In this age of new and improved and feature-rich products, the following statement may come as a bit of a shock: Don’t let your product knowledge kill sales.
The most technically or product proficient salespeople are, too often, the worst salespeople.
Sure, you want to be able to respond intelligently to your prospects’ queries. However, “robo-sellers” know so much about the intricacies of their product or service that they’re always anxious to demonstrate every single feature that springs to mind. These types of sales people tend to exude a “know it all” attitude. And let’s face it, no one likes a know it all….especially your prospects.
I even see good salespeople falling in to into this trap. Spout too many features, and you overwhelm and confuse customers, resulting in longer sales cycles and even lost deals. So, how do you ensure your staff’s product knowledge helps, rather than hinders, the sale? By asking questions and sticking to solutions.
I’ve watched many deals go sour when an over-exuberant salesperson, who is on the brink of closing the deal, has said, “Mr. Buyer, this product is exciting because not only will it give you benefits A, B and C, which you say you really need, but also D, E, F and G!” Adding “bells and whistles” to the presentation – whether or not they are included in the price – can only create objections and doubt in the customer’s mind. They’ll ask themselves, “Am I paying for all these features I don’t require? Will those additional features get in the way of what I do need?” “Perhaps this product is overkill?”
That extra product attribute you may be so proud of could turn the prospect off and kill the sale.
Successful salespeople ask questions to uncover specific problems and align their products as solutions to those problems – that’s it.
Identifying a prospect’s challenges is done most effectively by asking the prospect leading, open-ended questions that allow them to reveal their real needs. You can review some of the best questions to ask by visiting the tip pop the question on the Engage site. For ideas on HOW to ask those questions try the fine line between being inquisition and becoming an interrogator.
For example, you might start the conversation like this:
“John, when I speak to executives like yourself, most often they tell me that although their business is going great, they have concerns about [name a problem your product addresses]. Is this a problem for you?”
“Mary, when I speak to executives like yourself, they find our products are able to solve problems in one of three areas: [specify the three key issues your product addresses]. Are these problems for you?”
The trick is to pick one to three serious or common problems that your product can solve. This way you are almost guaranteed your prospect will say, “Yes, that’s a problem for me, too.” Follow up by asking your prospect to be more specific about the problems they have. (As a general rule, the salesperson should talk 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the time, while the prospect talks 70 per cent to 80 per cent.) The answers will give you the information you need to position your product as the solution. In other words, this process helps you determine which of your product’s features your sales pitch should focus on and which elements to avoid.
If you suspect another feature could be of benefit, always ask the prospect a leading question (like the ones above) before presenting it. If the prospect doesn’t have a problem that’s addressed by the additional feature, then drop the subject. This will ensure you don’t dig a hole you can’t climb out of.
Finally, eliminate technical or product jargon from your sales pitches. Even with educated buyers, it is better to err on the side of caution. Use simple phrases and analogies to describe your solution. If the prospect is more advanced, start by telling them you like to explain things in very simple terms. Most prospects will appreciate your effort to present your solution with simplicity and clarity.
The bottom line: smart companies sell solutions, not products and smart sales people ask questions rather than making statements. Think of it this way: customers don’t buy drills, they buy holes. Sell them a hole.
Colleen Francis is founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions of Ottawa, a sales-training organization that delivers tailor-made solutions to sales and marketing professionals internationally. The company’s Web site is www.engageselling.com