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Relate before you Advocate 3 May, 2007

Posted by varoom in Selling.

The successful selling approach can be structured into stages and many schools of thought have their own definition of these stages. One such school (Wilson Learning) breaks the key selling stages down into Prospecting, Relating, Discovery, Advocating and Supporting. I have personally found that these stages are representative of most selling situations. I have also found that organising my marketing to support each stage has yielded repeatable benefits.

In simple terms Prospecting should be obvious but it is the stage where you offer enough juicy information to the potential customer to gain his attention and is prepared to listen. The prospective customer could be just passing by or a chance encounter or part of a meeting where other subjects are being discussed.

Relating, to be discussed later, but in short is the stage in which you build up the customers belief that you understand his problems and needs.

Discovery is a key stage where you draw out more information about the needs you know the customers has, maybe discover some that you didn’t know about and more importantly verify your knowledge of those needs.

Advocating, in detail below, is where you begin to offer your products as solutions to the customers specific and verified needs. You also detail various features and benefits that the customer gains from using your product.

Finally, supporting, once you have won your customer over to your product the selling process often does not stop there. Rarely will you get a purchase order at this meeting. In most larger companies your customer now has to take the case for your product inside his own company and convince others to accept the product as a solution. In effect he becomes your salesman, sometimes referred to as your champion, in the sale of your product. You need to support him in this process. That’s why it’s called the supporting stage.

Adapting your marketing approach to fall into a sales compatible approach, developing marketing support tools that can be used during each stage and finally providing materials that you champion can use inside his own company, will all yield benefits.

Two key stages that I want to debate here are Relating and Advocating.

In summary it’s important to relate to the customer before trying to sell (advocate) your product. The relating stage of the selling process is where you convince the potential customer of your knowledge of his market, applications, concerns and issues. This builds a comprehension, in the mind of the potential customer, that you at least understand and relate to his problems. Once this level of shared understanding is reached you can use this as a basis for advocating a solution to the problems based on a product that you have to offer.

Switching too early to the advocating stage or missing out the relating phase altogether risks a failure to capture the attention and trust of the customer.

Think of your own behaviour when faced with a pushy salesman, how do feel?, how do you react?, do you disengage or switch off?, what did the salesman do wrong in your own eyes?

A big part of professional selling is the understanding that the sales process depends on successful interpersonal relationships. As in real life if you try to accelerate the course of relationship building you risk losing everything.

Greville Commins


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