Factoids Tell, But Stories About Problems Sell
The sales profession is under attack by digitized artillery. The Internet is truly becoming a game changer. Customers are more frequently trading up and getting their information from more convenient and unbiased resources such as social media and Google, circumventing the hassle of meeting with sales people in real time.
Sales calls today so often are like speed dating on steroids. Traditional sales people are too busy running their mouths, customers are reticent to share information and calls end up in a flash with little accomplished by both parties. Most sales people's strategies are for the greater glory of their product and company and have little street value for their customers.
Information selling is flawed because it seems like you are doing so much, yet you are actually doing so little. It is such a bloody infuriating task because as long as you are vocalizing you are learning very little and acquiring very little knowledge about your customer.
Product pushers are essentially saying; read my lips, we offer a superior service that can help you sight unseen. They do incalculable harm to their case by rushing to judgment with their parade of information. As sales people enthusiastically hype and blue sky their offering, not once does it cross their mind that their message could be perceived as too good to be true. This is the height of sales narcissism. "Most solutions share one problem; they are narcissistic, leading the sales person to believe it is all about them," says Paul Chapman.
Sales people are assertive, confident, outgoing, verbal, personable and thrive on being the center of attention. "They love the buzz and the rush of selling, and making a positive contribution. But when the sales person is in control it is difficult for customers to have the ability to regularly order their thinking to find their own answers," says Sharon Drew Morgen.
Selling: The way it is done is a contradiction in terms. "Why do they say too much? Because they do not really trust themselves. True conviction is best conveyed not through more words but through fewer; it dwells behind the words," says Bob Burg. Information sellers talk the way others breath...without ceasing.
Showcasing their wares with no division of labor, product pushers do all the work to their own detriment. For selling to really work effectively both parties have to equally participate. Sales people should really work to keep an open mind and a closed mouth. They need to actually do an information detox.
Parochial and provincial, chronic product pushers have a limited business and customer worldview, which is mostly focused on their own solution and goals. They insulate themselves and their product from the customer's problems and realities because they fear being taken off task.
They say that everyone is somewhat a product of their own environment. Well information sellers are the ultimate product of their environment. They have been thoroughly trained in product expertise and rhetoric and they will be damned if they put their company sponsored training to poor use.
They believe in the power of their own divine intervention, which gives little regard to their prospect's unique situation and priorities. This type of selling induces a false sense of security that their message is being fully accepted. I call it bullshit without shame or respite. Yet this is the predominant model, even today with jaded and sophisticated customers who are armed to the teeth with unlimited information access.
Information pushing does work, do not get me wrong. However, it succeeds more often by accident than by design. It is the last man standing type of winning. It works under ideal circumstances where a personal connection has been made, where communication styles are compatible, where personalities are compatible, where the product is a good fit, and timing is perfect. Unfortunately these circumstances only come together perfectly once in a great moon.
Any customer with a functioning nose can quickly catch a wiff of this flagrant self-service style of selling that is very stereotypical of mainstream sales people. Customers easily see through the mental jostling a sales people's eyes go through as they attempt to calculate what they believe the customer wants to hear. Customers see these type of sales people as having a limited range of believability and a very light grip on reality.
Information selling is the gateway drug for the extremely, intoxicating, advanced drug of choice for traditional sales people; feature and benefit selling. Besides being intoxicating to the ego, feature and benefit selling has the gold seal of approval of marketing departments who love to dwell on the product richness of their offering. No sales man among sales men will not have this flawless strategy in their bag of tricks. It is a rigid form of conformity that 95% of sales people incorporate. Unfortunately, this type of conformity (copy and paste) is the shortest path to rampant commoditization.
Feature and benefit selling is mass-production in the time of specialization. These sellers are unconsciously cloning their product with near identical pitch, or it certainly seems to their receivers. To make matters worse, they are basking in the glory of their attributes and the positive results it can deliver, while completely bypassing their customer's needs and problems, as they race to the close.
Feature and benefit selling misses the whole point. Your product/solution is only as good or as bad as the customer's needs/problems or other alternatives. Feature and benefit sellers are like free agents, or rebels without a cause. They only care about their cause. They are the antithesis of team players and collaborators, as they try to dazzle with their individual brilliance. They totally lack collective capability in getting the customer to be an interactive part of their discussion.
Instead of pitching your attributes and describing what a future happy customer looks like, explain and describe what an unhappy prospect looks like and the negative consequences they are hypothetically experiencing. Factoids tell, but stories about problems sell. Problem story telling should be your proxy and should do your bidding, not feature/advantage/benefit selling.
You do not need to have a superior product or price. In most cases to win business, what helps the most, and what you have a better chance of controlling, is a superior buying/evaluating/discovery experience for your customer.