As a salesperson, youre trained to ask customers what they want in terms
of your product offerings. Thats wise advice. However, if you only ask customers
what they want and then give it to them, youre missing the biggest opportunity
that has ever come in front of you.
Realize that clients will always under-ask because they dont know what is possible. Think about it No customer ever asked for a fax machine. They didnt know it was possible to send printed communication via a phone line. No customer ever asked for an iPod. They didnt know it was possible to listen to music without some sort of CD or spinning device. People dont ask for things that they dont know exist.
Technology allows us to do things that were once thought impossible. So for salespeople, while it is important to ask customers what they want and then to give it to them, realize that by doing so youre merely competing with your competitors. Chances are your competitors are asking customers the same questions, theyre getting the same answers, and theyre providing the same solutions. When that happens, you end up competing on price and not differentiating yourself.
Therefore, the Golden Rule of sales is to give people the ability to do what they currently cant do but would really want to do if they only knew they could do it. Thats so much more profitable than simply giving clients what they ask for.
The key is that you have to look a little bit further into your customers predictable needs based on where theyre going. Only then you can see unmet needs and new opportunities.
At this point many salespeople might say, But I dont create the products; I just sell them. How can I deliver what customers dont know is possible? The answer lies in how you can redefine various aspects of your offering. Consider the following.
1. Redefine the Product
Think about the products you sell. Sure, your customers are probably using the product for what it was intended to do. But could the same product help in another area? Could it impact the effectiveness of their lives in some other way? Could it do something else or more for your customers? Analyze how people have always used your product and think of other creative applications. Thats how you redefine your product so it adds more value and does what no one ever thought to ask.
2. Redefine the Customer
If you sell your product to a specific market segment, can another type of customer use it as well? For example, lets say you sell software to independent insurance agents, and your software helps them run their office, track their clients, and calculate their commissions. Could that same software work for another industry, such as real estate agents? It probably could, and with minor modifications, if any. Thats because insurance agents and real estate agents have similar functions and issues.
3. Redefine the Value You Deliver
Always remember that youre not simply selling a thing; youre selling the competitive advantage of the product. In other words, part of your job is to help your customers use the product you sell to gain additional benefits. When asked, most salespeople say that few of their customers are fully using all of the features of their product in the most efficient manner. In fact, most customers only use between ten and fifty percent of the products full functionality. No wonder so many companies are competing on price. No wonder margins are slim. All the salespeople are doing is selling a thing. Theyre not selling a competitive advantage. Theyre not truly differentiating the products theyre selling.
Therefore, create some guidelines that will help your customers maximize the use of the product youre offering. Most companies simply sell the product, deliver it, and then leave. Its then up to the customer to figure out specific guidelines for maximizing the use of the product. No wonder so many customers underutilize their purchases.
By helping your customers learn, understand, and implement all the functionality of their purchase, you could possibly even charge more for your product because now youre giving business value that far exceeds the value of the individual product.
4. Redefine the Perception of the Salesperson
Finally, you need to shift from being a vendor to being a trusted advisor. Theres a big difference between the two. A vendor simply supplies a product. A trusted advisor supplies true advantage. For example, a trusted advisor will recommend what is best for the customer, not best for the salesperson. In some cases that might mean telling the customer that your company is not the best fit for the customers needs, and then recommending one of your competitors. When you seek that higher ground and become a trusted advisor, your clients trust you more.
Remember that the future is all about relationships. As we get more technical and more global, the relationships you build with your customers are what will keep your company profitable. Relationships are all about trust, and you gain trust by earning it. So never teach people to distrust you by stretching the truth or hiding some pertinent information. To differentiate, you need to raise the bar on trust.
Redefine Your Level of Sales Success
When you focus on redefining what you already have you can take your current offering and leverage it to new levels. Thats when you become a sales leader, not because of some fast-talking sales pitch, but because of your commitment to your customers and their true needs. So focus on these four elements of redefining today and youll be able to give your customers products and services they never dreamed possible. As a result, both you and your company will attain new levels of success and realize the profit potential you always knew existed.
DANIEL BURRUS, author of six books including the international
best seller Technotrends, is one of the worlds leading technology
forecasters and business strategists. He has established a worldwide
reputation for accurately predicting technology-driven trends and their
impact on the world of business.