“The program you put your customers in is not nearly as important as the process you utilize to get them there.”
I have been actively and excitedly involved in a new program rollout with one of my clients. The program they are introducing is innovative, unique, and of tremendous value to their future and their existing clients.
What excites me the most about this entire program rollout is not the package-which is quite good– but, the process the client went through to educate, inspire, and guide their team through the introductory phase. Of the five educational segments provided, only two could be considered features and benefits focused. And, it would be a stretch to call either one of them completely product centric.
The balance of the education and training emphasized:
- Engagement: a simple statement to elicit interest and excitement regarding the introductions;
- Listening: engaging the clients in a discussion about their current business relationships, drivers, and needs;
- Solving: helping the clients discover how the new programs could solve their specific challenges, issues, problems, and frustrations.
Far too many product related sales training programs are feature and benefit intense. It is as if every sales professional needs to know how to position the product by listing and sharing all the features and benefits as a coercion tactic to somehow get the customer interested in the new product. That is simply old school and very outdated.
Today’s decision makers are far too busy to listen to a litany of benefit laden presentations from semi-professional salespeople. They have real issues to deal with and are looking for resources who will help them discover how to deal with these issues. In some cases, they may not even be aware of what those really are; or, are not cognizant of how important they are.
In today’s environment, a great sales call is one of open-ended discovery. It is one where the sales professional has a conversation with the prospective client that provides education and insight for the salesperson–not the other way around. It is in the course of educational, learning exercise that a sales professional might have the opportunity to discover a specific challenge for which they may have an answer.
When working with sales professionals the hardest behavior to eliminate is their inclination to tell the customer what the solution is — feature and benefit driven — before the customer articulates, recognizes, and agrees that they have a problem or a need. Yes, it may be obvious to the salesperson; but, it is not valid until the customer discovers or articulates it as an important issue, too. These behaviors are a direct result of the training methodology that expects salespeople to be focused on pitching, promoting, and selling the product; not listening to learn, understand, and solve.
The product may be the answer. However, one has to know what the question is first. And, the problem that one is solving for must a problem that has been first identified and articulated by the client, not the salesperson.
Next time you find yourself all jazzed about the product — name, features, benefits– remember this is all good stuff, provided the customer knows how the product is actually helping them. That knowledge comes from the learning and discovery process, not the pitching process.
Great sales is understanding how to listen and learn better — it is not knowing how to present all the wonderful features and benefits of the product or program.