When you initially approach an unsuspecting prospect, how you present what you sell will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Yet when you ask sales people to tell you what they sell, a large majority and their managers get it wrong. They will usually tell me things like:
- I sell hardware – software – any kindaware
- Systems, or “high end” systems
- Blah blah blah services
- MFP Printers
- Print solutions
These are all good, but in the end these are things that you deliver, literally, in most cases they are a means to an entirely different end. These are also how the user or implementer would define things, after all they are part of the process, not the ultimate beneficiary. If you are an IT person working on implementing a new finance package, the above type of response will suffice, because they are more likely to be part of the selection process, not the buying process, those who have the requirement that drives the selection and implementation.
One interesting follow on to the above is when we drill down on “solutions”, that crowd favourite, juicy, round, yet vague enough to fit most conversations. (Usually only a few words either side of the other great undefined – value) By implication, when you say you have a solution, you should be able to articulate what you can solve for the prospect, in terms they can relate to, not vis-à-vis your quota. Basing your answer to that on the list above will cost you sales. The problem the user or implementer are trying to solve are very different than those that got the project funded and backed. Without that you will always be in the selection pageant, not in the decision tent.
When we push this point a bit, we get a second round of answers, better but not quite there yet. We get:
- Improved productivity
- Improved work-flow
- Peace of mind
No doubt a step forward, but on their as they are above, and in most initial prospecting conversations, they mean nothing, they lack teeth. How can we improve their work-flow or productivity? What specific efficiencies can you introduce that are specific to them, not your offering Remember your offering and that of your two closest competitor, usually known as Column A and Column C, are most likely 85% the same, so if you can’t answer that, the discussion drops to line P, for price.
The answer is really “why do people buy?” People at all levels of the decision. The challenge in selling the first list is it only speaks to the selection folks, not the buying folks; the second list needs to have a lot more specifics aligned with the buyers’ objectives than just identifying their categories. You need to speak to those objectives and outcomes you have delivered. Understanding how they view productivity, and speaking to that in specific terms is a start. They need to be able to visualize and relate to the specifics of the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Same for the financial aspect, time shifts, risk and more. Then you need to be able to present things in a way that aligns with their filters, and each role in the decision will be biased by their role.
The reality is that much has changed in sales, but the fact that first impressions are crucial has not, and how you answer that initial question of “What do you sell?” can make all the difference to your success.