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Being a Sales Superstar in Today’s Environment.
Dr. Rick Johnson
Monday, 7th June 2010
The 'Sales Superstar' in today’s economic environment understands that everyday is a new learning experience.
In the old days when I was a salesman, sales success had a simple formula: It was called “Relationship Selling”. A mentor of mine drilled that formula into my head.
Formula of Past Success: Develop a strong relationship with your customer, make friends with him, and he will find a way to buy from you.
That’s all it took – great relationships. Today, especially during tough economic times, relationships alone will not get you the sale. Of course, relationships are still very important. But, relationships alone just won’t cut it. The relationship is simply a foundation. Today’s formula is just as simple as in the past, but it goes beyond the relationship.
Today it’s about providing solutions. Figure out what solution the customer needs to solve their problems; address their challenges; create their growth.
Formula of the “Sales Force Superstar:” Figure out what the customer’s needs really are and provide solutions. Become a total solution provider by finding the pain and taking it away.
Find the pain and make it go away, even if it has nothing to do with your product. It’s about being a total solution provider. Today’s formula works because it creates competitive advantage. It is the secret to success for the “Sales Superstar.
In times past, salespeople were trained to focus on their product. They knew everything about it – what features it had, the benefits, how long it could last and what the red button did when pressed. Salespeople talked about the product until they were blue in the face. Armed with brochures and warranties, they were ready to attack.
But, in today’s environment, customers want more; not just the latest technology and the best “widget” a person can buy. They want complete solutions to all their problems. Suddenly, the brochure and other marketing materials are simply support functions. Buyers are more educated, more professional and seek more than just products. They want efficiencies, market share and profit generation.
“You cannot puke all over your customers with features and benefits.” (J. Gittomer)
In the old days, we were taught to spray the purchasing agent’s office with talk about these features and benefits; When they asked questions we were trained to watch their lips, and when they took a breath, that was our sign to talk some more.
In contrast, to be a superstar we need to LISTEN more than 80% of the time. We must UNDERSTAND the customer’s behavior, goals, industry, problems, and their way of thinking, how they make money, their customer’s customers, and ultimately, their problems.
Caution: The Solution May Not Be What it Seems
To become a sales superstar you need to understand the customer’s customer and the customer’s industry. Sometimes a solution that seems obvious is obviously wrong. My ten-year-old grandson, Zayne, drove that point home to me not too long ago. We got in the car to go down to the store. Being a responsible grandfather, I put him in the back seat and told him to buckle his seat belt. “Gee, Grandpa we’re only going down to the store on the corner. Do I have to?”
“Zayne,” I replied, “It’s a proven fact that more than 75% of accidents happen within 20 miles of your home.” With the seriousness and pure innocence of a ten year old, Zayne looked at me puzzled and said, “Then why don’t we just move?”
Finding the Pain
Be more knowledgeable and conscious of your customer’s problem. You’re no longer selling a product, you’re selling a solution to make their life easier, happier, better, less complicated, or more fun.
By understanding the customer’s business and his customers, you help them make a profit through cost reductions, improved efficiencies, increased value and increased sales. Those solutions come in many forms and may have nothing to do with your product. That’s okay. Look for the pain regardless of what it is and focus on the solution.
Customers Look for Value
Customers don’t want products; they want profits – or ways to make profits. They want satisfaction, feelings of comfort, pride, praise and self-esteem. They are people just like us. Well, maybe they don’t have the same crazy genetics that we have as salespeople, but they are just as smart, just as caring and have the same personal needs and feelings.
So, how do salespeople find the customer’s pain and identify the problem? How do we figure out what they recognize as value? You gain much of this knowledge by listening. I mean really listening. You don’t focus on pushing product. You focus on the customer and what he is telling you. You research his industry. You talk to his customers and even his competitors, but carefully.
Once you have this knowledge and understand your customer completely, you can provide intelligent solutions to almost any challenge. You have raised your customer’s expectations of you and your company, which creates competitive advantage. It’s all about value – not the value-added built into your product or your service, but it’s about adding value to a situation, to your relationship. Do this and you create a real partnership with your customer and his company.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Steps to follow:
1. Relationships are still very important – Build them.
2. Analyze the situation – Understand the customer’s problem before you talk about the solution. Listen, listen, listen.
3. Be familiar with the customer’s past, present and future goals and adjust accordingly.
4. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you want to hear? What would you do?
5. Talk to the “head man” – the hub – the one who makes the decisions and knows the company inside and out.
6. Know the industry – Talk to your customer’s customers.
7. Do your homework – Surf the net and do research. Learn your customer’s business, his market, his competition, how he makes a profit, his customer and, most importantly, his personal pain in doing business.
As stated earlier, relationships are still important. In fact, there should be multiple layers of relationships between your customer’s firm and yours, not just one. What’s the difference today? The relationship is just the ante to play in the world of professional sales. Once we’ve established those relationships, we must manage them well to provide maximum value to our customers.