Too much event-based selling hurts your ability to close

Too much event-based selling hurts your ability to close

Many salespeople fall into the bad habit of depending on event-based selling to move their prospects through the decision-making process. A salesperson should spend a large percentage of their time doing personal selling, rather than event-based selling.

Before the above statement can sink in, I need to explain the difference. Event-based selling is when you have scheduled a meeting with multiple people from the prospect’s organization and maybe numerous people from your organization. Event-based selling identifies with such topics as demos and workshops. 

Personal selling is where the salesperson is simply sitting with the prospect discussing business and also maybe discussing family, weather, sports, or similar topics. This activity usually is one-on-one. 

Event-based selling is essential. It is the primary method of conveying information about your product. This is even more true if the product category is new to the prospect and is somewhat technical. You set up a demo, and you invite several or a dozen people from the prospect organization to attend. These are events. 

Events are important. You will never get the prospect to agree to buy many types of products if you don’t do a demo, a workshop, or a proof-of-concept event. You need to plan and execute these events successfully. They are critical for the success of you closing a deal.

However, events can be a crutch that hurts you in your sales campaign. Too often, a salesperson will try to “make something happen” by offering to do another event. Maybe that event is a “lunch and learn” for more people. Or perhaps that event is mini-demo of an individual feature not adequately explored in the original demo. If the prospect requests those new events, then, by all means, qualify them and do them to educate your prospect. But if you propose those new events as the salesperson, you may have a problem.

Start selling yourself instead of your product

Throughout my book, I discuss that you are selling three things during the sales campaign:

  1. your product
  2. your company
  3. you

You must sell all three things. However, if you are always offering to do additional events, you are likely to spend too much time selling the first two items and not enough time selling the last item – you are not selling yourself.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions fall into these three value offerings. At a high level:

  • The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product – a product conversation.
  • They want to know all about the pricing model of the product – a product conversation.
  • They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product – a product and company conversation.
  • They want to know how long your company has been producing the product – a company conversation but also a product conversation.
  • They want to understand the roadmap for your company – a company conversation and a product conversation.
  • They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable with its management – a company conversation.

During these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering you bring to them. They are learning about you as a person. Are you reliable? Are you knowledgeable? Does the prospect trust the words that come out of your mouth? In short, they are trying to figure out if they should buy from you or, in essence, can they hire you as their representative for this kind of product.

Yes, you are for sale if you are in sales. You are a part of the value offering that the prospect considers in the evaluation. At a minimum, do you offer enhanced value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub; you are the essential value offering. It isn’t the product nor your company. They are secondary to the importance of you as a value offering.

Let’s be perfectly blunt, is your product that much better or worse than the competition? When you answer questions about your product, aren’t 90-99% of your responses positively responded regarding the customer’s concern? How often do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you give that answer at times, but in those cases, you probably are not a good fit for the customer and will lose the deal immediately. If your product doesn’t have that required feature, you will not be talking to a qualified prospect for that product.

Isn’t your competitor’s product in a similar situation? Don’t most of their features match up reasonably well to your own product’s characteristics? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a bit better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead-even tie. Worse yet, it is likely your prospect can achieve their goals perfectly well without buying the best product on the market (yours) because the second best or third best product will accomplish the goals. They don’t need the best; they need the product and company to be good enough to achieve their goals.

Similarly, how many times do you have to explain to your prospect that your company isn’t very good at supporting the product? Do you ever really lose a deal based on company longevity or commitment to the market? Of course not, and neither do your competitors.

As a Trapper, I continuously advise salespeople that features that do not differentiate do not matter. 

Does the car salesperson spend time explaining the value offering of the accelerator on the floor? Of course not, all modern cars have them. 

Does the TV salesperson explain that the remote will change the channel and volume? Of course not, all TVs have remotes with a value offering that does that. 

In both cases above, there was a time when those were unique and differentiating features, but not in today’s competitive market. The TV and automobile manufacturers have added those features as standard, and the features no longer differentiate the products. Since none of these features add a differential value offering, there is no reason to “sell” these features to the prospect. A salesperson that spends a lot of time talking about the value offering of these benefits is simply wasting valuable time.

So why do you spend so much time talking about your company and your product? You need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the checkboxes, but that is all you are doing. All you are doing is showing that your company and your product are good enough to match the competition. As soon as you achieve that parity, you need to sell the one benefit that only you can provide.

You need to sell you. You need to prove to the prospect that you offer more value than your competitor. You demonstrate this value offering by the information that you share with the prospect. You confirm this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, your competitor’s product can likely do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You are the only genuinely differentiated benefit to the prospect, and you need to make sure your prospect understands this benefit (and the associated value offering).

You know that you have indeed won the deal if the prospect says they would buy either your product or your competitor’s product from you. You were the most valuable part of the sale. Have you ever heard those words from a new customer?

Suggestions to get out of the rut of doing too much event-based selling

It is quite easy to break the habit of pushing events rather than positioning yourself. Let’s break it down to two separate types of deals:

  1. Prospect is actively engaged with the next steps.
  2. Prospect isn’t calling you, but instead, you are always trying to do the next activity.

Prospect actively engaged

The first situation above is more straightforward. Your product is resonating with the prospect. However, this is a situation where it is easy only to do events and undermine the value that you bring.

In this situation, you must force yourself to engage with decision-makers. You must make appointments that allow you to interact with them without a demo or a presentation. A good rule of thumb is to do two or three personal meetings for every event based meeting that you schedule.

If your company and industry allow it, it is a great time to take the decision-maker to lunch. If lunch is not possible, ask them to meet in their cafeteria as it will at least allow a more casual conversation. 

Prospect is not actively engaged

This second situation is where the event-based trap typically happens. In this case, the prospect doesn’t seem to be “getting it” after your demos or presentations. You are frustrated as you have this opportunity on your pipeline, but it isn’t moving. 

The obvious, but the incorrect, conclusion is that you need to show them more so that they get excited about your product’s capabilities. Instead, you need to understand their goals and if your product can help achieve those goals. Too often, the customer isn’t returning your calls because you do not understand what is important to them.

A crude but effective opening for the personal meeting could be as simple as, “I am sorry, John, but the product we have been discussing doesn’t seem to impact you or your company. What am I missing? What are you trying to achieve by talking to us?” This open-ended question is something that is difficult to say with a group of people from the prospect or if you have an army of people with you. It is much easier to have this open and honest conversation if it is just the two of you.

The answer to that open-ended question will allow you to start selling the most important differentiator: YOU!

Header Photo by Free-Photos (Pixabay)

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