They’re Not That Into You….
People need a reason to buy from you, and for the most part, you are not the reason they buy!
My experience starting out in sales was that most of the sales people I worked with sold under the assumption that the reason the customer bought the product was because it had great “features and benefits”. Then one day, my sales manager said something to me I’ll never forget. At that time I was selling computer equipment to big corporations. He said, “Terry, a computer is nothing more than a furnace if the customer has no software to run on it!”
I will admit at the time, I didn’t have a clue about what he meant. About a year later, I had the opportunity to participate in an executive MBA program my company sponsored, and I got introduced to Michael Porter and his book Competitive Advantage. I learned about the “Five Forces” model, and I recalled my sales manager’s comment. I realized that customers didn’t buy because my product had great features and benefits. No – they bought because they had actual business problems! They had to produce and sell their products, and that required creating a strategy and doing all sorts of business and financial planning. I know, it seems obvious, but dealing with all those “sales personalities”, it just didn’t seem to occur to them that customers actually have business issues that their products can solve!
It didn’t take me long to start using this to my advantage. I found a couple of “good” sales people (intuitively, that meant to me as an “INTJ” they were good planners and organizers) and we put together a “five forces” analysis for a few of their customers. In one case, we presented the findings to a friendly customer, and we identified a $6 Million opportunity!
Suddenly, all the sales reps wanted to do Five Forces analysis, and that generated a whole ton of additional revenue.
I began to think about why sales people were amenable (or not) to doing the Five Forces analysis. A few sales people did great with it, but most did not. What was the difference? Largely, it had to do with one aspect of their selling effort: the reps that were organized and planned out their selling efforts did great with the analysis and closed business with it. Those that were not as disciplined, not so much….
During my early career as a consultant (INTJ, remember?) I naturally gravitated towards putting together plans and treating my activities as “projects” – the Five Forces analysis was no exception. I had a neat tidy project plan for how to execute the Five Forces analysis and how to present it to the customer. The “good” sales people almost immediately grasped the plan and started organizing their efforts around it. The reps that were not as disciplined would either react badly to the plan (this is way too much work!) or would simply ignore it , trying to “short cut” their way into using the analysis. This never worked, so they simply dumped the idea and went back to feature-benefit selling.
A couple years later, when I started managing a sales team, it all came together. I ran across a book called Solution Selling by Mike Bosworth. Now it wasn’t that I was never exposed to selling methodologies, but there was something about this book that really got my attention. It effectively “organized” the sales process and provided methods to manage sales performance based on a defined sales cycle. As you might guess, the “thinker” in me was incredibly excited about this. I went to the Solution Selling class, and came back armed with a plan for how to organize my team.
Lesson 2: Great sales people immediately adapt to acquire and use resources. They always have a plan!
How do you plan your sales activities with customers? Do you have a plan?