“More sizzle, less steakhouse” is how Chris, a security leader, explained the change in buying and selling in the last two years.

It’s a nod to the idea of focusing on the benefits and value of the solution over the expensive meals commonly associated with sales.

I know a lot of folks bristle at the thought of sales, but we need good salespeople to help us solve pressing problems. Reframe sales from cold calls and convincing to relationship building and helping people make better decisions.

For years, we built relationships at the steakhouse or restaurant of choice, commonly called “wined and dined.” I’ve attended and spoke at dozens of events where we pulled leaders together over a good meal and better conversation. The best events sought to build the relationship and capture awareness for the problems they solved, optimistic that if needed, they’d have time to showcase their value proposition.

A proper value proposition is a promise to solve a problem in a way that delivers value.

This includes consideration of the potential friction introduced or removed from the environment, because friction erodes value, destroys trust, and burns people out.

The pandemic caused abrupt changes to the problems we faced — problems we needed help to solve — and took the steakhouse out of the equation overnight.

Security leaders cut right to the chase and declared, “I have this problem. How can you help me solve it?”

This required salespeople to show how they could help.

Without the steakhouse, we built relationships with service and the opportunity to deliver value.

Most felt this was a good shift. Do you agree?

I was in a meeting last week where the visiting vendor CTO commented that this was her first client visit in two years… and it felt awkward, but good to meet people again. We had a fantastic conversation exploring the challenges of modern identity programs and how to approach solving them. We lead with value before lunch (and the client picked up lunch).

Just yesterday, a vendor onsite supporting a client I’m working with invited the leader out to dinner, “if he was comfortable getting together.” He is, and they’ll have a grand time this week.

We’ll continue to shift and adapt.

Some welcome the return to the steakhouse, while others prefer the sizzle. There is room for both, but more sizzle and less steakhouse might be what we need.

What will you bring with you?

As a security leader, keep presenting the problem you think you need to solve.

Embrace that some sellers are genuinely interested in helping you do better and listen to their insights and experience, so you make a better decision.

As a seller, keep focusing on the problems you solve and the value you deliver. And when it makes sense, of course, we’ll all enjoy a trip back to the steakhouse to build better relationships and celebrate our mutual successes.

About the Author Michael Santarcangelo

The founder of Security Catalyst, Michael develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success.

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