Are You Falling Behind by Pushing Products or
Tuesday, 2 April 2013 | Tuck Mixon
Are You Surging Ahead by Advising Customers?
Product Pusher Selling is Obsolete
In today's crazy busy world, being perceived as a bothersome salesperson is NOT the impression you need to make. Even when you have a breakthrough product, most people don't want to hear about it. Surprisingly, as the Evolution of the Salesperson infographic in an earlier blog post notes, 68% of companies still sell by pushing their product. In my experience, for every person that is ready to hear you present your product, you are losing ten people who want the results you can help them get, but those ten don't want to hear about it from a pesky salesperson they don't know or trust. I invite you to comment on your experience.
If prospective customers resist your prospecting efforts, your salespeople may be pushing their products instead of engaging prospects in conversations they care about. Push product, and you risk falling behind companies that engage customers in business conversations about issues that matter to the customer. These engaging salespeople are surging ahead by influencing their prospects' buying preferences. You've probably heard that buyers are anywhere from 57% to 70% into their buying process before they contact salespeople. And according to Forrester Research, when your salespeople react to buyers at this late stage, their win rate is only 16%. Conversely, when sales and marketing reach out to buyers proactively, and they help the buyers set their buying criteria, they win up to 75% of the time! With a win rate nearly 5X better, Proactive Sales and Marketing is clearly the way to go.
No Interest in Your Breakthrough Product?
Because stories are more memorable than explanations, here is what we learned in 2002 about product pushing when our company was introducing a breakthrough battery. We were excited. We trained our salespeople on this patented, breakthrough design, and the salespeople were excited. They couldn't wait to offer our new product to prospects and customers. When it was finally available, many prospects would not even talk with our salespeople! What happened? We were talking too much about a breakthrough product and too little about the results we could help our customers achieve.
One day, Sandy, our top standby power salesperson, came to me and said he just couldn't get the Directors of Engineering at the local Cable systems to talk to him over the phone. He could not even get them on the phone, so he could not get phone appointments to tell them about our great new product. These Directors were our Decision Makers, and he wasn't even getting appointments to talk. He thought the problem was the phone; they did not talk with him on the phone about our product, but he thought they would meet with him in person. I was skeptical they would spend even more time with him in person if they wouldn't even have a brief conversation on the phone, but first, I asked how often he thought he needed to travel. He said something like "at least two trips a month". I ballparked the travel cost at $5,000 to $10,000 per month per salesperson. How much should we budget for your travels? He said "5 to 10 k per month". I said "Wow. If you get customers every month, it's worth it, but if you don't, it's not. After more questions and conversation, I told him I was skeptical that selling more in person instead of on the phone would fix the problem. I said "There has to be a better way".
Focus on Customer Problems and Opportunities
Just as the King in the cartoon above can't be bothered to see any pesky salesman, the Directors of Engineering did not want to be bothered by a salesman that wanted to talk about his breakthrough product. So what did they care about that we could help them fix? They were introducing broadband internet and telephone service, so they cared about the reliability of their network, and they cared about how expensive and time consuming it was to replace failed standby batteries. We knew they cared about these issues because they told us about them before we had the breakthrough product. Ironically, when our salespeople stopped talking about fixing problems and started talking about a breakthrough battery, they got dismissed by prospects and their gatekeepers.
Find a Better Way to Engage Your Customer
Our salespeople did not have much experience having these customer focused business conversations with prospects, and they were not confident they could engage these Directors in a conversation. They sent emails and information packets, and they were mostly ignored. Looking for a better way to engage prospective customers, we found WebEx Meetings (which millions now know about, and millions still don't).The idea was to discuss their actual situation and see if their status quo was preferable to what we might be able to do for them. Our salespeople called, mentioned the issues others were wrestling with, and asked if they might be having these issues too. When the answer was yes, maybe, or I don't know, we invited them to a 30 minute webex meeting to look at the issues. The possibility of having a more reliable network and saving millions of dollars was much more enticing to these Engineering Directors than hearing a presentation about a breakthrough product!
Consistently, this approach yielded meetings with prospective customers. We let them know they could end the meeting if, afer 5 or 10 minutes, they felt like it was a waste of time. The typical meeting had 2 to 4 attendees from the customer side. We used a simple, two column spreadsheet to compare the current situation with what the results might look like with our product. After going through their situation for 5 to 10 minutes, nearly all people were engaged and upset that they were spending so much on batteries and their installation. They shared the pain that after a few years, many batteries had nowhere near their rated capacity. The Engineering group was responsible for improving the reliability of the network, and power outages without reliable backup power caused a service outage. Engineering was emotionally invested in improving the reliability of its network.
When they saw the possibility of both higher reliability and millions in savings from a product that did not wear out, they wanted our product to be real! Naturally, the skeptics in them wanted to see the evidence that we really had a breakthrough product. It was an easy, logical next step in their buying process, and it was easy to do now or another time because our salespeople did not have to travel. PowerPoint over a web meeting continued to engage the prospects because we kept them involved in a conversation instead of giving a boring presentation. When prospects needed a more reliable network, and when they were not completely satisfied with their current product's performance, the sales cycle ended up taking less than 90 days.
Initially, I led these online meetings with prospects and the salespeople attended; relatively quickly, we refined the process: how to have the initial prospecting conversation, who to invite, how to involve attendees and get them to open up about their situation and their goals moving forward. After attending a few meetings and hearing the positive responses, our salespeople gained confidence that they could have these business conversations with their prospects. They began leading the initial conversations and I was just there for support. They adopted the new, Better Way, and they loved how easy and convenient it was.
Breakthrough Results from a Better Way
Instead of 5 to 10k per month per salesperson in travel and likely poor results, we bought a 5 person Webex license for $1,000 per month. Conservatively, this better way cost 10 x less than traveling, and today you can get a similar capability for as little as $20 monthly per user! More importantly, it produced 12 times more new customers over the next 9 months than the previous year. It generated millions in profitable revenue.
What are you doing today that is not working very well? There has to be a Better Way for you and your company.
Takeaways You Can Use in Sales
Recommended First Step
Evaluate Your Sales Force - When you know the attitudes, skills, and beliefs of your salespeople and your sales management, and when you know what impact your strategies, systems and processes are having, you know exactly what you need to do to improve sales results.
How Marketing and Sales Operations Can Help