For a business to survive, it needs effective salespeople. As a result, companies spend millions of dollars training their sales forces. Unfortunately, much of this money is wasted, as most sales training focuses too much on product knowledge and price positioning, and too little on selling value. Rather than spewing endless product specs or offering discounts, a great salesperson uncovers customers' needs and creates value by showing how his product fills those needs.
When sales numbers fail to meet expectations, many executives complain that their salespeople are ineffective at selling value. Interestingly, they recognize where the deficiency in the sales force lies, yet they're somehow unable to align their sales training with what their salespeople need in order to be successful. They keep holding sales meetings to explain how new products work, after which the salespeople go out into the field and continue to make the same mistakes.
The problem with focusing on product information and pricing advantages in a sales presentation rather than selling value is that, in today's world of technological advancement, much of the information the salesperson gives is redundant. By the time of the presentation, the customer has already researched the ins and outs of the product online, and he probably has compared price points versus competitors extensively. Therefore, if the salesperson isn't effective at selling value, the customer's most likely response to the presentation is that he needs more time to do research online and think about it. In other words, the salesperson hasn't given him any compelling reason to buy his product.
Selling value is done by building rapport, asking lots of probing questions to uncover customers' needs and then positioning a product or products to fill those needs. Specific product information need not even be mentioned unless it pertains to filling a need. By listening more than talking during a sales presentation, the salesperson gains valuable insight about the customer's hot buttons. Not only does this knowledge help him position his product so that the customer perceives its value, it also helps him overcome objections that may arise. If, for example, the customer is concerned about price, the salesperson can relate a story about another of his customers who had a similar need and not only filled that need but saved money in the long run.
When salespeople fail, it is almost invariably because they make one or more of a few key mistakes. They don't spend enough time uncovering the customer's needs, they focus too much on product information or they try to sell on price alone. Unfortunately, most sales training reinforces these mistakes rather than correcting them. A more effective approach to training salespeople would include a cursory overview of product knowledge, followed by intensive training on selling value.
Photo courtesy of tamucc at Flickr.com
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