Tag: benefits

Don’t Ever Give Up

Don’t Ever Give Up

In the past, I have written that there is no crying in sales. When you lose, you need to get back on the horse and keep going. This is excellent advice, but you also cannot give up on that prospect that just rejected you.

There is a chance that your product is a “one and done” type of product and therefore the customer will never repurchase a similar product. However, most products are not that way. In fact, many products that are sold from one business to another business are continuously used and repeatedly purchased. The first order is just that, only the first order.

In most situations, you only lost the first order. Yes, this might put you in a disadvantage for the longer term purchases, but it doesn’t disqualify you.

I still remember the first time I lost to a DIY (Do It Yourself) solution which is a frequent competitor in the software industry. I was calling on a company in Minneapolis MN (I live in Cincinnati OH). The company was a high-tech company, and they had a lot of astute, young professionals. I was very late to the sales cycle and found out about the prospect’s need after they had done a lot of work at identifying how to achieve their goals. If you have read my book, Eliminate Your Competition, you can easily guess that I was in trouble from the very beginning.

I only had a few people identified in the Power Matrix. I had not had the time to develop relationships with multiple levels of the organization.

Being that late caused me to lose the deal. The engineering team at the customer convinced the division manager that they could engineer the solution themselves with some open-source software and off-the-shelf computer add-ons. Four weeks after learning about the customer’s need, I received a phone call that I had lost.

The loss was my fault. I was outsold by the internal engineering team. Time to get back on the saddle.

My manager told me to shake it off as I was obviously column fodder. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, column fodder is when the customer only looks at your product to prove to “management” that the evaluation was complete and covered enough competitors to ensure that the assessment was fair.

I don’t like being column fodder. I don’t like to lose either.

I called up the admin of the VP of the division and asked for an appointment with him in two days. This is back when most executives had an administrative assistant and that person actually answered the phone. I had met with him once before, but it was a brief conversation, and I was still learning what was important to him. The only thing I knew for sure is that he was very demanding of his team and that he had severe deadlines on this project. She informed me that John (not his real name) was in all day, but his calendar was booked. I told her that I understood that he was busy, but I really needed to see him, and I would be sitting in the company lobby all day in the hopes that he could see me.

I flew to Minneapolis and arrived in the company lobby at 7:15A. I had two documents with me that I thought would make a difference to John. It was the dead of winter, and it was frigid outside. The lobby was merely a security entrance with a security guard and three plastic chairs against a window that let much of that Minneapolis cold seep through the glass. Unfortunately, it was not the employee entrance, so I was not able to “ambush” John as he came to work.

The two documents that I had in my possession were the tools to set the only trap that I could set. I didn’t know if it would be good enough this late in the decision cycle. It was the same trap that I would have wanted to set weeks or months earlier, but I couldn’t because I was late. This one trap had to be so good that John would need to use it to override the wishes of his own engineering department. I was a Trapper and just like I would write in my book many years later, I knew exactly what I had to say to make the trap work. I assumed that my internal competitor had left me this one opening and I had to play it. My major goal was that this meeting would allow me to stop an existing decision. My minor goal was that maybe they would implement the homemade solution once, but they would turn to my company for the rollout of a purchased solution. Failure of either of those goals would mean that I was going home to Cincinnati empty-handed.

Larry, the security guard (his real name), was amazed that I was there to see a VP without an appointment. But he was kind enough to call John and tell the admin that I was there. At 8:30 (1 hour and 15 minutes after I arrived), Larry took pity on me and called again and said I was still in the lobby. This time John walked out and started laughing. He said he had heard about annoying salespeople camping in a lobby, but he had never seen it himself.

John brought me back to his office. He explained that he had full faith in his engineering team to create a solution that would satisfy his needs and that I wasted the plane flight to MSP. I thanked him for his time and explained that it was my fault that we were in this situation. If I had known about their needs earlier then we would have had this exact meeting several weeks ago. It was my fault that we had not had this conversation and I appreciated that he was allowing me to have the discussion now. I told him that I just wanted him to look at two documents and then I would leave. He agreed to see the documents.

The two documents that I placed on his desk were the annual report for his company and the annual report for my company. I asked him to find where in his annual report his company attested to being experts in the creation of this type of software. I followed up this question with a request to look at my company’s report and how many times we explained how we were experts in this area. He didn’t reply (I didn’t expect him to).

Then I laid it out to him. “John, you told me when we met three weeks ago that you demanded excellence from your team and you were proud of their accomplishments. You also told me that this project was critically important to your company and, in fact, your CEO says in your annual report that your company is in a highly competitive industry and constant improvements in this area are critical for the health of the corporation. Our company is obviously excellent in this area, but yours is obviously going to be learning for the first time. What are you going to tell your CEO if your engineering team is not excellent enough? Your excellence is in making your product. My excellence is making our product. Don’t you think you should reduce your risk and not hope that your engineering team is as good as mine when we have been doing this for years?”

And then I was silent. I didn’t say a word.

Finally, John said, “How do you know we cannot create this solution?”

“John, I don’t know. They might pull it off. But I do know that there is no question that my software can do everything that has been described to me that you need. Why are you taking this risk?”

“My engineering team says they can do it cheaper than buying it from your company. Especially, since we have to roll it out for over 100 installations.”

“Your annual report doesn’t say that cost is an issue. It says that if you don’t drive improvements in your product, then you will lose your position in the market. Why are you talking about cost when the risk of failure is the driving factor?”

It was silent for a long time after that question, but I knew that won when he finally responded.

“Can you wait in our cafeteria while I meet with my team? I promise it won’t take more than an hour.”

After 45 minutes of drinking hot coffee in the cafeteria (I was still cold from sitting in that cold lobby for over an hour), John walked into the cafeteria with the two lead engineers on his team.

I closed the deal two weeks later for list price. The deal doubled in size 6 months later with a repeat order due to the success of my product and the customer’s product. I blew away my quota that year. I would never have done that if I gave up on this order. I would never have won the order if I didn’t understand my prospect’s true issues and align the benefits of my offering to those issues.

Don’t ever give up. No means not yet. You will never be column fodder if you understand what is really important to your prospect. You must be prepared to explain how you help your customer achieve their goals even if the customer doesn’t want to hear it. The opportunity will come with persistence and perseverance.

I leave you with a quote by President Calvin Coolidge almost a century ago.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Header Photo by skeeze (Pixabay)
Calvin Coolidge photo courtesy of Wikipedia and in open domain
What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

What Is Your Personal Benefit To Your Prospect?

There are three components to the benefits to every sales transaction. Those component benefits are the product that you sell, the company that you represent in that sale, and yourself. It is easy to understand the benefits of the first two, the latter can be more difficult.

Invariably, we all see ourselves through rose-colored glasses. It would be very difficult to do our job if we did not have a positive impression of ourselves but we cannot let that impression get in the way of our sale.

Create a standard Ben Franklin “T” chart on your Benefits and Detriments. On the left side, record all of the Benefits that you bring to your customer. On the right, put your Detriments. Make sure that each statement is in benefit format NOT feature format. You should be able to say each statement verbatim to a prospect and they will not respond with a “So….”

A bad example would be “I have been selling this service for the last 8 years.” A more appropriate statement would be “My 8 years of experience with this service allows me to guide a prospect through the decision-making process.” An example of a Detriment may be “I don’t understand the business drivers of my prospect’s industry.”

After you have created the chart, you need to use it. Make sure that all of your Benefits have been communicated to your customers and prospects. If you ask them the benefit that you bring to them, would they say any of the items on the list?

More importantly, look at your Detriments. How are you going to get them fixed? If this was a problem with the product or the company (the other two components) there would be a committee formed and people would be working hard to fix the issues. You need to do the same – sit down with your manager, your peers, and your trusted existing customers. Find their perspective on how you can improve the items on your Detriment list. You may even want to sit down with your significant other and let them guide your thoughts.

Another worthwhile endeavor in this process is to sell against yourself. Argue with yourself as to the true worth of a Benefit. This will make you defend its importance and develop a stronger case. Similarly, by internally berating a Detriment, you may discover how to make it a positive or at least diminish its negative influence.

This exercise only works if you are 100% honest with yourself. This is not your resume. You are only going to share this with 3 people: “Me, Myself, and I.” Use this list to focus on your Benefits and to take corrective action on the Detriments.

Photo by MinaLegend

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?

The question is often asked, “Are salespeople necessary in the Internet age?” The theory is that with the ability of the Internet to allow for massive research of technologies and products, what role does the salesperson have in the modern economy.

I will cut to the chase on my answer and then explain it later: The CFO can eliminate his sales force only if all of the following is true:

  • Your product is so simple and your relationship with the buyer is so straightforward that no Internet research is required. In other words, think of things that you buy in a mall or a grocery store (although I will explain an important caveat later in this post).
  • You have a commanding market share – probably in excess of 50%.
  • Your VP of Manufacturing and your VP of Supply Chain has told you that they cannot handle any increase in orders.

In every other case, your sales force is ABSOLUTELY necessary.

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You are the most important value offering that you sell

You are the most important value offering that you sell

What are the various “value offerings” that you sell or that your prospects buy? If we break it down into broad categories, inevitably it is three high-level value offerings:

  1. Your product that gets the prospect to their goals.
  2. Your company that produces and supports the product.
  3. You.

If you think about all of the sales calls you have made in your career, the questions all fall into these three big value offerings. The prospect wants to know all about the speeds and feeds of your product. They want to know all about the pricing model of the product. They want to know all about the support options and warranty of the product. They want to know how long your company has been producing the product and what the roadmap is for your company. They may even want to meet some executives of your company to be comfortable about the management of the company.

During all of these sales conversations, they are also learning about the value offering that 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 buy you.

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 enhance value to the prospect over just buying the product over the Internet?

Here is the rub, you are the most important value offering. Not the product and not 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 answered regarding the customer’s concern? How many times do you answer a question, “No, we don’t have that feature.” Obviously, you will 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, then you are not 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 fairly well to your own product’s features? I am sure that you do a little better at feature A or B. Although your competitor probably does a little better at C. When you add it all up, it is probably pretty close to a dead even tie. Worse yet, your prospect probably 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 simply need the product and company to be good enough to accomplish 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 Sales 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 do that. In both cases, 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? Obviously, you need to do the minimum amount to make sure you check off all of the check boxes, 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 demonstrate this value offering by the benefit that you provide understanding your prospect’s business. By helping your prospect improve his or her personal skills and achieve personal goals, you make yourself irreplaceable.

If your product can help the prospect achieve a goal, then it is likely that your competitor’s product can do the same. If your company can support the product and the customer, then your competitor can do the same. You, personally, are the only truly 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 truly 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?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why #TheDress matters (OR Why perception equals reality in sales)

Why #TheDress matters (OR Why perception equals reality in sales)

As I write this article, #TheDress has been trending on Twitter and other social media outlets for days and has gone viral. I am not going to get into a scientific discussion here on cones and rods in your eye. However, it is important to learn from this rage, especially if you earn a living in sales.

The current viral controversy is that some people observe the dress to be black and blue stripes while others see the dress to be gold and white stripes. There are scientific reasons for this confusion but the most important consideration is that everyone thinks they are correct. Think about this, if this subject had not hit Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so hard, everyone would believe that their perception of the colors of the dress was 100% of reality. If you saw a picture of #TheDress, wouldn’t you automatically assume that the color combination you perceive is reality?

Put in another way, how many images of clothes, cars, homes or stuffed animals have you questioned your perception of the color? If this is the first time that you questioned your perception, doesn’t it seem likely that this combination of colors and lighting has affected the rods and cones in your eye before?

Perception equals reality is something that salespeople have to contend with every day. It can be in your favor, and it can hurt you. Let’s give some simple examples:

  • Your product is expensive versus your product is affordable.
  • Your company gives great support versus your company gives adequate support.
  • Management needs information about the productivity of the sales force versus management is asking for so many reports the sales force doesn’t have time to sell.
  • Salespeople are essential in today’s market versus the Internet makes salespeople irrelevant.

I will be addressing that last point in a future article, but I think that almost all of us can agree that the earlier three were all a matter of perspective. The perspective of a person influences their version of reality.

Your marketing department advises you of certain facts about your product or products. You would assume that most of those facts are not interpreted as perception. We typically consider them to be speeds and feeds types of facts. Examples could be weight, torque, amount of RAM, number of CPUs, and even color. Interestingly, as we learned from #TheDress, color is not exactly a perfectly factual feature since it does require the viewer to perceive the combination of colors in a certain way.

Other facts typically are about the products ability to offer a benefit to the end customer. These are much more open to perception. You need to explain these features to the prospect, and the prospect may not take your word for the benefit. These features only have perceived benefits to certain prospects and likely have few benefits to others.

It is the job of the salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer, since the buyer’s perception is 100% of reality. A buyer that sees no value in your feature literally thinks that feature is worthless. If you continue to try to change the perception of that buyer on the value of a single feature, you are likely wasting your time. Instead, it is your job as a professional salesperson to understand the perception of the buyer and present features to that buyer that have value to that buyer.

Just like some people perceive that #TheDress is gold and white while others perceive it to be black and blue, perception is reality. It is your job as a professional salesperson to understand that perception and alter your conversation with the prospect to influence their version of reality.

 

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The Dress (viral phenomenon)” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.