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Those Who Live by the Sword (Information) Die by the Sword (Commoditization)

Sales people who have an over-reliance on information (feature and benefit selling, value-based selling) have a vending machine mentality. They proudly display their wares and espouse their attributes while awaiting for orders. They confuse marketing with sales. We all know what the future holds for sales people when they adopt this vending machine strategy; planned obsolescence.

Traditional selling and feature and benefit selling is the epitome of taking medicine to prevent a disease that ends up causing it. This type of selling is like quicksand. The more information you give out the deeper you sink.

Information overload will please the eyes (logic), but will not touch the heart (emotions); this is where people take action. Emotions are the heart and soul of selling. So traditional selling gets both parties all excited, but at the end both are left wanting. I call this premature presentation syndrome.

The major fallacy of information selling often is; "My idea of what is right for you does not match up with your idea of what is right for you." Right for you is quality, right for me is convenience. Selling is all about the subjective, not about the absolute. Even though they do not do it consciously, sales people too often sell from the position of the absolute because it seems more comfortable, predictable and authoritative. But one of the worst things that can happen is having a predictable and assumptive sales call.

"Sales isn't about getting decision-makers to make a comparison between features, benefits, price, or anything like that. It has nothing to do with how your product or service works. It's a comparison between experiences, a comparison between what it's going to be like to do business with you as opposed to doing business with your competition. And the experience doesn't have to do with personal charm. It's about sales people understanding customer wants." says Bill Brooks.

Unfortunately, traditional feature and benefit selling is akin to getting on your high horse and beating your customer over the head with your ideas according to your very limited perspective and experience. I have seen too many well intended sales presentations make customers wrong and come down on them like a sledgehammer at the same time.

It is not uncommon that when you are selling your offering's features and benefits (value proposition), that you are simply reinforcing the minimum standards customers are willing to accept. You are reducing your offering to the lowest common denominator, resulting in pure commoditization. How many sales people can say straight-faced that their alleged value proposition is truly unique in the eyes of the customer? Not many!

Sales people who fancy themselves as content experts frequently lose as much business as they gain because of their expertise. This is what we call zero-sum game selling.

"The person speaking about content, discussing details and distinctions, is not able to direct the interaction. Simply put, the person in content is out of control of the direction of the interaction takes," says Sharon Drew Morgen.

The sales person who is in charge of context is truly bringing value to the sales call. So you do not know what you are selling until you know what your customer is buying, what they are avoiding, why they are wanting to change, what their options are, what they have to lose or gain if they buy (there are no free lunches) and what their timing is.

The best things about your product offering also contains the worst things. Bring balance to your information. For everything you think is true about your product/service, there is something else equally true that contradicts it. This becomes a problem when you are trying to sell value to customers who do not buy value, or buy your type of value.

Too often customers have a procurement mentality, or a vendor mentality and "they only value your product for the intrinsic deliverables," says Jeff Thull. He goes on to say, "Seek out extrinsic value buyers who look for value outside your product or service." They will tend to be non-transactional and loyal customers. They will tend to value your context over your content.

However, most sales people have difficulty engaging extrinsic value buyers because they do not bring enough substance to the table. They lack the expertise, patience, business accumen and intent to really understand their customer's perspective. They are intimidated to go deep into the customer's business to find all their threatening problems and issues. It is too much responsibility for them. It is too much about others and not about themselves and their solution.

Your customer is always asking themselves: Do you know me personally? Do you know what I go through day in and day out? Do you care to really understand my challenges and issues? Can I trust you to help me solve my problems? The higher up the food chain you go the more interested your prospects are knowing how much you know about their industry, their company, their priorities and they care far less about how much they know about your solution.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com