The ultimate goal for an SE is to establish themselves as a credible source and partner with the customer over the course of a deal cycle. Due to the limited amount of time we get to spend with customers, the only contact we get may happen in a single meeting.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on one interaction. Most of our credibility comes from some simple actions:
- Show up on time
- Be prepared
- Be honest, including when we don’t know something
- Follow through with action items, especially when we’ve promised to find that information we didn’t have before
But there are two things SEs do to instantly show their credibility. These things are so natural that many solution consultants do so without realizing it. The first one is listening closely to determine the level of abstraction the customer is speaking to and responding in kind. The second is to quickly and easily traverse different levels of abstraction.
Levels of Abstraction
By level of abstraction, I mean the level of detail you cover about your solution. In practice, this means speaking to the different personas of each stakeholder in the room. For example, executives want to understand how your solution fits into very specific goals or business needs while the managers want to understand how features and functions translate into impacts.
This can encompass a whole host of topics from how things get integrated to discussing security. Generally speaking, you’ll move from shallow and wide at the top to narrow and deep as you move through these levels of abstractions.
How to Supercharge your Credibility
In some cases, it might not be immediately clear which level of abstraction someone is coming from. We can ask a clarification question or two, then respond once we think we’ve aligned our message to their level. Just make sure to confirm you’ve properly answered the question before moving on.
If the question didn’t get answered, maybe we got the wrong level of abstraction. Usually, this is solved by moving up a level to help provide greater context, but sometimes it means we have to take that opportunity to approach the question from multiple different angles.
Don’t be afraid to let your sales partner actually commit to help. Sometimes, someone else answering the question adds the missing clarification. This is where working closely with the seller allows you to build trust with each other.
As you move through the presentation, the conversation will naturally move across different levels of abstraction. On a single call, we might get questions that range from the widest shallowest level of abstraction all the way down to the more detailed narrow ones as well as a bunch of stuff in the middle.
When we can effortlessly traverse those questions across multiple levels of abstraction, we really supercharge ourselves as being credible. It shows how comfortable we are answering questions in different areas and depth. The combination of showing up prepared and having confidence to maneuver through different levels of abstraction gives us super credibility.