Does anyone like salespeople anymore? I’m more than a little biased, but there’s still hope for salespeople and the rest of the world to coexist in perfect harmony, even prosperity. For one, good salespeople help their customers improve – process, customer service, marketing, operations, the bottom line – you name it.
If you’re not in sales, allow me to pull back the curtains a little on my colleagues and tell you about one of our favorite four-letter words! I suspect that lots of salespeople have heard your favorite four-letter word, so this is only fair, right? Our favorite four-letter word is BANT. It stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. It’s often used to help marketers and salespeople identify the right fit for pursuing opportunities. After all, if you have the money and you’re the decision-maker and you need my product and you want to buy soon, boy do I want to talk to you! Unfortunately, young, inexperienced, or careless salespeople often focus on budget, authority, and timeline, (or just budget) but give little or no attention to need. In fact, I pin the world’s disdain for salespeople on this very omission!
It’s cleverly disguised as content-laden, over-rehearsed, auto-pilot-delivered pitches that explain the 400 great, wonderful, fantastic, best-in-the-world features from some product or service. Inexperienced salespeople lead with features, close with features, and carry on about features in between, hoping that one of them sticks. They’ll use phrases like “we’re the only one in the market that has this, that, and the other thing.” So long as your prospect is concerned about this, that, and the other thing, you’re headed in the right direction. Statistically speaking, they’re not.
Features are not bad, as perhaps my title implies, they’re wonderful. The issue is really how you, as a marketer or salesperson, use them in the context of customer communication. One of the biggest mistakes I see and hear from salespeople is when a potential customer engages them with “tell me about your product,” and the salesperson just floors the gas pedal. Do yourself a favor and don’t floor the gas pedal, yet. You still don’t know which road to take!
Prior to iTunes, the average Joe had been known to buy an entire music album because of the one good song he liked, but also because he controlled the “next” and “back” buttons to get to the one song, out of fifteen, that was meaningful to him! Most people haven’t figured out how to press the “next” button on a salesperson to cut through the meaningless information, and get to the important stuff. The solution is simple – only talk about what’s important to your audience. You don’t need to be a mind reader. All you need to do is honor whoever you’re speaking with by asking good questions about what’s important to them. I realize it sounds like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many salespeople don’t ask. Once you’re armed with knowledge about what’s important, floor the gas pedal and drive down the right road.
Don’t differentiate by “featuring” your prospect to death – differentiate by asking what’s important, identifying need, and honoring the relationship.