Newsflash! Customers Do Not Need Facts to Buy
Because customers today have unprecedented power and control, it is now even more important than ever for sales people to be knowledge workers. The knowledge worker's value is predicated on their ability to be problem identifiers and to be able to build a business case for change for their customers, not a product/information case.
What the customer knows is far more important than what you know. Sales people with a wealth of information often find themselves in the unenviable position of not being open to what they do not know yet of their customer's unique perspective. If your ego is tied to what you know when selling, watch out!
More than anything, customers want more context than content. They want a trusted advisor to help them interpret, sift, sort, and make sense of all the information they have in great abundance. They do not need more information, they need more interpretation and perspective.
You often do not have the answer for your customer even when you do. The answers always live with your customer. You are simply the instrument or the facilitator. You are simply the means, not the end. Sales people's need to be right, be viewed as the expert with all the answers, demonstrates very little, but their immaturity and their emotional insecurity.
Newsflash! Customers do not need facts to make up their minds. Actually they would rather have one good soul satisfying emotion than a dozen of facts to make up their minds about an important decision. What they actually process most effectively and remember, is not so much facts and figures, but the associated feelings and emotions.
One of the most important initial sales a sales person can make is to get customers comfortable in sharing sensitive information. The second most important sale is when a sales person sells a customer on their in-depth and thorough understanding of their client's business issues. The third and easiest sale is to sell them on your solution. "Never try to position your product on its own merits. Do it by positioning your role in the relationship, by telling the decision-maker that you understand his wants – before you address his needs – you are positioning your product or service as the answer to those needs. Position your answers to the decision-maker's needs by positioning the person who delivers that answer – you– not by positioning the answer itself," says Bill Brooks.
Sales people should always ask themselves this question before they allocate their information; Is my prospect ready to receive my information openly, and will my information be acted upon in an appropriate manner that will advance my cause?
You need to transcend and rise above your product information to a higher plane, and articulate how your product impacts customer's growth strategies, business priorities and business problems. Too many sales people lose the opportunity to do this by grossly mismanaging their information.
It is a fatal error to have your customers look at "what should" (solutions), before first looking at "what is" (problems). Do not give out your information before you have a thorough understanding of their most pressing challenges. "Doesn't matter what they sell, superior sales people consider themselves business professionals who help their customers solve their problems, not a vendor who sells products," says Bill Brooks.
The blossoming trend of reverse auctions, commodity sales on the Internet, RFPs, has a strong message for sales people; your value has been marginalized. Customers no longer see sales people as experts like they used to. As soon as you do conventional value-added selling, more than likely you are doing value subtraction.
"Your product is not the answer. When you lead with your product you put your customer on the defensive by not respecting their ability to solve their own problems," says Sharon Drew Morgen. Or, as John Klymshym says, "When I speak you hear an opinion. When you speak, we both hear the facts." The bottom line is customers will buy much more regularly and readily from customer experts than product experts.
Roughly 95% of all sales people talk too much in a sales call, and sadly it works just enough to give them very mediocre results. It is not what you know, it is what you do with what you know that makes the difference in sales. Leverage and capitalize your information for the purpose of getting more information, or for the purpose of emotionally engaging your customer. Sales people use lots of information to address the circumstances, needs and requirements of their customer to help them sell, instead of using their information to address the causes of their customer's problems and circumstances, as to whether they are motivated to buy.
If you have to give out information prematurely in a sales call due to the heavy handed demands of a prospect, simply describe in detail, in a conversational way, what the typical problems that beset companies in relationship to the problems you solve and address, instead of what your product does. This can be difficult because as John Holland says, "Most sales people can tell me about what a particular opportunity is worth to them; revenue against quota. However, very few sales people can articulate the potential value of their offering to their customer." The value is often in direct proportion to the size and value of the customer's problem.
"Selling is a wonderful profession just do not get caught doing it," says Jerry Voss.Too often by the time a sales person has made her final product presentation, the outcome has already been decided, or they have put their customer to sleep. "Blessed is the man who having nothing to say abstains from giving us worthy evidence of the fact," said George Elliot. Manage and value your information, it is your intellectual capital. Use your product information and expertise primarily as a tool for inquiry, not as a means to an end to convince.