Archive

Archive for the ‘Tactics & Strategies’ Category

Ice Cream for Breakfast?

01/20/2010 4 comments

The feeling of being denied the freedom to make your own decision is one of the worst feelings in the world. I don’t know too many people beyond the age of two that would argue with that statement. If I decide to go out and ride my bike, eat lunch at 1:30, have ice cream for breakfast or stay up until 3:00 AM, well, that is my choice thank you. So why should I change my mind if that is really what I want to do?

I’ll just sit here while you try to convince me

So when did it become fashionable to deny a prospect the choice to hear a pitch, stay with a current vendor or take advantage of special pricing from a competitor?  Is it that everyone we approach must be stupid or making a mistake if they don’t buy from us? Or is it just possible that we aren’t right for everyone? The tried and true process of spouting features and benefits is a tad “seller-centric”. .. meaning that those “can’t miss” benefits should work for everyone because that’s what the sales person is telling you. Just because you offer a car with fold down seats does that mean I should be thrilled even though I have no need for that particular feature that is so desired by someone else?


Just trust me, please

Someone once told me that feature and benefit selling amounted to “positive performance before trust” when used to fuel the sales process. I didn’t quite grasp that idea until I found myself as the prospect a few times. You could almost feel the salesperson telling me to just go ahead and trust him. And the funny thing was that the more he told me about this feature and that benefit that made no difference to me, the harder it was to believe I should grant him any trust at all.

So in an effort to find a more nurturing way to sell I began using a permission based sales approach that embraced the fact that either party could say NO, that allowed both salesperson and prospect to feel in control, and that used question marks instead of exclamation points or periods to drive the process forward. Wouldn’t we all like to work in an environment that felt that comfortable?

Where does margin come from?

We all know how to calculate margin in the simplest form by subtracting the cost of goods from the price those goods were sold for, but do many sales people, experienced or not, understand how to sell margin to their clients, suspects or prospects? When people on the street are all hyped up by presenting features and benefits, margin seems to be the last thing on their minds. What is the first thing on the mind at the executive level of the companies those salespeople are pursuing? Well, at that level it is profit or the operating margin of the business.

Rise to the Head of the Class

Features and Benefits are old school issues today. I didn’t say they weren’t important, just old school. The business development people that will rise to the head of the class and become highly profitable for their employers, and highly valued by their customers, are the ones that can provide products and services that generate profit for those customers and clients. Features and Benefits are a surface level approach that can be challenged by a “me too” competitor that is willing to drop price or make unreliable commitments. Everyone knows the downside of those experiences.

What’s the big picture?

Business development teams that can understand the business issues of the people they interact with will provide more value for longer periods of time and at higher margins. Knowing why a feature or benefit is valuable from the prospect’s perspective will build more trust than simply knowing what those features and benefits are. Features and benefits are “seller-centric” in nature, and if not attached to the total financial picture of a prospect they can be too assumptive and quite easy to ignore. The challenge then becomes how to open a business / profit conversation that doesn’t begin with a feature / benefit or price cutting pitch.

You don’t have to hire all MBA’s, but what would happen if your team embraced a little bit more business sense out on the street?