Giving up the Sales Security Blanket
Product Selling versus Value-Based Selling
Would you hire a technical product expert to sell for you OR would you teach a salesperson about your business AFTER you find out how good they are at selling?
A little and too much knowledge is a dangerous thing for a salesperson. Let me explain. Product knowledge is the salesperson’s security blanket. If all else fails, you can always talk about the product’s feature and benefits. Right? The problem is, too much product talk can smother the spark of interest in your sale. It puts the wrong emphasis on what you need to be talking about; the better future ahead for your buyer. Getting into the product detail before you find out what problem they want to solve will take you down rabbit holes. They can be very hard to get out. And often they kill the sales opportunity.
Salesperson as explorer
Selling is about uncovering what your buyer wants or needs, exploring with them. It’s about sending their brains to where the solution might sit. As a sales person, your job is to become an expert in uncovering and exploring what could make life or business better. You can talk too much and un-sell the possibilities that could be on the table for your buyer. The key in every sales conversation is to leave enough room for them to draw their own conclusions.
Buyers cannot immediately get what you are talking about. I am not saying they can’t understand it. Drowning them in too much product information can often confuse and have them draw the wrong conclusions and back out of their decision. One thing you can be sure of. They do understand their own problem. They can’t or don’t want to solve it themselves. That’s why they are talking to you.
So what are you really selling?
You are selling the opportunity to find answers, to create new possibilities. You can never know what they might be until you explore with them. Everybody buys differently! Sell a car the same way, or assume people want the car the way you think, you will end up killing the sale. The latest brand-new high-spec car is good for some people and a second-hand jalopy is perfect for others.
No matter what the product, the detail only becomes very important with the end-user and after your decision-maker is motivated to take action. This is after the buyer has answered the questions in their head on how your product might change things. It’s all about the value of life getting easier or better.
What does the farmer really want?
I worked with a group of sales people recently. They were selling a super-improved formula for helping sick animals get better. What the product is does not matter as much as what it could promise. They had every detail and could almost tell me the molecular composition of it. Who were they selling to? Farmers!
I put myself to the task of selling their product to them to prove that I didn’t ‘always’ need to know everything about a product to sell it. I had zero scientific knowledge about the product, except the name and what it was supposed to do and few jargon terms.
So in asking a few questions about the typical end users – vets and farmers – I imagined the biggest problem created by not having the product for the animals when they were sick. Common sense indicates A) The animal could die or not thrive. B) The farmer can’t sell the animal or get it producing. C) The vet can’t make the farmer happy. And the end result? Lost revenue and worst case scenario – the animal dies. I learned that key benefit in the product was built around small dosage effectiveness. This small dose could get the animal better faster. A new paradigm from the old way of giving massive dosages of liquid to get the animal well.
So in selling this, we only want to show the farmer how easy the treatment is, how effective it is. For the vet, we want to show faster and better outcomes with this treatment. We want to show how the farmers are going to be delighted with the vet’s solution. Result? Farmers have more trust in the vet and possibly become a life-long trusting customer.
Within five minute the sales team finally got it! Even without knowing too much about a product, you can get the sale moving in the right direction. Why? Focus on the problem that will go away because of you and the different end result. Before you think I’m advocating wild-west selling of anything and everything here, I want to reiterate my point. You have to know when to throw away the security blanket of product knowledge. Many sales people hide behind product knowledge when they don’t know what to do with a buyer.
Know when to call in the product experts
Again, I am not saying you should not educate yourself on your product. It’s all about knowing where to put your focus. Put it on the end-value proposition and know when to call in the product experts. What is the real problem being solved here?
In a previous sales job, I never pretended to know how we pieced the solution together as a deliverable. I understood enough and knew how to ask very pertinent questions. It was a tip given to me by a sales mentor early in my career. My only job was to focus on how to create credibility, trust and certainty that we had the right people to deliver what our clients wanted. At the right time I brought in experts to reinforce the truth of what I was offering. I was lucky to have fantastic technical delivery team. I worked without a security blanket. Result? Higher conversion rates.
I had a stint in procurement and saw first-hand how the product expects never won the business. It was the relationship builders and the sales people who sent my brain to the place of possibilities. They showed me the problem could be solved and our business was safe in their hands.
With the wide variety of clients I work with, I cannot learn it all. I’ve trained myself to get very quickly to the buyer and how they could experience the world, their fears and obstacles and hopes and desires. Easy to imagine because, it’s about the human problem, not the bells and whistles of the product.
Are you brave enough to throw away your security blanket?
So here are some questions to ask yourself this week. Can I have a sales conversation without talking about the products and my company? Can I stay focused on the buyer’s world? Why do customers really do business with me? How do I make life easy for them? Can I explain the value of what I do to a 10-year old?Does the sales experience create more possibilities? What do I need to do to stay out of the rabbit holes today?