Pushing products and services doesn’t work well. Talking about features and benefits won’t get you far with today’s customers, because they have such easy access to information about the features and benefits of the products and services they’re interested in. But customers still have goals that they are trying to accomplish and they still need solutions to help them achieve these and overcome obstacles. You can’t sell them a solution until you know what their business issues are, the problems they have in achieving their goals and other obstacles that they face.
An effective sales professional thoroughly researches potential clients before ever making contact, and also makes it a point to learn about the problems that the potential client seeks to solve. While a simple problem-solution paradigm makes sense, and is part of what goes into effective selling today, it is no longer the entire process.
Solutions Aren’t Everything
Offering a solution isn’t what’s going to make the sale for you. We live in the information era, and anyone can easily research their problem and find solutions for it, no matter how unusual or specialized. In fact, your customers are often way ahead of the sales professionals trying to help them with solutions, because they’ve taken the time to understand their problem and evaluate potential solutions to it.
Sure, the ideal is to engage customers before they fully understand the scope of their needs, but even when you are able to do that, you still have to do something more: demonstrate to the potential customer the value of the solution you offer.
Value is the Differentiator; Sales Skills Must Address This
Once a customer knows that they have a need, he probably also has a good idea of what solutions are available and what they offer. After all, there really is an app for just about everything, and there are products arriving on the market every day promising to meet needs we may not have known we had.
The value that your product offers is what differentiates it as a solution from your competitors’ solutions. Value may be represented in many different ways. Your solution may be more cost-effective. It may be the most convenient. It may free the customer up to focus on things that are more important. And it’s up to you to show your customer how your solution provides value on top of simply solving the problem.
Learning What Represents Value to the Customer
Of course, to provide value, you have to learn what it means to your customer. The pre-call planning and research you do lays the groundwork for you, but you also have to learn to ask the right questions and really listen to the answers so you’ll know how they define value in their particular situation. The effective value proposition focuses closely on what the customer really wants and values, whether that is to improve an existing solution, solve a specific problem, work more efficiently, or attract more business. Your customer’s question, whether spoken or unspoken, is “Why should I buy this product or service?” Your answer is your compelling value proposition.
Plan, Discover, Reinforce Value
For each customer, you should complete a value analysis on your products or services. Before you place that sales call or go to that meeting with a potential customer, you must ask yourself what, based on your research, is of value to the customer. And you should make a plan to emphasize how your products and services address that value need. When you can quantify the value for your customer, you don’t waste time, and you develop a strategy to minimize the importance of objections. For example, if price may be an objection, your value proposition must demonstrate long term benefits in terms of the customer making more money or saving more money.
Sales skills today cannot ignore the customer’s perception of value. Customers aren’t interested in what’s in it for you, but need to know what’s in it for them. Ultimately, if the customer does not perceive the value of your products or services, then to him, the value doesn’t exist and your product or service is not an ideal solution. Offering solutions and touting features and benefits is necessary, but it isn’t everything. Creating a compelling value proposition for each customer is one of the most essential sales skills today.
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