Is your entire sales process built around "solution selling?" Or do you solution sell at least part of the time? If so, then it's important to demonstrate to your prospect that you can create real value for them. Show you're committed to finding not just a solution, but the best possible solution to their problem.
One great tactic that can help you take your solution selling to the next level is called the "trial balloon." Let's talk about how this simple, proven construct can really propel your conversations forward, and aid in your value-creation proposition.
What is the Trial Balloon Strategy?
The term "trial balloon" originated during the 1700s. The Montgolfiere brothers in France were striving to create a working hot-air balloon. Obviously, they didn't want to risk life and limb by taking off in a hot-air balloon without some assurance that it would actually stay aloft! Thus, they sent up trial balloons to test their design before finally committing to a journey of their own.
In marketing terms, the basic concept is the same. The trial balloon strategy is a technique in which you put an idea "up in the atmosphere," and see what your prospect thinks about it. Most prospects don't want to quickly commit to a contract or agreement unless they first have some assurance that they'll get real value in return. As you "float" ideas to them, and they see the value in your ideas, their trust in you will gradually grow. This process gradually gets you much closer to a final sale.
How Does It Work for Solution Selling?
It's important to realize that sending up a "trial balloon" for your prospect may require some quick pivoting on your end. After all, if your prospect isn't enthusiastic about one idea, then it's vital that you transition to another idea before they lose interest completely. (This is why you should always have multiple ideas in your arsenal, especially in the initial stages of your relationship with the client.)
So how exactly does the trial balloon technique work? Here's one possibility:
Imagine you're talking to a new prospect named Rick. He's already told you about the main pain points he wants to address. You could say something like:
"Thank you for sharing your situation with me. I really appreciate your straightforwardness. I do want to create some value for you, and I have some ideas. So what I'd like to do is get my team together, sit down with you, and share these ideas before we finalize a proposal. I just want to make sure that I'm on the same wavelength as you. Would that be okay?"
Nine times out of 10, Rick is going to say "yes" to your suggestion. Then, after you and your team have strategized on which ideas to present, you can share those with him.
Trial balloon ideas are like rungs on a ladder that ultimately lead to a sale — the more ideas Rick likes, the easier it will be for you to provide him with a customized solution to his problem. Each step increases the possibility that he'll do business with your company.
Watch me explain this concept in this video tutorial.
Trial Balloons Work at Every Stage in the Buyer's Journey
The great thing about trial balloons is that they work all the time! Whether you're dealing with a current client, or with someone who's just entered your funnel, you can always use this technique to get a pulse on where they are, and what they're looking for.
A "trial balloon" strategy should be part of your consultative selling toolbox. If you make good use of this technique, you'll almost certainly see your sales performance improve dramatically.
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