Over the past few years, I have repeatedly read in B2B buying studies that buyers want sellers to better understand their business and demonstrate excellent communication skills.
Unfortunately, only about a third of buyers feel that sellers are well-informed. In one study, respondents reported that only 25 percent of sellers effectively engage with their company’s influencers and decision-makers. Some of this disparity is due to a lack of the necessary business acumen; the rest is likely due to communication skills.
We need to improve our sellers’ dialogue skills and teach them how to ensure their buyers feel understood. We can accomplish this through better buyer-centric communication. While it’s not a magic bullet, I’ll share a simple model that goes a long way toward addressing these buyer concerns: Acknowledge, Clarify and Confirm (ACC).
The ACC Model for Buyer-Centric Communication
To give a little history behind the ACC model, when Doug Wyatt and I were designing the sales methodology behind Modern Sales Foundations (MSF), we didn’t envision that this model would become an acronym. Our writers and studio production team, however, had some creative fun with it.
So, now we talk about how ACC helps sellers with BCC. (In my head, I hear, “Put the ‘ack’ in your ‘back.’”) If you don’t have the secret decoder ring yet, BCC is buyer-centric communication and ACC is the communication model:
You can use this model in almost all verbal communication with buyers (or anyone, for that matter). In MSF, we’ve incorporated it into a handful of other models used throughout the buying/selling processes and customer lifecycle. When selling, we suggest using ACC when prospecting, navigating disinterest, resolving concerns, conducting a situation assessment (discovery), co-creating solutions, messaging your solution’s value, and gaining commitment. In fact, use it whenever you are communicating with your prospects, buying committee, and customers.
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How to Put ACC into Action
The ACC communication model helps sellers deliver what buyers actually want. ACC guides sales reps to acknowledge a buyer’s concerns, clarify the root of the buyer’s problem by asking questions, and then confirm that you’ve gathered the right information and understand what your buyer needs.
Demonstrate empathy and let buyers know that you heard and understood what they shared with you – both the content and their feelings or thoughts about it. When acknowledging, avoid “I statements.” Use “you statements” or phrase your acknowledgment from your buyer’s perspective.
- That sounds frustrating (or, You’re feeling frustrated about all of this).
- This issue isn’t just impacting your business; it’s affecting you and your team, as well.
- You must feel like no one even listened to your idea.
- You’ve put so much time and effort into this without a resolution.
- Now that your CEO is involved, it’s increased the pressure on you to address the issue when others couldn’t.
Don’t assume you fully understand or stay at the surface level. Ask questions to clarify the information buyers share and dig even deeper. “Peel the onion” to uncover root causes and motivations (the “why” behind the “what”).
- How well is that working, in reality?
- Who else is feeling the effects of this problem?
- What else can you share about that?
- What sort of impact is that having?
- I’d like to understand that better… could you tell me more about [issue]?
Verify what you heard to validate that your understanding matches your buyer’s intent. This step ensures communication has occurred and that you are aligned before moving forward.
- So, in summary… [recap and rephrase what your buyer said in your own words], is that right?
- Ah, okay. It’s not really the [X] that matters, but the [Y]. Did I get that right?
- So the biggest issue is [X], and the deeper problem that’s causing is [Y]. You’ve tried to [Z], but so far, that just isn’t working well enough. What would you add to that?
- If I’m fully understanding, you’re saying… [summarize], is that it?
The Power of Buyer-Centric Communication Skills
Learning International (now AchieveGlobal, an employee development and consulting company) conducted a study that proved the power of acknowledging with empathy and the results stuck with me for 25 years. They observed that buyers were almost 60 percent more likely to accept the salesperson’s recommendation when the salesperson acknowledged their point of view, thoughts, and feelings.
In over 17 years of conducting top performance analysis, I have seen ACC’s positive impacts firsthand. The elite salespeople I studied who used these skills wouldn’t have known the acronym nor have used the terms “acknowledge, clarify, and confirm” to describe what they were doing, but they were doing it, nonetheless. When I explained ACC to them, they would light up and say, “Oh! Yes, that’s exactly what I do, all the time.”
This is what buyers say they want. This is what elite, top-performing salespeople do. And, that’s why we recommend incorporating ACC in your BCC; use Acknowledge, Clarify and Confirm in your buyer-centric communication. Download this cheat sheet to better understand your buyers’ needs and effectively communicate value.
This article’s sales methods come from SPARXiQ’s Modern Sales Foundations course. MSF offers a full-cycle sales methodology, covering prospecting, opportunity management, and strategic account management. It’s based on what elite sales producers do differently to get radically better results than others.
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What it takes for salespeople to deliver value has changed significantly as the modern buying process has evolved. Modern Sales Foundations™ (MSF) is an end-to-end sales training program that teaches sellers the buyer-centric strategies and approaches needed to excel in today’s marketplace.