Customers value sales people for their expertise. They want sales people to bring ideas, to help solve their problems, to help them improve and do better.
It used to be, the expertise customers valued was sales’ knowledge about their products and solutions. Sales people would present information about their products and how they could help the customer. Software that helped provide more timely information for decision-making. Manufacturing systems to improve quality, productivity, and reduce costs, components that provided the customer products performance capabilities or functions needed by their customers.
Customers wanted to learn about new products and solutions. The primary source of information about new products and solutions was the sales person. They wanted to learn how the products sales people sold could help them.
Much of sales success at the time was based on the knowledge and expertise they had about their products. It a sales person didn’t understand their products, if they couldn’t translate the capabilities of the products into how they could help the customer, the sales person could not be successful. Consequently, sales people mastered Features, Advantages, Benefits (and some of us could also regurgitate Feeds and Speeds).
But things are different!
Customers still expect us to be experts. But the expertise they need is different. They no longer need our expertise in our products and solutions—or not as much as before. They can find out about our products and solutions. Often they know more than we do the very first time we meet (or they think they do).
The web is a giant research tool. The fastest, easiest way to learn about products and solutions. An easy way to learn what others think of those products and solutions. The web is the primary source of learning about products many of our customers leverage.
So customers’ have different needs for expertise.
Customers sometimes don’t have the chance to think about their own businesses, customers, competitors, and industries as much as they should or as much as they would like to. The day-to-day demands of their jobs keep them from thinking about their own businesses and opportunities. They also become prisoners of their own experience. They are so used to the way things are done, they don’t realize things may be changing, there may be better ways, or there are new opportunities to grow.
Sales people become the source of ideas for the customer about their businesses. Sales people who have expertise in their customers’ businesses, markets, and industries create great value in these relationships. Sales people who understand business and can translate that understanding to their customers’ businesses, helping them grow and improve get the attention of those customers. Sales people who help the customers learn and grow are welcomed. Customers need sales people who can help them innovate and change.
We’ve always had to be experts. But the types of expertise has changed.
Are you an expert? Does your customer believe you are an expert?