I was reading an article on Seth Godin’s blog this morning about Price vs. Cost and it got me thinking about how we sell. Most sales people focus on price. I get it, because price is important. Every product or service we sell has a price associated with it. If we step into the WAY back machine I wrote a piece in 2007 about price vs. value where I talked about the price of Starbucks coffee and why people buy it anyways. It was a long time ago though and I have certainly rethought some things over 10 years so lets revisit this topic today.
Thinking About Price
Pricing a product is difficult. Price it too low, you gain sales but you lose out on potential profit per sale. However, if you go the other way and price it to high you gain profit per sale but lose gross sales. There is a sweet spot marketers are trying to hit that maximizes sales and profit. There is a lot of research and math that goes into this, but the first thing we have to realize as sales people is: Not everyone is our customer.
Here is a diagram showing what we are trying to accomplish when we price a product or service:
Category 1 and 2 are not our customer. There are a few on the fringe that we can convert, but for the most part these people do not have the money and can not afford you. Category 4 is the easy sale. This guy loves your product and sees the value. This sale generally closes itself. Where we make our money is the fringe of category 2 and the meat in category 3. So how do we as sales people convert the sale for the guy who is saying we are too expensive? We demonstrate value.
What is Value?
Warren Buffet gives the best definition in my opinion. He states Price is what you pay and value is what you get. It sounds simple, but that is the trick in every sale. We must as salespeople convince our clients that the value we add is greater than the cost they pay. If the customer perceives value its an easy deal, if they are not convinced your product has value you have a tough row to hoe.
How Do We Demonstrate Value?
Demonstrating value is how we solve the price vs. cost equation. How do we do that? By building quality trust based relationships, asking good questions, and showing how our product solves their problems and adds value. The more value we build the easier things are at closing time.
We start early in the relationship by listening carefully to the client. Notice I said relationship. Even if you sell your product in 20 minutes or less you are still building some relationship. The longer your sales cycle the more important this skill is. You need to start out by asking a lot of questions and listening carefully. layer your questions to develop a deeper understanding. Then repeat what you heard in your own words to make sure you have a clear understanding of the issue. Once you are clear you can ask a deeper question or share a powerful feature – interest – benefit check to build value before moving to the next topic. The feature – interest – benefit check is your best tool to build value as you are talking. It allows you to confirm interest and understanding so that when it comes time to ask for the sale they have already told you multiple times how the product will help them solve their problem, save them time, or help cut costs.
Closing Thoughts on Price vs. Value
Price vs. cost is only ever an issue when value is in question. if we do our job as sales people to build solid trust based relationships, ask the right questions and demonstrate the value of our product we will close more sale easier. I know that sounds like a lot, and it is. for some of you it is going to require you to rethink your entire selling system. For others its just going to require some self-reflection and some minor tweaks. Either way it is a change worth making and your customers will appreciate it and refer others to you if you do.
If you are looking for a great book to help you solve the price vs. cost equation and build value I highly recommend Selling Value: Key Principles of Value-Based Selling by Don Hutson. This book goes deep into the issue of building relationships and value and will help you rethink your own processes.
How do you overcome the price vs. cost issue? What techniques do you use to build value and deepen relationships? Leave me a comment… I’ll write back!
That’s right! Most of the people I see on Twitter are doing Twitter wrong. Sadly it didn’t use to be that way… but in the last year or so I’ve noticed more and more people who are just doing it ALL wrong On Twitter. I’m afraid its turning into a giant soapbox and it is getting harder to find people who are engaged in conversation.
Back in the early days of Twitter, I loved the beauty of it. 140 characters were blissfully simple. find a cool article, say a few words add a hashtag and link and share it. Then the tools came out and honestly they were cool. We were able to find similar Tweeps, hashtag, and follow hashtags in tools like Tweetdeck. You could even set your blog to auto tweet. Then we got HootSuite and Buffer and that is where the fall started. Once twitter could become completely automated people started just rebroadcasting RSS feeds in mass and loading up posts into Buffer to tweet every 30 minutes. The theory was that the chance of your stuff being seen was so small that you NEEDED to blast out as much data as possible as fast as possible. If you didn’t there was no hope anyone would see anything. Twitter had become a soapbox and not a place for quality conversation.
The engineers at Twitter got wise to this and set API limits that slowed this down, but it was really too late. Don’t get me wrong, there are still great people holding fabulous conversations on Twitter, but many of your “active” people you follow are not listening at all. The reality is Twitter is better for you if you engage a few people and don’t worry about every follower seeing every tweet. Position yourself so people are seeing you out possibly even visiting your profile to scan it. I use lists to do this with the people I find the most engaging or interesting.
To be fair, I have no harsh feelings for either HootSuite or Buffer. They are great tools and I used HootSuite for a long time and still use Buffer and Revive Old Posts to keep my feed fresh. I surf the web late at night and find good stuff compose tweets, and then set them to send the next day while I am busy working or out with my family. The difference is, I’m still checking in. I’m reviewing my notifications, responding to people who reply to me and thanking people who retweet me. I’m using the tools but I’m not doing Twitter wrong. I’m making every effort to be efficient, share good content, and still be as engaged as possible.
The Key To Social Media Is being Social
The tools are there to make you more efficient not something you just turn over to a computer and set on ignore. It’s called “Social Media” and not digital broadcast for a reason. The point is to be social, make connections, and share ideas (or cat memes) with others. If you are just looking for more ways to blast out more “stuff” so you can get more traffic to your content marketing blog YOU are doing Twitter wrong.
So what spawned this Twitter rant? Has this just been stewing in my mind for years? Am I turning into a crotchety old man that just thinks that things aren’t as good as they use to be? or did I have an epiphany?
Monday afternoon I decided I wanted to do a top 10 list of must follow sales bloggers. To get unbiased research I reached out to 15 respected and established sales bloggers. Not A-list celebrities who pack stadiums, but solid people in the industry whom I have followed for years and watched grow solid businesses. I tweeted all of them with a reply letting them know I was writing a blog post. I ask them to give a shout out to one or two top people in the industry they thought others should follow. I got one reply back from Mary T Morgan within minutes with two names and one other blogger liked my tweet but failed to answer the question. the rest? Crickets…
This irritated me partly because I have worked on things with some of these people and several of the write about social selling! These people look busy with dozens of tweets a day, many of them mentioning peers… but it’s obviously all automated. It’s an illusion of presence. How can you write about social selling and not monitor your own account? How can you grow a business if you are asleep at the wheel of some of your best communication tools?
The short answer is this: You can’t. Many of these people are in a group together. Their streams are full of mentions, but all they are doing is auto-tweeting about each other. Yes, it extends reach, but they are missing the point. You need to engage with your audience not to give the illusion of engagement.
How To Do Twitter Right
Look, I’m not advocating for everyone to stop using the tools that are out there. In fact, I think they are GREAT! I use several social media marketing tools myself. I’ve also been in groups where I committed to rebroadcasting a few posts a day from a peer in return for them doing the same. There is NOTHING wrong with that at all.
What I’m asking people to do is think about their personal brand and how to manage and grow it through building solid connections and relationships. Really think about your social media marketing and consider whether you are helping or harming your brand.
Ive talked a lot in the last few weeks about being generous with your time and knowledge. Social media is the easiest place to do that. Remember the point of social media is to build connections and be social. Yes, as marketers or salespeople we do this to drive business, sell a product, or spread a social cause. However, the key difference between social media and traditional media is our ability to have a conversation. If you look at a few days of your twitter stream and all you see is a long list of your own links you are doing Twitter wrong.
What Can I do Different?
Reach out to people! See an article you like? Say thank you! Notice someone tweets on a topic you love? Ask a question! See someone asking a question? Answer it or offer to help! Use a Twitter Poll. Set up lists of interesting people so you can follow them more closely. Make an effort to engage one or two people a day and over time, you will see your own click-through rates climb. Your blog traffic will improve, and you will get more retweets. Why? Because people remember the people who engage them and are more likely to notice and re-engage if they had a positive experience with you the first time.
I read an awesome post by Mary Morgan earlier today that got me thinking about trust, values, and honor. It really had me thinking about your personal brand in relationships and how that effects business.
Whether we are talking about leadership, sales, marketing, or even parenting, trust is an essential element in any healthy relationship. Earlier this week I wrote about Why Your Social Media Marketing Sucks. I hope that beyond the hard skills you walked away from that thinking about relationships and trust as an essential part of that mix.
Your Personal Brand
Here is the deal… everything you do or say is either helping or harming your brand. Yes, you have a brand, even if you are not a speaker, writer or consultant. Obviously, your company has a brand and the product or services that company produces affect it. However, many professionals forget that they themselves have a personal brand and that hiring decisions are frequently based on it. In this day and age understanding this is critical because everything you do or say affects it. If you want to get an idea of what your personal brand looks like right now you can do a couple of things.
First, you can ask people who are close to you to candidly share some information about what they or others think of you and why. Second, you can Google yourself. You can learn a lot about someone by Googling them. If you just looked at mine you can see that I have spent years monitoring and developing my personal brand, but when you dig into it you can see that I am consistent and real. There are no surprises in there. My blog and LinkedIn come up prominently, but digging deeper you can see I have been mentioned on a lot of top-notch sales and marketing blogs. These are all things that reinforce my brand.
Why Should I Care About My Personal Brand?
That’s easy. You should care about your personal brand because whether you are aware of it or not it is representing you everywhere you go. It’s more than just your reputation, its who you are and what you stand for and people are checking up on it.
After my divorce, I started dating again, and I Googled everyone I went out with. I was looking at where they worked, who they were friends with and what they were posting in social media to ensure I saw parity between what I was being told and what I found. I have custody of my kids and I was making an effort to ensure that moving forward I was certain the people I was seeing were people I would be ok eventually exposing my children to.
When our kids come home talking about a new boy or girl, my wife and I are doing the same thing. We are looking at what that kid is posting, who their parents are, and seeing if they know people we know so that we can get an idea of what kind of person our child is (potentially) dating. We also make an effort to meet the kid and ideally their parents.
Professionally, I research everyone before I extend an offer. I’m reading your LinkedIn Profile, checking your Facebook and Twitter, and again making sure I do not see anything that seems contrary to what I heard in my interview process. A lot of my hiring process is based on personality and fit with my team. A large part of determining that it is based on manners, morals, ethics, and emotional intelligence so I’m checking to see if what you are posting, liking and commenting on are aligned with your words.
In all three scenarios, s I’m trying to confirm trust. I’ve decided I want to trust you now I’m doing some due diligence to ensure I can. If you are a company I am reading your reviews and looking for customers you use your product so I can talk to them and see what they think. I do not like to make mistakes and I make very few “bad hires” because I am meticulous and careful in this process.
My Personal Brand
I’m going to share a little about my own personal brand because I think it is helpful to see before you start thinking about how to craft your own. Mine is heavily focused on trust, sound leadership advice, and outstanding sales and marketing industry knowledge. When it comes to relationships your reputation and trust are all you have. It follows you everywhere you go and your actions are either improving it or tarnishing it. If you read my blog for any period of time you know a few things about me:
I value relationships
I’m generally more concerned with happiness than money
My family is important
I’m generous with my time and knowledge
I try to be humble and kind in all situations
When you google me nearly everything you find reinforces those ideas and or is displaying my excellent sales and marketing industry knowledge and experience.
Developing My Personal Brand
My personal brand is heavily influenced by the Navy / Marine Corps Core Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Largely, this is because that was a driving force in molding who I am as a man through young adulthood and because those values were driven in repetitively and I owned them. Later in life, I became a Christian and I was able to develop a much deeper level of commitment to those same ideals based off of sound biblical principles.
This one is tough to define. How does one act honorably? For me, this revolves around keeping my word and behaving in a way that honors God and makes people want to say good things about me. Being selfless, putting the needs of others before myself. leading with integrity. Think about it like a modern knights code of chivalry.
Being courageous is easier to define. It’s not about running into harm’s way, though there are times that is the honorable thing to do. Far more frequently, your opportunity to be courageous revolves around being honest in a difficult situation or making tough decisions based on ethical principle you hold that are unpopular but important.
This is easy. You follow through on what you agree to. You are a person who keeps their word. You do not lie even when it would be easy and you are unlikely to be caught. When people ask for help you give freely.
Biblical Principals That Drive My Personal Brand
I’m not a person that walks around quoting scripture all day, but my relationship with Christ is a large part of who I am and a strong influencer of my overall philosophy in life and business. With that in mind here are a couple of my guiding principals of Bible verses that further explain my own philosophy on trust in relationships and define the personal brand I personally am trying to maintain.
Luke 6:31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The golden rule. Treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Be kind, thoughtful, and respectful in everything you do.
Proverbs 19:20Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
I try to continually improve myself. I study, read blogs, listen to podcasts, and seek wise counsel frequently. I own my mistakes and learn from them. I go out of my way to accept even painful correction or discipline with an open mind and soft heart. I seek out mentorship and focus on being coachable.
Proverbs 13:20Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
1 Corinthians 15:33Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Who you hang out with defines you to some degree. A wise friend told me once to look at the 5 people I spend most of my time with and I would become an average of their qualities. I’m not sure about the math, but I know that over time your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are absolutely influenced by who you chose to spend your time with. Choose your friends wisely. Try your best to be a good influence on those making poor decisions or displaying qualities of poor character, but make every effort to spend time with people on your level or better. Be forward thinking. Some friends of the past are better left in the past.
Colossians 3:23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Whatever you do be all in all the time. Always work with honesty and integrity. Provide your best quality of work no matter what you do, who you do it for, or how much you are being paid.
1 Peter 5:6-7Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Remain humble. Pass on credit for wins to your staff and own your losses. Remember without those around you. Always remember that alone you are nothing. No man is an island, you need your family, friends, and coworkers to support you and nobody gets behind someone who is arrogant or a bragger.
Ephesians 4:2-3Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
This one is tough for me sometimes because my early leadership experience comes from the infantry and I will always have a warrior’s heart. It’s taken time to get good at this, but I try in any situation to be humble consider that I could be wrong, to control my anger or frustration, and think clearly while acting with love and kindness in my heart. Being tough is a hard like to walk. You can not allow yourself to be weak or pushed around, but you cant be too hard either.
Honestly, I could go on for days here, but you get the theme.
How Do You Develop Your Own Personal Brand?
I really could dedicate a 2000 word post just to this one concept, but for today I am going to keep it brief. Think about who you are as a person and what defines you. For me, that is being a Sales / Marketing / Leadership professional that displays Honor, Courage, and Commitment in all situations and I back those guiding core values with sound biblical principals.
For you, it may be different. Try writing a list of adjectives that describe you. Rank them based on importance and work from there. Then write your own personal mission and vision statement and get after it. You won’t have to tell anyone what your brand is. That’s the brilliance of it. Your reputation will stand on its own. Your goal should be to craft a reputation you can be proud of which brings us back to trust in relationships.
Trust in Relationships.
Most of my readers are sales and marketing professionals, so I’m going to circle back to this idea. When you are marketing a brand or selling a product what you are really doing is establishing an identity for your product and making promises about what value it will add. I have a relationship with Toyota and Porsche because that is what I have driven for years and I trust the quality and reputation of those companies. I invest with Edward Jones for the same reason. I buy exclusively Cascade Platinum because I’ve used it for years and trust it to deliver clean dishes even when my kids fail to rinse them thoroughly. You get the idea. What you should notice is I’m buying based off of reputation and performance.
For products sold by salespeople, you are a big part of that reputation. I have frequently bought from the second best deal because I saw value in customer service or because I trusted and liked the salesperson. I recently switched from Verizon to AT&T based on price and was hating myself for making that decision based on the experience I was having as I switched over. That was until AT&T sent an area sales manager to my house to help us. He was amazing. He fixed all my problems, made great suggestions and gave me his cell phone number with instructions to call him if I needed anything at all. Guess what. I have called him and even post close he has been helpful. He dropped a SIM card off to my wife at work. My relationship with AT&T is pretty solid now thanks to his effort.
This takes me back to Mary Morgan’s article that spawned this entire post:
No more over-promising and under-delivering. Your customers expect transparent authenticity. You must say what you mean and mean what you say in every communication. Being consistently truthful builds trust.
Mary nailed it right there. If you want to sell more focus your energy into doing the right thing and being honest and respectful. Genuinely care for your customers. Learn about their business and refer them clients. If they tell you about a problem your service cannot handle refer them to someone who can. Share resources and research that will help them grow their business. Most people are friends with others who need similar services. Consistent first class service from knowledgeable caring professionals will be rewarded with return and referral business.
Let’s face it, as salespeople, we know there are some things we should never say. However, It seems like no matter how often sales managers say it there are some phrases salespeople will simply NOT stop
using. I am going to break my usual professional tone and share some insight as to what I (and your clients) hear when you use these lame cliché lines.
(Updated) I originally wrote this post in July of 2007 and am updating it 10 years later. The reason I did this is because this is still one of my highest traffic blog posts of all time. I didn’t change much, but some of my thoughts have changed and developed over time. Additionally, the post was just a bit dated and needed a bit of freshening up to remain relevant. I hope you enjoy this new updated version.
The Ultimate List of What a Salesmen Should Not Say
1.I was just in the area and thought I’d drop by.
Are you serious! The professional I am trusting to help me with my important issue has nothing better in the world to do right now than just “drop by” to see me for no reason? I’m busy, my calendar is packed and I do not have time for unscheduled visits that do not have a clear agenda. If you are not doing business with me already I am probably thinking who is this guy? Why is he here and how do I get rid of him as quickly and politely as possible. Unless we really are buddies, don’t just drop by unless you are only planning to leave something (like delicious doughnuts) with my secretary. Trust me; she already knows to tell you I am in a meeting and that I will call you back later. If I really am expecting something from you, she knows that too. Don’t try to fool her. She is smart, deals with several other people just like you every day, and she hates people trying to trick her!
No, I don’t! I am busy, and I have 100 other things I could be doing right now. As soon as I say no, where are you in this conversation? In my opinion, I think you are better off trying to engage me quickly than to give me the easy out and slit your own throat. If I am too busy to talk believe me I WILL let you know.
I really hate this one. I only want to know what you can or will do not what you will TRY to do. If you are not confident enough to say you can do it, do not mention it to me yet. I would rather hear, give me X hours to do some research on that and I’ll get back to you with what I can do. I’ll respect your honesty and willingness to do research. I’ll try is a cop-out, not a commitment.
See the picture here? That is what you look like to me when you say I’m not sure, might, or maybe. Again, your default answer is “give me X hours or days to do some research and I’ll get back to you. This answer tells me you do not know the answer, but you are taking my concern or issue seriously and want to help. I am really not sure is not the answer of the confident professional.
5.It’s not my fault.
Like it or not you are most likely my only contact in your company outside of accounting or billing. That means everything that goes wrong is your fault to some degree. Even if it isn’t, it is still your issue to fix if you are planning to keep my business. The best way to deal with this is to sincerely apologize and take the serious and immediate corrective action as soon as possible. More importantly, let me know what it is you are doing to fix it, and how you will prevent future issues of this nature.
6.What would I have to do to get you started today?
Ever seen the movie Tin Men? Unless you want to sound like those guys avoid this phrase at all costs. This phrase screams “I am a slimy salesman!” and any rapport you have built with this client is eroding quickly from this point forward. If you were trying to act as a consultant and a problem solver up to this point you just u-turned and waved a red flag in front of me. Instead, use something softer like this. You: Are there any other issues or concerns we have not covered sufficiently? Client: No everything looks good. You: Great! Then the next step is to…Not only do you get a good trial close where you can uncover any last-minute hidden concerns, but you end up at the same place in two steps without using a cliché closing statement.
You very well may be. However, I doubt this really how you want to try to compete. It does not take much effort to come up with a better value proposition than that. Additionally, it only takes a little effort for me as a competing salesperson who sells value to explain to your customer why paying a bit more for my product is worth it. Moreover, if I DO find a lower price, you are a liar now, and any trust you built is gone. My dad once told me when picking a service you had three choices; good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two, but recognize you will always sacrifice the third. Your job is to help your clients to understand this. Be sure to take a look at this article on why selling on price is never a good idea.
Always and never are just plain bad. There is almost always an exception to every rule and my experience is whenever I use an absolute like always or never that exception pops up and embarrasses me. My general rule is to avoid absolute statements wherever possible. Use these sparingly if ever.
9.What you need is…
Unless you are my Dad or a trusted friend, I think this phrase should be avoided. I don’t even use it during a proposal. If I call you with a problem, and we have been doing business for years, and you are intimately familiar with my issues it may be ok, otherwise, present me with options and let me pick. Even better is to layer questions in a way that I pick without you even directly asking me. Remember, I am the only one who knows what it is I need. A final thought on this: As a salesman, my favourite deals are the ones where I have layered questions in a way that the client tells me what they want to buy and I just say: Great, let’s get that started.
If you feel the need to tell me this, I am starting to wonder why and will usually assume I shouldn’t. Trust is like love. It’s built over time and the only way to gain it is to earn it. If you want me to trust you, be professional, follow-up on your commitments, and be real with me. Let me get to know you. Use small talk, chat me up about common interests, but never say: “Trust me”
I hope this list is useful to you. Selling is tough, it’s a world full of daily highs and lows. Beyond that, your paycheck is tied directly to your ability to sell. I know everyone has a list of things they hate to hear in a selling situation. I would love to see you share some of those thoughts and your experiences with some of these statements by leaving comments below.
I am a HUGE Brian Tracy fan and I highly recommend reading his book The Psychology of Selling. In this book, he is going to give you a series of ideas, methods, strategies, and techniques that you can use immediately to make more sales, faster and easier than ever before.
Tell me about a time a salesperson said one of the things on this list and how it made you feel. How could they have done better?
Alternatively, share with me a time you said something you know you shouldn’t have. How did it work out and how did you fix it?
Sales managers… What are you doing for your staff? I know you hold training sessions, set goals, monitor performance, and keep people accountable. We all do those things. What separates great sales managers from the average is the ability to help salespeople build good habits, learn discipline and follow a consistent selling system.
We all want every sale to be form fit to the customer based on a relationship we have developed and leveraged over time. This helps us develop an ideal solution for each client. I also know that most salespeople will use this desire for appointment customization and relationship building to fight you on the development of any sort of sales system. I am here to tell you this is a huge mistake. Systematization is central to effective selling. It keeps us on track, it prevents us from forgetting key steps in the process, and it ensures we are efficient with our time.
This does not have to be complicated, but it helps to have a strategy. Imagine a football team trying to play a game with no pre-set plays? Nobody knows what is going to happen next and while some plays will work, most will end in disaster. Are the players inflexible and unable to customize when running plays from the playbook? No, because they have a set of option strategies they can implement to adjust plays. My goal for my staff is to provide them a framework to follow and then give them a series of plays and options to run based on what they find. This leaves them free to do what they need to but they are never far from the known path.
Example: My Telemarketing Strategy
For an appointment setting call for my staff the framework looks like this:
I have them write this on a piece of paper and make sure they have covered every point before asking for an appointment… The “Plays” are how we move from point to point depending on how things are going. It’s not a lock step script just a simple framework that lets them know where they are and when they have enough information to ask for an appointment.
For Further Study
I love Brian Tracy’s Advanced Selling Strategies. In this book, Brian will share with you strategies, tactics, and the mindset you need to develop your own system and close more deals. If you are looking for more of a cookbook approach I think you should consider Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling. Unquestionably the best-documented account of sales success ever collected and the result of the Huthwaite corporation’s massive 12-year, $1-million dollar research into effective sales performance. This groundbreaking resource details the revolutionary SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) strategy.
So let me ask you this: Does every member of your team have a well thought-out strategy or are you letting them shoot from the hip?
People are going to think I’m crazy for saying this but it’s true. Great selling is 100% about caring. Think about the best buying experiences you have ever had. Did it feel manipulative? Could you see the awesome closing techniques they used? My guess is no. A great sale feels very natural and “good”? We think we are helping people by sharing all the awesome features and benefits we know and showing off our expertise and product knowledge, but we are not. I think Theodore Roosevelt nailed it when he said: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
For me, the absolute best buying experiences have been with salespeople who really got to know me. They were not technique laden “hunters”, “killers”, or “closers” (believe me I’ve done this long enough that I can spot them!). They were genuine people who took an interest in me, understood my problems and goals, and set out to present me with well thought out solutions. All of them had good habits and techniques. However, they were not focusing on themselves or on those skills, they were building a relationship.
I’m Not a Sales Apologist
Really I’m not. I make good money helping people improve their sales technique. Moreover, I think it’s important that you regularly practice those techniques so you can perform with smooth flawless delivery. However, I do not think they should be your focus. Good technique is there to assist you in staying on track, gathering information, and presenting well thought out meaningful solutions to your client’s problems.
A great example of this is the real estate agent who sold me my 2nd house. When we met for the first time he sat down and talked to my wife and I like you would expect. What surprised me was that he also took the time to talk to my kids and see what was important to them. He was really trying to understand what all of us were looking for so he could meet all of our needs. He then laid out his plan. First time out 5 houses absolutely no offers. Next time out 3 houses no offers, but we will really like these houses. Then on the third time out 2-3 houses and a solid offer on the house we would buy. To be honest at this point I was like NO freaking way! How does he know this?
The next thing he did was lay out his plan. First time out 5 houses absolutely no offers. Next time out 3 houses no offers, but he promised we would really like several of these houses. Then on the third time out 2-3 houses and a solid offer on the house we would buy. To be honest with you, at this point I was thinking NO freaking way! How does he know this? What if I like the first house I see?
So the first time out we looked at 5 houses and he did not sell one bit. He was in the background watching everything. He watched my kids, listened to my wife an I talk about what we liked or didn’t, and when we left he would ask questions. What really blew me away was when I’d say things like: “I really loved that deck!” he would say “Yes it was very nice, but did you see Sophia trying to get up and down those steps?” Me… “Ya I guess I did. They were really steep and there was no rail.” We looked at a lot of nice houses That day. They were all very different and we had things we liked about all of them. We didn’t place an offer. However, it felt like a productive day overall.
The next time out we looked at 3 houses and we loved them all… same story. Lots of questions and interaction paired with great feedback that led us to reconsider. Then on the third trip out we looked at 2 perfect houses and placed an offer.
This salesman did a lot of things right and he had great technique, but his goal was to build trust in himself and his system. He did that very well and we sent referrals later. He did a great job not just because of his skill but because he was a good guy, a professional, and was sincerely interested in helping us get the right home we would love.
I do not care what you sell… your customers have goals, dreams, and desires and if you focus your sales strategy on these things you will close more sales. If you are looking for a good read on how to master building relationships and hone your technique I highly recommend Joe Girard’s How To Sell Anything to Anybody. This book has had a very powerful influence on my selling style and helped me mature from a skillful sales person to a true professional.
I’d love to hear about your GREAT sales experiences or tragic failures and how you think caring played a role in that experience… As always I promise to replay back and keep the conversation going!
Do you know the difference between a feature and a benefit for your product and how feature / benefit statements build on one another? My experience has shown that most sales people are great at rattling off a list of features. However, they are relatively inept at describing how that feature actually benefits the client. In the next few minutes I will offer you a quick primer on how to turn your list of features into a series of statements used to turn shoppers into buyers. The 40,000 ft view is this: A feature tells your client what your product is, a benefit tells your client what your product does specifically for them, and the interest check makes sure they see value. Let’s take look at how you can pair features with benefits to create situations where you clients are excited to buy from you.
The first step is to summarize and clarify the need. This will show your client that you have listened, and will ensure that you truly understand what it is they are looking for. A good summary would be structured like this: Mr. Client, what I am hearing is… or am I correct in saying… if the answer is no, ask a few more probing questions until you are certain you understand.
The next step is to present your feature. A feature is the thing about your product that would prompt me to want to buy. It could be how your product would cut my costs, save me time, reduce my employee turnover, etc… This is where most sales people stop.
You however, being the stellar sales person you are will go one step further and give them the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). This is the statement that matches up your feature with their need thus establishing benefit. The easiest way to start a feature / benefit statement is to begin with: What this means to you, is…
Finally you end with a temperature check to make sure this item has been sufficiently dealt with. An example would be: How do you think this would be of benefit to you?
So a bare bones model would look like this:
1. Mr. Client, Am I correct in saying you are having an issue with X?
Yes I am.
2. Ok, I just wanted to make sure I was clear… One of the great things about (your product) is it produces Y outcome.
3. What that means to you is you will spend less time focusing on x problem and have more free time to focus on other issues.
4. How do you think this would be of benefit to you?
Let’s put it into a real scenario we are all familiar with…
Mr. Client, what I am hearing is that you are frustrated with your current bank because you are paying high fees to get your money because you are currently working with a small bank that does not have an extensive network of ATM’s. However, you do enjoy the level of customer service you receive because you are with a small local bank that knows and understands your needs, is that correct?
Yes, in fact it drives me nuts! Last month I spent $75 on ATM fees, but I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle of a large national bank.
One of the great things about working with XYZ Credit Union is you can not only use any of our 75 no fee ATM’s but you also have access to our co-op network of ATM’s giving you access to an additional 10,000 no fee ATM’s around the country.
This network allows us to give you big bank convenience and maintain the small credit union level of customer service you currently enjoy enjoy.
How do you think this would be of benefit to you?
Action Plan For Using Feature / Benefit statements:
Create a list of as many features as you can think of for your product or service.
Match that list of features to a benefit that makes your product or service worth buying.
Practice this list until it become second nature.
Proper and appropriate use of feature / benefit statements is one of the basic skills of professional selling. In future postings we will discuss how to use feature and benefit statements in voice mail, overcoming objections, and closing situations to provide greater customer service, and increase sales and how to build value.