Selling has changed dramatically in the past five to 10 years.
No longer is it enough to provide a sound product or service, good customer support, timely delivery or a rock-solid guarantee.
These are all givens for today's buyer. If your business lacks any of these core requirements, your company's long-term sales and revenues are in jeopardy.
Today's buyer is more sophisticated, educated and skeptical than ever before. With the Internet, the motivated buyer can likely learn more about your competition in a matter of hours than you know yourself.
Additionally, with technology, the price advantage is gone. The savvy buyer can likely find "it" faster, cheaper, and easier.
Still competing on price? If so, you'll inevitably fail, as it's the weakest position for a professional salesperson to compete upon.
Truth be told, except in very rare circumstances, a professional salesperson should never compete on price.
Rather, the professional salesperson should compete upon the one tenet most vendors overlook: value.
And not the typical value many marketing and sales consultants recommend. That is, not solely by demonstrating the value your product or service provides to your customer. In today's economy, more than ever, you must link the value of your offering to your customer. And to your customers' customer.
your customer has more options now than ever before.
Your company doesn't corner the market.
there's too much clutter in the marketplace.
With cheap vendors creating quality marketing materials, and sound vendors creating boring marketing materials, how can the customer know which vendor to choose? And due to this clutter, many customers simply close their eyes and ears altogether.
because of the clutter, the unscrupulous tactics of salespeople in the past, and the advent of technology, customers are much more savvy, educated and skeptical.
They're likely questioning you more than you question them.
And the drawbacks of not positioning your company as such are obvious:
- You do nothing to stand out - you're just another wolf in the pack.
- You create no compelling reason for the customer to "listen."
- You don't fill your customer's need to be heard and understood.
- You'll be replaced by the sharp vendor that makes this link
(if you're lucky enough to retain the customer initially).
Although on the surface, linking value to your customers' customers may not be as clear as the drawbacks, with insight and consideration, it becomes clear and powerful.
- First, you cut through the marketplace clutter and separate from the competition.
Second, you move away from a commodity and toward a resource and partner.
Third, by creating value and becoming more of a partner, you're able to soundly compete on value, rather than on price.
And fourth, and most importantly, you create value for your customers far beyond your product or service. You help your customer to improve their customers' experience, making you invaluable.
So you want to add value to your customer relationships, and understand the need for doing so, and recognize that your competitors aren't making this link, but aren't sure where to begin?
Here are four easy steps for creating such positioning.
(If you want more clarification, please feel free to info [at] maxsacks.com (e-mail me) with your questions.)
- Demonstrate your understanding and compassion for your customers' objectives.
This one step alone will separate you from most competitors. Doing so positions you as a giver rather than a taker. Your objective, as Stephen Covey says, is to, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." A primary rule of communication is the need for people to be heard and appreciated. Recognize this need in your customers and encourage it.
- Talk in the "industry terms" of your customer.
Use the terms and communication that your customers' customers want to hear. Doing so will help you to lower your customers' defenses to hearing your offering, position you as an ally, and to talk in their language. In short, the likelihood that you'll be heard, and understood, increases dramatically.
- Talk of the best possible outcome your customers' product or service offers.
For example, if you're a promotional products supplier to a major cruise line, you don't sell "jackets, mugs or T-shirts." You help create memories for your customers' customer.
That is, when a vacationer purchases a jacket on your customer's cruise ship, you want her to think of the terrific time she had on her "vacation of a lifetime," not of the quality of the jacket, the fine embroidery, or the pretty pleats. You want to help create the emotion of the memory. Doing so makes you exponentially more valuable to your customer than a mere commodity.
- Make your offering the link between your customer and his customers' ultimate experience.
If you sell professional printing for the aforementioned cruise line, you're not selling brochures, which forces you to compete on price.
Instead you are selling the emotion such quality brochures can inspire within your customers' customers, which helps them to buy. If you paint the value in terms of the benefits and the end results your customer is aiming for, not on the quality of your materials, you'll flourish.
Most salespeople rarely make the link of the value of their product or service to their customers' customers.
Accordingly, salespeople that make this link will separate themselves from their competitors, boosting value and revenues for all involved.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.