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Aug 13 18

Walking, Talking Product Brochures—Selling Is More Than This

by David Brock

I don’t know how many sales calls I observe.  Over the course of years, it’s 1000’s.  The majority of them are the same—it’s all about our products.  The typical process looks like:

If there is any discovery, discovery is focused on the customer product needs—what capabilities are they looking for (never the question, “Why are these important to you?”), what products do they currently use, what features are they looking for, what is the target pricing…….

As quickly as possible, sales people get into describing their products, the more “sophisticated,” use a Features, Benefits, Advantages approach, but the conversation is focused on the product.

Usually, at some point, there is “show and tell,”  (Thank goodness we had all that practice in Kindergarten and First Grade!).  It may be a demo, it may be looking at the physical product, usually it’s accompanied by the physical/virtual brochures, case studies, testimonials.  Often, the strategy seems to be focused on quantity, as if the more stuff we can inundate the customer with, the more it will influence the customer to make a decision in our favor.

And of course, that “stuff,” is exactly the same as what the sales people have already talked about.

At some point sales provides a proposal, most of the time it’s a quotation–all the products that are being proposed, listed by line item.  How many of each, the unit price, and the extended price, then the total price.  If the customer is “lucky,” there may be a cover letter with a few meaningless paragraphs about why the product and our company is great and a final paragraph saying, “We look forward to being your partner…”

And then the customer has to make a decision…..

The good news, all our competitors do exactly the same thing.

The customer is left to figure out which product is the best for them–the customer is just looking to solve a problem and achieve goals, but all that’s been presented is information about the products.

In the end, it’s hard to choose, so they resort to the only thing that differentiates the alternatives—price.

To them, the alternatives are the same.  To them, any solution will do–otherwise they wouldn’t have even met with us, so the dilemma becomes, which is the lowest price.

And we wonder……..

“Why don’t customers want to see us?”

“Why do customers say we don’t understand them, their goals, their problems, what they want to achieve, their business, and their markets?”

The problem is too often, we view “selling” as being walking, talking product brochures.  Yes, maybe we can go into a little more than the brochures, maybe we can present the data in a more appealing manner.  Maybe we personalize our presentation by using the customer’s name and company, “Martha, our product comes in 20 different, fashionable colors, to fit into any factory environment Acme Manufacturing has…..”

But that’s not what our customers need, that’s not the “help” our customers are looking for, that’s not what creates value for the customers.

If it were, they can get all that information at a web site or in a brochure.

Yet, that’s what too many sales people do……

Selling is more than being a walking talking product brochure.


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Aug 12 18

Why Are They Buying?

by David Brock

I was sitting in yet another deal review.  The sales person was describing the deal, focusing on what the customer wanted to buy.

The sales person described the products, the volumes, the competition, potential pricing…..

At some point, I raised my hand, asking, “Why are they buying?”

The sales person looked at me, perhaps noticing by silver hair, thinking, “Poor old guy, doesn’t realize senility is setting in, I’ll humor him.”  He responded, “Because they are unhappy with their current supplier and want to look at alternatives?”

I persisted, “Why are they unhappy with their current supplier?”

The sales person couldn’t answer.

I continued, “Why are they experiencing problems with the supplier?  What are the problems are they experiencing?  What is the impact of those problems?  What happens if they don’t make a change?  Is it the competitor’s product that is causing problems, or is it something else?”

The sales person couldn’t answer.  He looked at me, frustrated, I was slowing down the deal review…

I shifted gears, “What are they looking for in the alternatives?”

The sales person cheered up, “They are looking for a product that meets their needs and their price expectations, and ours will…..”

“But what are their needs?”

The sales person was getting frustrated, we seemed to be going in circles.  “Well, they need our product….”

“But, presumably the current product meets their needs, what’s changed?”

Yes, we were going in circles—and the sales person kept focusing on the product he was selling.

Finally, I asked, “What do you need to do to win?”

The sales person was being kind, undoubtedly thinking, “It’s a shame when these old guys just keep asking these questions, going in circles….”

“We just have to come in at the right price, we have to be lower than their current supplier…..”

To which, I replied, “Is that what is causing the customer to be unhappy?  What is it that we need to do to win?”

And the sales person couldn’t answer……..


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Aug 2 18

What Did The Customer Learn As A Result Of Our Meeting?

by David Brock

Usually, after a sales call, we ask ourselves, “Did I accomplish my objectives?”  (That is if you assess yourself after the sales call.)

It’s a critical question, we need to be purposeful and focused in each of our meetings with the customer.  At the same time, it’s self-centered–we sales people tend to be very self-centered focused on our goals, rather than the customers’.

Perhaps there are a couple of more important questions:

  • What did the customer learn as a result of this meeting/call?
  • What value did we co-create in this meeting?

If the customer isn’t learning anything, if we aren’t co-creating value in each interchange, then we are wasting time!  While we may be accomplishing our objectives, we aren’t helping the customer move forward in achieving their goals.

Often, we forget.  Customers are just as time poor as we are.  Unless they are in procurement, the “buying journey” is a diversion to their day jobs and what each person is accountable for.  So they shouldn’t have much time or patience with buying.

Customers figured this out a long time ago.  They are driven to use their time more effectively, as a result, they seek alternatives to dealing with sales people.  Where they used to learn from us, they are self educating through digital channels.  They are learning, developing their thinking, consequently, deferring engaging sales people to as late and as little in the process as they can.

But what would happen, if we started changing our approach?  What if we start evaluating our success and progress through the buying/selling process not just on our goal attainment, but on what the customer has learned and the value created in each interchange.

Now the dynamic has shifted entirely to be focused on the customer and helping them move to their goals as effectively as possible.  As a result, we move to achieving our goals more quickly and effectively.

At the end of each meeting ask yourself–and perhaps even ask the customer:

  • What did the customer learn as a result of this interchange?
  • What value did we co-create in this meeting?

It will change everything!


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Aug 1 18

Research Shows You Get The Best Results If…….

by David Brock

Marketing and sales are very data driven—or at least we pretend to be.

Everyday, some research report provides interesting tidbits of data that show what customers respond to, giving us the secrets of success.  We learn:

  • Customers respond best if you only ask 4 questions in discovery calls….
  • If you use these words…….. customers respond better than if you use these words………  And never, never, use these words…..
  • Call prospects on Tuesday mornings in these hours, or Thursday afternoon in these hours….. and you are guaranteed to reach customer…
  • You have to touch prospects 12 to 14 times, though 1.7 channels to get them to respond.
  • Top performers lead with insight…….
  • Sales people using this tool….. outperform sales people who are not using this tool by 47%….
  • 98.7% of the highest performing sales people brush their teeth everyday and pee at least once a day.  (These are conclusions we’ve come to in an ongoing multiyear study of top performers.)

It seems the trick is, if you just do any of those things, you are guaranteed to be a top performer, and if you do several, it’s a slam dunk, you might as well make your reservations to the Golden Circle!

We are left to believe, all we have to do is ask no more than 4 questions, and we are in.  Hmmm, let me think about this:

Question 1:  Hi, my name is Dave, what’s yours?

Question 2:  So how’s your day going so far?

Question 3:  What did you think of last night’s game?

Question 4:  Now that I’m at my final question for your optimal response, when can we schedule that demo?

You may think I’m exaggerating—I am, but not by much.

What the data doesn’t show is meaning or context.  We have to drill down into the data to understand what’s creating these results, and why.  We have to probe to understand the context much better.  The data doesn’t give us the answer, but points us to where we can find the answers.  But this is hard work.

However, in our quest for the silver bullet, or wishful thinking about sales success, too few of us–sales pundits, self-proclaimed experts, sales leaders, lazy sales people never do this.  Instead, they focus on asking 4 questions–never considering 1 might be better or 10 might have an huge impact.  They call on Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons, but have nothing relevant to talk about, they lead with insights, but can’t support a conversation about those insights.

It’s ironic, the critical thinking we need to do to understand the data, what it means, why, how we effectively leverage it to improve our own performance, is exactly the type of critical thinking we need to engage our customers effectively.

Is it any wonder why we have a problem engaging our customers, helping them achieve their goals, creating value with them, as we help them through their buying journeys?  If we don’t engage in the same critical thinking about our own jobs, our own performance, what it means to be effective, we will never have the ability to do this with customers.

It’s tough work, top performers recognize this, they realize it’s less about the number of questions, the time of day, the use of certain words, the latest greatest technique.  They know it’s hard work for them, and for the customers, they are prepared to do that work, they are prepared to engage deeply in ways that are meaningful and impactful to customers.

I wonder if there’s a statistic about that?  It’s easier to perform to the statistic than doing the work…….


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