicting statements together with company code or jargon to straightforward questions. The challenge for the sales professional in relationship selling is to use every skill to clarify this ambiguous information into the most tangible information possible.   We call this the process of ‘tangibilizing’©, when you can completely describe the client situation in concrete, defined, specific terms. This level of detail should ultimately be recorded in both a CRM system and in a Client Business Plan.

This is ‘Mission Critical.’  Any wrong or assumed information at this level will create ‘follows errors’ during the following stages.  Misunderstanding the client’s problems, issues and operating ‘hooks’, will make it difficult to position your product with competitive impact.  There is no room to tolerate ambiguity, code or assumptions in relationship selling. The goal is to establish complete, tangible and specific knowledge of the client – to achieve ‘mindshare’. This is the role of sales, not the responsibility of the client.

Does your sales team have a defined sales strategy and sales methodology? I invite you to learn more about our Sales & Business Development program as part of the Phoenix Strategic Performance Institute. This program helps you to strategically align your sales process to accelerate the relationship sales process, creating corporate growth and building strategic value.

Explore the Sales & Business Development Program

© Phoenix Group International and Phoenix Strategic Performance

Topics: Business Development

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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