Each week we meet and speak with a variety of prospective and/or existing clients who have problems they need solving in our area of expertise. It is more than likely we will deal with a mix of clients: some with little or no understanding about what we really do and those with previous experience, knowledge and opinions in our area of expertise. And then there are those clients who are in between. Whatever their level of sophistication, how well we understand and identify our clients’ key priorities and problems, and what they value about working with a credible business partner is crucial to developing, attracting and retaining healthy client relationships and growing sales.

However, most businesses tend to view the world from their own perspective and not from their clients’. This means:

  • They often produce marketing and sales materials that talks about themselves and their products using company jargon rather than talking about their clients’ priorities and problems in language the clients can understand.
  • Their sales people tend to still drift toward product discussions, not solution discussions.
  • And when a sales person is put on the spot to validate their credentials with a new prospect they usually get lost in a sea of product information and company spin, not client centric information and clear Value Propositions.

I learnt a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what I say, it is what others do with what I say that is the most important thing. Therefore I learnt that whenever I communicate with a prospect or client I need to speak to them in language they can understand, about things they can relate to.

Here is an example of what I mean. And it works every time.

Whenever a prospect asks me “What do you do?” I answer them by initially saying “We are best known for our work in building high performing sales and service teams”. And then I go on and hand them a checklist titled:

‘People and business problems we help you solve’

which has the following headings and their corresponding problems:

  • Sales & Service
  • Self, Values, Culture & Communication
  • Selection, Training& Performance
  • Management, Coaching & Leadership

and then say “What we really do is help people fix things like this..”

For instance under the heading Sales & Service I have these items listed

o Sales people making more excuses than sales
o Losing clients to competitors
o No sales plan/ strategy, too reactive
o Discounting prices to win business
o Adhoc or reactive sales approach
o Lots of client visits – few sales
o No prospecting for new business in new or existing accounts
o Not meeting sales budgets/targets
o Unaware of value & potential of clients – hitting wrong targets
o Plateau in sales production
o Team of Professional “Visitors”
o Talking too much & missing needs
o Too busy having a ‘chat’
o Poor interviewing & problem solving skills & no follow up
o Relying on CRM – team of sales clerks instead of sales people
o Too product focused not solution
o No understanding of financial impact of their decisions
o Too ‘nice’ or too ‘rude’
o No proactive sales & service culture
o New sales recruits taking too long to get productive

Now when most business people read this checklist they say they can immediately relate to the statements mentioned.

When our prospects read the checklist they begin to nod their heads and start to tick those items which are most important to them. This helps direct the conversation where the client wants to take it and establishes their priorities.

In approaching the question “What do you do?” in this fashion I have answered the question legitimately and succinctly. I have also validated myself without a product or benefit being mentioned. That will come later after I have properly understood how my client sees the world and what they deem to be important. It works every time.

However, this approach has not been well received by several, so-called, advertising and marketing experts who say that I’m nuts doing this. ‘It’s so negative” they say. And all I say is “This is my client’s reality and this how they see their world. They are looking for someone to help them fix their issues and prevent them from happening again, so I will keep telling it like it is.”

What I have found is that we all need to understand that our products and services sell because they solve problems for our clients. A ‘problem’ can be interpreted as an issue, opportunity or priority a client wants to address. By understanding this, you can deliver value to your client rather that just selling to them based on price and product. So to ensure that you do not miss valuable business opportunities, always think about your business in terms of problems you solve for your clients.

If you have a little bit of spare time over the next few weeks you may like to take stock of your marketing and sales materials and ask yourself:

“Who’s your brochure written for? You? OR Your clients?”

And then make adjustments if necessary. It might just help you make more sales.

Final note for 2008.

Thank you for reading my blogs over the year, it has been a pleasure writing them for you.

New topics: If there are any topics you specifically want me to cover in 2009 please drop me a line at http://www.barrett.com.au/AboutUs/ContactUs.html?ONEPAGE=TRUE#void.

I wish you all the very best for the New Year and look forward to contributing to your ‘sales fitness regime’ in 2009 and beyond.

Keep sales active. Keep prospecting. Keep positive. Be persistent.
Happy Selling

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