I’m constantly thinking about how few sales people really understand what their customers are buying. They know what they are selling, but they can’t explain what they are selling it for-that is why the customer is considering buying the solution and the value it creates for them.
There are a few fundamental questions the sales person must be able to answer if they want to present their offerings in a way that is compelling and connects with customers:
1) How does it help them grow their business? That is how will they increase revenues/sales, how will it help them enter new markets, regions or acquire new customers?
2) How will it help them increase their profitability? Growing revenues or cutting expenses or both increase profitability, if the sales person can’t demonstrate this, then there is no justification for the solution-why should the customer buy it, how will they get their management to approve something that has no business justification?
3) How will it help them increase the satisfaction of their customers? Creating satisfied customers helps grow the business. Creating satisfied customers helps retain and grow current customers and acquire new customers.
4) How does it help the customer increase the quality of their products or services? Increased quality drives increased satisfaction, increased efficiency and effectiveness. These all contribute the other items.
5) How does it help the customer become more effective and/or more efficient? Effectiveness has to do with doing the right things, efficiency has to do with doing them in as short a time/expense as possible. These contribute to increasing productivity and driving revenue growth or expense reduction.
6) What may impair the customer’s ability to implement the solution, take ownership, assure internal alignment, and manage all the change issues internally? Sales is about change management, while we might have the most compelling solutions from a business justification point of view, if we can’t help our customers understand and manage the change issues, both we and they will be unsuccessful.
7) Why is this important to your customers (both the enterprise and individuals) now?
These issues are important, at whatever level you are selling. The mistake many sales people make is they think, “my product is only a small component in the overall scheme of things that my customer is facing.” However, the best sales people think in terms of “for the lack of a horseshoe, a kingdom was lost.” Just think, a small part or design flaw in the Toyota gas pedal is contributing to the loss of $ millions in sales, as well as reputation. Everything we sell won’t have that kind of impact on our customers, but everything contributes in some, even small way, to the attainment of the customer’s business objectives. Understanding this, communicating it to the customer-who often may not have a clear idea themselves about their contribution to the business-will set you apart from your competitors and help you create a tight, value based relationship with your customers.
The process of being able to answer these questions requires you to understand your customers’ businesses, markets, customers, opportunities, strategies and priorities at a deep level. The process of being able to answer these questions requires you to engage your customers in a deep discussion about what they are trying to achieve.You may not be able to answer all these questions, but the more you can answer, improves your competitiveness and the value you bring to your customers. If you can’t answer any of these, then you are not creating value for your customer, you are just a “live” product catalog.