As a salesperson, you’re trained to ask customers what they want in terms of your product offerings. That’s wise advice. However, if you only ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re missing the biggest opportunity that has ever come in front of you.

Realize that clients will always under-ask because they don’t know what is possible. Think about it…No customer ever asked for a fax machine. They didn’t know it was possible to send printed communication via a phone line. No customer ever asked for an iPod. They didn’t know it was possible to listen to music without some sort of CD or spinning device. People don’t ask for things that they don’t 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 you’re merely competing with your competitors. Chances are your competitors are asking customers the same questions, they’re getting the same answers, and they’re 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 can’t do but would really want to do if they only knew they could do it. That’s 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 they’re going. Only then you can see unmet needs and new opportunities.

At this point many salespeople might say, “But I don’t create the products; I just sell them. How can I deliver what customers don’t 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. That’s 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, let’s 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. That’s because insurance agents and real estate agents have similar functions and issues.

3. Redefine the Value You Deliver

Always remember that you’re not simply selling a thing; you’re 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 product’s 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.” They’re not selling a competitive advantage. They’re not truly differentiating the products they’re selling.

Therefore, create some guidelines that will help your customers maximize the use of the product you’re offering. Most companies simply sell the product, deliver it, and then leave. It’s 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 you’re 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. There’s 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 customer’s 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. That’s 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 you’ll 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 world’s 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.