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.
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.
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.