Four rules to validate yourself with buyers

Ever been asked straight up at the beginning of a prospective client meeting, “So what do you do?” despite your sincere intention to ask questions of your prospective buyer rather than talk about yourself?

I bet you have and I bet you found yourself on more than one occasion feeling somewhat uncomfortable because

a) You didn’t know what to say quickly and succinctly thus making yourself feel and look a bit silly;


b) You ended up talking about your business, your products and yourself ad nauseam while watching your client or buyer’s eyes glaze over.

Hmm Awkward.

Why do most of us find this awkward?

Because we have to been asked to validate ourselves, establish our credentials and prove our worth to the buyer – quickly. If we’re not prepared we can often find ourselves floundering and we don’t want to find ourselves stuck in a 15-20 minute monologue talking about ourselves and our company.

However, we still need to answer the question “so what do you do?” in a manner that has our buyer feeling at ease with our answer and wanting to continue the conversation. With so much spin out there it’s only right that a buyer should know that we are who we say we are and we can do what we say we do so how do you positively validate yourself with buyers – quickly?

Avoiding these awkward situations is simple if we are prepared to look at ourselves through our buyers and clients eyes. Here are some simple rules we can follow to help us positively validate ourselves and position us positively in the minds and hearts of our clients.

Rule Number 1: What does your marketing material say to your customer?

Make sure marketing literature about your company and products is written for your buyers, not you and explains how you will help them. Most ‘brochures’ are still written for the company, not the customer. Most sales people and frontline managers know this. They’re often embarrassed to admit that most marketing material is written for the company – glorifying the company and its products and its founders or CEOs rather than speaking directly to the customer about their issues, concerns or aspirations.
What’s crucial and often missing is the explanation about how the company is best suited to help the customer solve their problems, generate new ideas, realise their goals and achieve results.

Rule Number 2: What’s your statement?

NEVER answer the buyer’s question “so what do you do?” by handing out your company or product brochure. Instead make sure that you have a one to two sentence statement that quickly and succinctly explains what you stand for and what you do.

For example here are a couple of our team’s versions from Barrett:

a) “We are an end-to-end business consulting & people development practice specialising in helping leaders create sales driven organisations where people know that selling is everybody’s business and everybody lives by selling something.
b) “We are a business consulting practice that specialises in helping our clients optimise and improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of their sales operations, reduce their cost of sale and increase their own customer satisfaction.

Rule Number 3: The “Common Problems We Solve” hand-out

After opening with your statement of what you stand for immediately show your client your “Common Problems We Solve” document. As mentioned, NEVER start showing your prospective buyer the company or product brochure that makes no sense to them because it is not contextually anchored. Instead create a “Common Problems We Solve” document/ page.
Make a small list of problems you solve for your customers.

Each week we meet and speak with prospects and existing clients who have problems they want to solve or results they want to achieve. Our products and services sell because they solve problems for our customers and help them achieve results. A “problem” can be interpreted as an issue, opportunity or priority a client wants to address. By understanding this, you can deliver value to your customer rather that just selling to them based on price and product. To ensure that you do not miss valuable business opportunities, always think about your business in terms of problems you solve for your clients.

As an example here’s a snippet of some of the problems Barrett fixes for its clients. So, when we’re asked ‘so what do you do?’ We begin with our version of the “what we stand for” statement followed on with “and we fix things like this.” Then we let the buyer read the list and we stay quiet.

Common problems we solve for sales teams

• Sales people making more excuses than sales
• Sales or service team losing clients to competitors
• No “Go-to-market” sales plan/ strategy to follow
• Sales team too reactive, unfocused, disorganised
• Discounting prices to win business
• Ad-hoc or reactive sales approach – no logical sales processes to follow
• Lots of client visits – few sales
• No prospecting for new business in new or existing accounts
• Not meeting sales budgets/targets
• Unaware of value & potential of clients – hitting wrong targets
• Plateau in sales production
• Team of professional “Visitors”

We find the buyer begins to nod their head and we can see them doing a mental check list of all the things they can see in their business. Our list resonates with their set of problems. Now we’re in their world; in their reality and they know we can relate to them and their challenges. After they have finished reading the list we ask them ‘”Is there anything on the list that is relevant to you now?” The answer is invariably “yes.”

Rule Number 4: How do we do it?

Whether or not the buyer indicates their issues are represented on my list, we now have an opportunity to explain to them how we go about helping people (at a high level – no details or specifics yet).

For example here are a couple of our team’s versions from Barrett:

a) “Whatever your priorities in this space we work holistically across six domains in Sales giving you access to consulting, strategy, assessments, training, coaching and brain science services, where we help you work out how to achieve increased sales results, better margins, and happier clients and employees.”
b) “To achieve this we provide an holistic service which includes sales consulting, strategy, assessments, training, coaching and brain science.”

NOTE: You can combine Rules 2 and 4 in one statement followed by Rule 3 if that seems to flow more easily. And it is important that you use your own words. These statements also help you out when you meet people in all sorts of other situations. These statements can also be used as your elevator pitch or your BBQ speech, although they may need some refinement depending on the level of your audience.

So, instead of drawing yourself into a 15-20 minute monologue or being caught like rabbit in the head lights, now you can quickly and succinctly validate yourself and position yourself to begin to ask questions and listen to their real priorities. Once you’ve established their priorities you can talk specifics about how you can help them, but not before.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with herskilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to


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