Position Your Offering to Your Customer's Vulnerabilities Not Their Strengths
IBM made famous in the world of selling the concept of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt).Their strategy was based on the idea that problem-centered selling was the only currency to effectively engage customers.
"Problems are the mother lode of all opportunity," says Phil Kash. Problems are a veritable breeding ground that will consistently predict change and action.
The FUD sales strategy of finding problems is considered risky by most traditional sales people. They are concerned that by uncovering problems they will become guilty by association for being the bearer of bad news.
So to avoid this traditional salespeople play to customer's strengths, not their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Unfortunately they fail to emotionally engage customers at a deeper and more meaningful level, and never answer what is foremost in customer's minds; tell me something I do not already know.
What customers do not always know is the price of their problems, and the practicality and cost of change. So you need to seek negative consequences and not just push positive outcomes. Positive outcomes are logical and negative consequences are emotionally charged. Customer's emotions drive change and action, and traditional sales people are too busy pushing product justifications that are anything but.
The further you get away from problems, the harder it is to sell. The subconscious drives decisions. Sales people need to trigger nerves to incite customers to action/inaction. If their nerves have not been engaged, then inaction is a feasible option for them.
The following are guidelines to position your offering to appeal to the most pressing and urgent needs of your customers:
- Customers are more concerned about not looking bad, than they are about looking good.
- Customers are more concerned about preventing the agony of defeat, than they are about achieving the ecstasy of victory.
- Customers will run twice as fast to avoid a problem, than they will to gain an advantage.
- Generally if you want to fix something you first have to find out what is not working.
- It is often difficult to show customers what is right before you first show them what is wrong.
- Insecurity will drive change before security.
- Threats will drive change quicker than opportunities.
- A negative event will drive change quicker than a positive event.
- What customers are afraid of will drive change before their hopes and dreams.
I estimate less than 5% of salespeople position their offerings and drive their entire sales strategy around fear, insecurity and doubt. Too bad! Being problem-centric allows you to really bring value to the table by engaging customers in insightful dialogue about problems, ramifications, consequences, timing, urgency, alternative options and actionability.