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It Is Not About Your Product Stupid!

What you think you are selling is very different than what your customer is buying. Herein lies one of the great selling truths in the information economy, and is the bane of existence for sales people everywhere.

According to Microsoft, there are roughly over 30 million PowerPoint presentations being made every day all over the globe to unsuspecting customers, internal and external, that are arguably pure dribble because they are not properly positioned to help customers understand the cost of change.

The day Google became a driving force in the information economy was officially the day sales roles were irrevocablely changed forever. The week the market crashed in October 2008 just made it all that more pronounced.

Google essentially marginalized and neutralized the traditional value proposition of sales people; bringing valuable information to the table that was not easily accessible. That information is now arguably three clicks away on Google.

So sales people's remaining and sustainable value is no longer giving information. Products and services need to be repositioned to meet the realities of the new economy.

Sales organizations are waking up to the reality that they are not in the business of what they thought they were. This cannot be explained any better than the example of sales people who sell hand drills. Are their customers buying drills or are they buying holes?

All sales people, to maximize their value impact, are in the equivalent of the hole business. Keep in mind it is more important what your customers are buying, than what you are selling. If you buy into this, this changes everything about how you position your sales messages.

The following are how sales organizations have perfected the ability to consistently hit the target, that is no longer the target. They are perfectly equipped to deal with a world that no longer exist. In my opinion, here is where they are selling in ways that are the antithesis of how their customers change and buy:

  1. Sales people position their product and service for opportunity and gain and their customers are buying for problem relief and alleviation.
  2. Psychologists back this premise up for all consumer/business and personal behavior. More than 90% of all decisions to change or buy are driven by the fear of failure and being left behind, as opposed to the quest for success, gain, opportunity or advancement. Customers are more concerned about avoiding looking bad, than they are about looking good. They say the Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps hates to lose more than he loves to win. Customers are more concerned about being perceived as being wrong, as opposed to being perceived as being right. This is just human nature. A negligible amount of sales people position their offering to meet the realities of how customers are motivated to change and buy.

  3. Sales people position their product and service analytically and prudently, and customers are buying intuitively and from their gut.
  4. When all is said and done, customers buy because of a feeling they have. What makes it so difficult for sales people is all the outward behavior and rationalization of customers appears to be analytical. Appeal to their emotional reasons to change and buy, and you will incrementally increase your odds to engage your customers at a level where decisions to buy are made. Customers are first and foremost feeling machines that think.

  5. Sales people position their offering for the good of the corporation and customers buy for their own individual reasons.
  6. Customers buy for personal reasons and will justify their reasons for the organization. By appealing to your customer's motive for buying on a personal level your established a much stronger connection.

  7. Sales people position their offering for their customer's need and their customers buy for what they want.
  8. Customers buy holes, they do not buy drills. Position your offering for not what it does, rather for how the customer uses it. Customers buy first and foremost for what they want before they buy for what they need.

  9. Sales people position their offering as tangibles (even if it is an intangible) and customers are always buying intangibles. Buying is an emotional experience. All products and services are ultimately bought on an intangible level.
  10. Sales people position their offering for the future and customers buy and change because of the past. The past is what determines the future when it comes to the motivation of change. To understand your customer's future goals, you must first do your due diligence in understanding their past. All future goals are a direct response to reconciling a shortcoming, a deficit, a problem or a liability.
  11. Sales people position their offering for the advantages of their cold features and benefits and customers buy due to their soft heartfelt feelings. Feelings trump facts when it comes to buying. Factoids tell, yet feelings sell. Customers remember the feelings that are associated with your offering more than the facts and figures.
  12. Sales people position their offering where they are an expert and authority of their product and service and customers so often are influenced to buy because they are looking for an advisor and confidant who is an expert and authority about their business, their operation, their problems and their unique circumstances.
  13. The sales person with the best understanding of the customer's business and their challenges, will consistently outsell the sales person with the best product knowledge. Customers do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.

  14. Sales people position their offering for their own assumptions and reasons and customers are buying for their own unique reasons.
  15. Customers buy for their reasons not for ours. No need for further discussion. End of story.

  16. Sales people position their offering objectively and customers are buying subjectively.
  17. It is not about the facts and figures. It is the story behind the story that carries the day as to why customers buy. Stop spending so much time on pure rationale. If customers all bought rationally and intellectually you would no longer have a job or a profession. Customers do not buy as deliberately, cautiously and in a premeditated way as you think they do. More often it is spontaneous, compulsive, spur of the moment and then they justify it in a very deliberate way. Sales people give customers a lot more credit for buying consciously than they deserve. A lot of their decisions are made subconsciously.

    So to maximize your selling effectiveness, position your offering for avoidance of problems, appeal to your customer's feelings (gut, intuitions, and emotions), recognize that they buy personally and individually, that their decisions are more rooted in the past than in the future, and that they are not cold, logical, rational beings.

    Why sales people fail to sell this way is very simple. When you sell logically, rationally, objectively and you position yourself as an expert, you do not have to go through the long drawn out task of asking questions to really understand your customer's past problems to frame their future goals. It seems so much easier! The problem is it is easy on the front-end and very difficult on the back-end to get buy-in and commitment. Traditional sales people fall for the delusion that their solution carries the today and has the most weight to determine whether someone will buy or change. Nothing could be further from the truth!

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