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Biggest Sales Mistakes
Blog / Sales Management / Feb 5, 2019 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 1873 

Biggest Sales Mistakes

15 comments

Selling Me, Selling You

Taking off from the magnificent song by Abba (Knowing Me, Knowing You), this final article in our series on the biggest sales mistakes you can make takes up the most crucial error a salesperson can commit—and also the biggest trap they can fall into.

Selling Me

The “Selling Me” part of this title applies to a salesperson that is terrifically excited about their company and their offering and spends their selling time enumerating all the features of their product to the prospect.

It’s certainly true that a salesperson should know and understand what they’re selling—they won’t be able to sell well if they don’t. But unfortunately the person they’re selling to is not deeply interested in every feature and function of the salesperson’s product.

Selling You

And this is where the “Selling You” part comes in—the buyer wants to know how that product or service will address their issues and needs, and how it will take them and their company to the next level. It’s different for every individual and every company, and for a product or service, it’s really where the rubber meets the road. It’s the true value generated for the customer.

An Actual Example

To demonstrate the importance of this, I’ll provide an example from my own recent experience. It’s from a deal that I lost, and I did what anyone should do when losing a deal—think over what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again.

It started when someone passed me a lead, and told me that this prospect was part of a new company using our biggest competitor, Salesforce. He’d heard of Pipeliner CRM so wanted to find out about it. But here’s the important part: he just wanted to know, very quickly, 3 or 4 things that we did differently than Salesforce, and what our price would be for the number of licenses he needed. I had a very brief phone call with him and gave him the information he asked for.

Today I got an email that basically said he had decided to stay with Salesforce. Although impressed with my work style and my solution (his words), he stated that it’s a tough sell to bring a new CRM solution into a company already familiar with a different one. Costs to switch over, he said, are very high in terms of time and resources.

I wrote back and said that the one thing I really didn’t understand was that he hadn’t even seen what we had to offer. Testimonial after testimonial states how Pipeliner is far less expensive and much more efficient than Salesforce, yet he decided to remain with Salesforce. This violates the American dream by hurting the smaller but better company that doesn’t yet have the status of a global corporation. This kind of behavior reminds me of old Europe—what I emigrated to America to escape. I ended off by asking why he even contacted me, because there are, in fact, no costs to switch over, and has been proven hundreds of times with other customers. The time for salespeople and managers to learn Pipeliner is a matter of hours. Of course, he never responded.

What I Did Wrong

All right, so complaints aside, what did I miss? Where did I go wrong?

I should have insisted, right up front, that if he’s really interested, he needs to carve out an hour for us to speak about it. I needed to find out exactly what his issues were, what his company actually required from a CRM, and address those specific issues. I should have said, “I’m sorry, I can’t give you what we do better in 3 minutes. Give me an hour, and we’ll go over it.”

I wasn’t hard enough on him. I should have said, “I can’t send you a proposal as I haven’t even spoken to you, and don’t really know what you need.”

No Exact Comparison

The mistaken assumption that this prospect was making was that we could accurately compare Pipeliner CRM and Salesforce feature-by-feature. He assumed both products performed exactly the same, and therefore decided to remain with Salesforce because “they’re the bigger company.” The problem is there is no way to make an accurate straight-across-the-boards comparison between Pipeliner and Salesforce. As long as the prospect was operating with this assumption, we had no chance.

As an analogy, let’s say the customer needed a hammer to hang a picture. We’re saying that we’re the only ones that make a truly effective hammer to hang a picture. What Salesforce makes could be used to put a nail into the wall, but it’s more of a sledgehammer than a hammer. Yes, you can use it, but it’s not really the right tool for the job.

Your Unique Value

So how do you break someone out of the mindset that your product or service is the exact same as someone else’s? It’s simple: don’t get caught in the trap of presenting some kind of feature-to-feature comparison.

Instead, sit down with your prospect (as I should have done in this case) and ask intelligent questions to gather information about the prospect’s company situation. If necessary, you can take up an entire call for doing this, and then request a second call or meeting to actually present your product or service.

When you do, you must present your unique value for that prospect. What is it about your product or service that raises it above your competition for the prospect? You must present insight that clearly demonstrates these points.

A Crucial Decision

If you’re selling a product or service that is crucial to company operation, another way you can break this “exact comparison” mindset is by asking how they can possibly make such an important decision based on a few minutes worth of conversation. In our case, it’s the truth—a CRM is the backbone of sales and, in many ways, the backbone of a company. How can you possibly make a decision on something so critical based on a mere “elevator pitch”?

You could compare this to company hires—would you hire an employee for an important position based on a five-minute conversation? Clearly not.

When it comes down to selling me or selling you…it’s clearly the “selling you” portion that really matters.

    About Author

    A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

    Comments (15)
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    Matt Johnson commented...

    In communicating and delivering your product/service, customer benefits, etc. more is not necessarily better. I feel that buyers are often oblivious or simply do not care about an assortment of features and/or benefits the vendor is pitching half the time. That being said, I 100% agree with what is being discussed in this article in regards to how one can fine-tune a sales pitch so that they are effectively and efficiently conveying sufficient value to the customer they are dealing with- in a manner wherein neither ones time is being wasted/scrunched. Furthermore, as the author mentioned, it is incredibly important to have a solid conversation with your buyer/customer to ensure that you are understanding the buyer’s buying process so that you may better adhere to their problems, what “category of buyer” they are (i.e. economic tangible vs noneconomic tangible etc.), and how/what you can say to prove that you can outperform your competitor.

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    Vanden Patel commented...

    “Customer orientation” summarizes the real-life example provided in this text. The growth of accessible data has transformed the role of the marketer. An advanced understanding of the product offering is not necessary to close a sale; instead, strategic sellers must focus on the customer’s perception of the product. In this case, the buyer is simply a user of CRM technology, not an expert in its functionality. Customers may not always know the true nature of their problems and therefore are unable to determine the salient benefits of the offering. As suggested, an initial call may have guided the prospect to understand his own needs. Marketers are not merely sellers, but also educators.

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    max goodwin commented...

    When it comes to selling your product or service, product knowledge is definitely essential, but it is less about all of the little features and benefits and more about how the product or service will positively impact the customer. Thought that was a very good point brought up in the article which shows how the successful salesman needs to understand first what the customer wants and then try to come up with a personalized solution for them involving a few things that set their company apart. In the particular case where Nikolaus ended up losing the sale, if he was to understand how the customer used the CRM, then he could have been able to come up with a custom solution for the customer and gave him more insight into how his company could be using Pipeliner more efficiently than Sales Force. Overall, from this article I learned that the first steps in selling are being curious about what the customer wants, and then the later steps involve selling your differentiated product or service. If you start with selling your product without having a clear idea of the customers challenges you will often lose the sale because you were more so thinking about your company than how your company can positively impact the customer.

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    Elizabeth Greeson commented...

    I thought this article was very insightful. As it has been discussed with sales 2.0, the sale is so much more than product knowledge. A selling strategy should start by gleaning information from the customer so that you can target their needs and not ramble on about details they do not care about. In the example given, if the author would have requested a longer meeting to discuss rather than list bullet points, I think the sale would have gone differently. Especially in B2B selling i think customers looking for other options don’t care as much about the details, they want an overview and how it will impact their bottom line. As a salesperson it is important to know how to read a customer, pinpoint their concerns and give a concise overview.

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    Dominique DiVito commented...

    This article clearly articulates the importance of understanding your customer and how key it is to relate back to them. Showing your potential customer that you have heard their needs and can clearly demonstrate how your product can benefit them is what will land you the sale. Although you want to talk yourself up as well, you don’t want to spend too much time highlighting your company and product. If what you have to offer is so good, the performance of your product will speak for itself. I agree that sitting down with your customer and asking intelligent questions is the only way that you can show that you are truly interested and gives you the opportunity to get to know them. This in itself can differentiate you from you competitor.

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    ryan heneghan commented...

    The topic of “selling you” is something I couldn’t agree with more. I liked how you made the point to differentiate how vital it is to address the buyers needs instead of “selling me”. I also enjoy how self aware you are in this article. It’s important to evaluate yourself in any mistakes and treat it as a lesson. I believe every time we fail we are given an opportunity to grow and this is fundamental for anyone in sales. Overall I greatly enjoyed this article and was able to take something positive away from it. I personally plan to focus more on being self aware and reflective with any sales situations going forward.

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    Lucas Ramirez commented...

    This article really highlight the idea of asking questions in order to better understand your client. Specifically, when he mentioned “I needed to find out exactly what his issues were, what his company actually required from a CRM, and address those specific issues.” While I understand that this was caused by not having enough time, these are all answerable from asking questions to the client that would make it so you can better use your time while actually selling.

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    Tyler Pauletti commented...

    This article demonstrates the idea of putting the customer as the main focus when selling a specific object. This is key and makes a lot of sense when you are trying to sell different products. It is true that knowing the products are a key factor and beneficial for you as a salesman, but understanding what the customers wants and what they needs is so much better. Sometimes when you are describing these products it can take forever and the customer surely is not always listening. That is why is it necessary for a sales person to develop and fine tune a sales pitch that is effective and to the point. As stated, it is essential that as sales people you understand the buying process and are catering to the needs and wants of the consumer rather than just describing the products.

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    Ivan reyes commented...

    This article highlights the fact that not every deal is a cookie-cutter sale. Every organization has different internal demands, and therefore can use any tool in very different ways. “Selling you” resonates with that very idea. Bringing unique value to each organization can help them realize what exact functions their organization can use and how they can utilize those tools.

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    Parker Hargens commented...

    I thought this article was great and helpful for those new to sales. I believe that engaging with the consumer with prior knowledge about what the compelling reason to buy is the best way to go about the sale. Known as Sales 2.0. This way the customer believes that you are educating them with your proposition. One thing to think about is that the customer does not want to be sold. but the customer does want to better their business. The sellers incentive is to inform the buyer and help them achieve what they are looking for. Great article

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    Vanessa Gutierrez commented...

    This article is very relatable to what we have been discussing in class. It is definitely important for a sales person to know his/her product and all its features, but no one like to be sold anything. People like to buy things based on what they think they need/want. But it is hard for a sales person to be able to sell something to a buyer if all they want are comparisons to a current supplier in a 5 minute time conversation. I agree with the author that in order for a sales person to be able to present to you the correct information, you need more details about what they are having problems with and way more than a 5 minute phone conversation. Every company has different needs, and a sales person needs to know these needs in order to assist them in a manner that would be most helpful to them.

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    Dane Luzader commented...

    I enjoyed the authors comparison of two ideas regarding “selling me” and “selling you”, most people in the business environment operate under the impression that selling themselves and getting their clients to like them and desire to work with them is the key to a sale, as opposed to making the sale about the customer or client. This is something I truly agree with, in my personal experience when conversing with a salesperson regarding my business I am always more likely to do business with the person that makes me feel heard and who I feel actually cares about my needs as a client, rather than someone who is only focusing on themselves or their company. I also agree with the authors points in regards to the way he improperly went about the possible sale with the gentleman interested in his CRM. Initially I would have also just given him the information needed to make a comparison between Pipeliner and Salesforce but after reading this article I can see why that isn’t the pest possible course of action. I realize that making the buyer feel valued and attempting to carve out significant time for them while still being able to sell your product in a way that doesn’t compare it to other products but rather makes it stand out it the best way to go about making a sale such as the one given in the example. This article was truly helpful in giving me information that I can use in the workplace.

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    Marc Anemone commented...

    Very interesting article. When it comes to selling something, I feel like it is important to think about your buyer. Asking the customer about what they need and fulling understanding their situation can really help close a deal. When you are the seller it is best to ask questions so you can entirely know what the buyer is looking for and fully customize your buyers needs.

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    Leslie Mojica commented...

    When you have a customer that does not know a lot about your company but a lot about your competitor (because they use them already) selling them is very difficult. I agree that you might want to list all the awesome things about your company but this article is true when it comes to buyers not wanting to know the nitty-griddy stuff. They want to know the immediate results of switching over to your company and why its better. I like that this article broke down with an example what should have been done and how to correct your mistakes. A buyer definitely needs more than 3-4 sentences about your company to make a decision about switching, so insisting on a meeting time and time again is going to be the difference between a sale and a decline.

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    andrew papoutsis commented...

    It appears that hindsight is indeed 20-20 when dealing with a client that doesn’t buy. I found it most insightful that changing attitudes comes from changing someones personal attitude toward an organization and doing it carefully and not be forceful. Understanding a clients business takes time from both parties, and sometimes requires hours to make deals.

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