Are You So Busy Selling Your Product, That You Won’t Win The Deal?

Author: David Brock

Don Mulhern published a brilliant post on LinkedIn earlier this year. I thought I’d expand on his ideas.

I spend innumerable hours doing deal reviews. Roughly 95% go the same way, they focus on the product the salesperson is selling, not what the customer is trying to achieve and how we can help the customer do that.

Salespeople spend endless hours talking about:

  • This is what they like in our product, this is what they like in the competition.
  • We showed them these things in the demo, they really liked it!
  • We just need to overcome these perceptions of the product, then we can win.
  • If we could do these things with our product, it’s a slam dunk.
  • The customer wants it in “torchlight red,” can we paint it?  (OK, I made this one up, but you’d be amazed at some of the things I hear.)

Inevitably, I get impatient, I may ask something, like, “What are they buying this for?”  The salespeople look at me, inevitably thinking, “Haven’t you been paying attention, they want to buy my product and I have to tell them how great our product is!!!”

Blinded By the (Blinking) Lights

The fixation salespeople have on selling their products blinds them to what the customer is trying to achieve. Customers aren’t buying our products just to be buying, they are buying our products to solve a problem, to address and opportunity, to achieve something they can’t otherwise do.

Inevitably, the product is just a component of what they are trying to do, but there are many other challenges they struggle with. This is where they need help and this is where salespeople create the greatest value.

Customers are concerned with implementation, they are concerned with risk, they are concerned with their ability to be successful with their customers or beating their competition.  They are concerned with improving quality, reducing cost, reducing cycle time.  They want to drive growth and revenues, they want to drive profitability.

They want to be successful, they want some level of sanity in their otherwise insane lives, they want their bosses off their backs, they want to get a promotion or a bonus or keep their jobs.  They want to get home at a reasonable hour to spend time with their families and friends.  They want to free up time to do other things, some that may be more important than this specific issue.

These are the things our customers are interested in. These are the reasons our customers are buying, but buying is just a small part of what they are trying to achieve.

Missing the Point

When salespeople lose site of this, focusing instead on their products, they are no longer being helpful to the customer. They are no longer focusing on the issues that are most important to the customer, and which create the greatest differentiated value.

Our products are just a small part of what our customers care about. In the end, they will have several alternatives that meet their “product needs.”  But what our customers really want is a supplier that understands what the customer is trying to do and is helping them achieve that.  It goes far beyond the product.

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more.

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    Jim Barnet:

    Great article David. I laughed at the ‘torchlight red’ comment, because my favorite prospective customer question is “which use case/business outcome would be most positively affected by making it torchlight red?” Our sales people are not even allowed to schedule a demonstration unless they’ve had a requirements review call to understand the customers targeted business outcomes, and why they’re considering making a change. We tell them, “unless you can tie every product/functionality statement back to a corresponding statement about ‘and here’s how this would affect your business outcomes’ then you have no reason to show or talk about that functionality.

    Especially in a cloud based world, many customers no longer care if your solution is driven by singing mermaids, gerbils in a wheel, or Harry Potter’s magic wand, they just want help getting their problems solved or business goals achieved. So what your solution does isn’t important, unless you can tie that back to what it does for the customer.

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    Jim Barnet
    Promys PSA
    Director Sales & Marketing
    Tel: 905-847-6539, ext. 2972
    Cell: 647-239-2942
    t: @PROMYS_PSA

      Amy Katz:

      Jim – thanks for your input. And from my perspective, I’ve found singing mermaids typically find the fastest solutions… ABK

    Dave Brock:

    Jim: Thanks for the great comment. From the customer’s point of view, it’s never about the product–it’s about what they want to achieve. Yet we keep dragging the customer back to the product discussion. We are much more successful showing how what we do helps them do what they do — better.

    Though add, gerbils in a wheel and Harry Potter’s wand—I suppose that’s added value 😉

    Thanks for the great comment! Regards, Dave

    Jim Barnet:

    @Amy, yes, but not just ‘mermaids’, it has to be mermaids with the ‘singing’ feature/option/updgrade.., ; – )

    @David, yes, and the other issue that’s related, is if a Sales rep doesn’t know what’s motivating the customer to look for solutions, then you don’t know if the prospect has ‘pain’ (they’ll complain alot and occassionally look at options, but never act), or ‘compelling pain’ (the status quo is no longer acceptable and they must make a change in a particular time frame). You’re probably more familiar with the stats then I am, but the number I’m familiar with is over half of customers who don’t buy, aren’t lost, they stall at ‘no decision’.

    If a Sales rep doesn’t know why the customer is looking, what problems they’re trying to solve, or unachieved objectives they’re trying to gain traction with, then the rep runs a high risk of the sales process ending at no decision. The corollary to that is, most reps who don’t hit their targets, fail to do so – not because they lost a bunch of deals to the competititon – but because a large portion of their pipeline went to ‘no-decision’. In essescense working a bunch of deals that were never going to close to begin with.

    For me, that’s the real potential pitfall of product focused selling.

    Thanks again for the article, I love that kind of content.

    Jim Barnet
    Promys PSA
    Director Sales & Marketing
    Tel: 905-847-6539, ext. 2972
    Cell: 647-239-2942
    t: @PROMYS_PSA

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