A friend of mine recently recalled one of his most memorable selling experiences. It happened early in his career when he was with a national supplier of industrial products.
After being hired straight out of college, he was sent to corporate headquarters for a week's worth of hands-on training. He'd taken a job to sell, not be a mechanic, he thought. Nonetheless, the company demonstrated every product's application and made him apply them as well. For hours he was applying lubricants to motors and bearings, scrubbing tile and toilets with near toxic substances and filling the air with fresh scents from a can.
By the end of the week he'd gone through four shirts and a suit. He was armed with a virtual library of product information, the notebooks stuffed so full they were hard to carry, and a personal promise to never again change his own oil.
When he arrived home, he entered the sales presentation skills portion of his training. This consisted of spending one day with a senior representative who, in between coffee breaks and flirting, managed to make ten cold calls and three presentations in a full seven-hour day (he said he didn't want to over extend himself). He did make one sale, impressively selling a case of glass cleaner to a small machine shop with only one window. At the end of the day, the rep told my friend, "That's all there is to it."
My friend, undaunted, arose early the next morning eager to offer the world his products. He had more than 50 hours worth of product training and nearly an encyclopedia's worth of product information, yet virtually no formal sales skills training. Can you guess what happened?
He went to a lumber factory and asked for the maintenance manager. Surveying the surroundings, he locked onto five huge, shiny double-trailer log hauling Kenworth trucks. He thought to himself, "Perfect." He was going to show the manager his company's revolutionary gear oil, formulated specifically for heavy load bearing trucks. It really was an exceptional product that wouldn't freeze until the temperature dropped to 50 to 60 degrees below zero.
The manager arrived and he introduced himself. The manager invited him into his office where my friend 'told' the manager, without asking a single question, that he had the perfect product him. The manager sat expressionless as he watched my friend set up his display which included a jar, freeze torch, an eggbeater and gear oil.
He poured the gear oil into the jar and then beat it with the beater. After several seconds, he lifted the beater out of the jar and spun it around and around showing the adhering property it had to metal. He told the manager this would ensure that 'his' trucks would always be lubricated, even when first moving, where as less expensive, less viscous gear oil, would be sitting at the bottom of the oil pan. He then sealed the jar and froze the bottom with a steady, 20-second blast from the freeze torch. He put down the torch, removed the lid and then inserted the eggbeater, seemingly mixing the oil without effort. This, he proclaimed to the manager, proved that 'his' trucks would be protected in even the coldest conditions.
At the end of the presentation and, sure in his own mind, that he'd scored his first sale because the manager hadn't objected once, he was ready to ask how much product he wanted. But he hesitated, thinking to himself that it would be polite to ask the manager if he had any questions. So with a smile he asked, "Do you have any questions?"
The manager nonchalantly said, "It looks great, but what will it do for me?"
My friend stood silent with a look of disbelief. Perplexed, he said, "I just showed you ... " before being interrupted by the manager. My friend soon found out the trucks outside weren't the company's trucks. They were the trucks of the log hauling company who hauled them to the plant for milling. The plant didn't have any hauling trucks.
I know this is an extreme example that's unlikely with almost any sales representative with even the slightest amount of experience. Can you imagine not conducting any qualification or asking a single question until your close? The example is useful, however, in its glaring focus on the rudimentary basics of selling.
Strip selling down to a single, basic question and you arrive at: "What will it do for me?" This is selling in its most basic form.
My point is to urge you to remember that no matter what product or service you're offering, no matter what you're saying, and no matter what you hear your client saying, he or she is always thinking about this question. As often as possible, try to imagine your client with a big, glowing sign stuck on her forehead that asks, "What will it do for me?" Doing so is easy and will prove effective at increasing your sales.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.