SEEING THE CUSTOMER’S POINT OF VIEW
Communication is key to your success with partnership selling at every level of the process. You can expedite the sales process and get to the close more quickly by identifying different roles with the client’s organization, responding and reacting to different personality styles and communicating the right message to the right people at the right time.
When you partner with others, communicate with them on their terms, learn their needs, and help them achieve their goals, you bring the “value-added” difference that bridges the gap between your products and your satisfied customers. Working with the buyers’ components decreases unproductive selling time and increases face-to-face interaction, which is more effective in partnership selling.
Partnership salespeople create a bridge between themselves and their customers that allows for win-win situations. In partnership selling with organizations, the sales person understands that every corporation has its own culture, structure, and decision-making processes. Therefore, they must modify their approach based on the customer’s needs. Partnership selling is enhanced when the salesperson takes into account the buyer components which include the buyer’s role in the organization, their personality, style, and their individual buying behavior.
UNDERSTAND CUSTOMER VALUES
In Part One of this series, we discussed that the old “peddler approach” is no longer an effective sales method.
Having a good product is no longer good enough. For instance, the computer market is flooded with good machines. Yet, certain brands lead the industry by leaps and bounds above their competition. Product alone does not insure a sale. What are some things you look for when buying a new computer? If you are like most people, there are other factors involved that you highly value, such as good customer service. Simply put, customers search for value before making a decision to buy.
Most of us wear watches every day, yet our values can be quite diverse. One person may buy a watch solely based upon brand or brand reputation. Another may purchase a watch, such as a Rolex, as a status symbol. Others may purchase a watch based upon specific need, such as an underwater watch, or price. We all have different values when it comes to purchasing a watch.
Wise sales people seek to understand exactly what the prospect or customer values in order to assist them with their purchase. One size does not fit all! It is important that you understand that what may seem like a valuable feature to you may not be that valuable to your customer.
UNCOVERING BUYER NEEDS
The key to any successful sale is uncovering the needs of the customer through effective questioning and gathering of information that is specific to their needs and wants. It used to be that a better product meant a higher sales volume, but those days are over. As the marketplace becomes more and more competitive, the success of a salesperson relies more on their approach and the needs analysis than solely on the product itself.
Taking the time to analyze the real needs of the customer may seem time consuming or lengthen the sales process, but the benefits of being able to truly meet your customer’s needs are well worth the effort. As a salesperson, you are in the business of providing solutions and solving problems. To accomplish this, you must have an accurate understanding of your customer’s needs.
VALUE PROFILE: THE HEART OF PARTNERSHIP SELLING
What is a value profile? A value profile is a structured approach to gathering criteria upon which buying decisions will be based. The value profile allows you to access a buyer’s specific “hot button” so you can tailor your presentation to that specific buying criteria. Value profiling is a technique for learning what the customer needs and values. You employ this after you’ve established rapport, so you can continue partnering with your customer.
We use several types of value profiles when seeking to analyze the needs of an organization or individual. We want to be able to uncover the actual root of the problem in order to provide an effective plan of action to take. Profiles can come in many different forms. Interviews, surveys, assessments, market analysis, needs and organizational analysis are just some of the tools we use to uncover our customers’ needs.
Utilizing a value profile will help you develop skills that will give you tremendous advantage in your sales process. The more skilled you become at learning what the customer needs and values, the more leverage you possess in selling to each individual prospect. The value profile is the most important step in any face to face sales call. To conduct a thorough and functional value profile, you must develop in advance the questions you intend to ask.
Only then can you answer a customer’s five most important words, “What’s in it for me?”
We want to refine our ability to see through our customers’ eyes, to adopt their point of view so that we can know not only what they need, but why they need it and, most importantly, who they’ll buy it from.
NEEDS AND DECISIONS:
Traditional selling techniques teach us that sales people close the sale. However, in Partnership Selling, the buyers actually close the sale. They do so when they perceive that your product or service meets their needs, wants, and desires, and helps them achieve their own goals. These goals wants and desires can be termed “buyer needs”.
Once you know the buyer’s needs, you can position your proposal to address those needs. Buyer needs lead to buyer decisions. A buying decision consists of three elements:
What is the end? It is the end result that they buyer seeks. For instance, in our watch example, the end result could be to tell time. Which brand meets that need? Perhaps the buyer needs to have a watch with bigger numerals in order to see what time it is.
What happens when a buyer recognizes that a product or service meets his or her criteria? He or she is more than likely to make the decision to buy.
The means element answers the question of how. Depending on where the buyer lives, there could be hundreds of means that will help him or her to achieve the end result. However, if we want the buyer to consider our product or service, our means to his or her end, what do we need to learn? We need to learn what criteria the buyer will use to evaluate each potential means to achieve his or her end.
Learning what criteria the buyer will use in making the decision is critical to the sales process. The criteria will act as a filter that helps the buyer narrow the choice down from an infinite variety of available criteria to the one the buyer chooses. (Consider the watch example once more. How many different criteria are there for choosing a watch?)
The salesperson’s strength is measured by how well he or she learns about customer needs and develops solutions to satisfy those needs. People don’t want products. They want solutions. They want benefits! We need to discuss benefits rather than product facts and features. Furthermore we must match benefits to specific buyer criteria.
How do we accomplish this? We do this by describing benefits. Specifying benefits enables us to bridge the gap between the customer’s needs and our solutions. We use benefits to answer the customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?” People don’t buy products! They buy benefits.
People buy quarter-inch drills. But what do they really want? They really want quarter-inch holes!
People buy cameras. But what do they really want? They want memories!
Women buy cosmetics, but what they really want is to look good!
THE VALUE OF FFBBT
We teach our students how to utilize the power of FFBBT. This is an acronym for the process needed to successfully communicate to your prospect how your product or service can meet the particular need they have. You have the solution to their “pain” and you need to know how to convey that solution in a way they can grasp- emotionally as well as intelligently.
- F-The Fact is simply a statement about the product or service. For example, “We offer a printer called the Basic Printer”.
- F-The Feature describes what the product does. For example, “The Basic Printer outputs three pages per minute”.
- B-The Bridge should be phrased as follows, “What that means to you is…” It simply connects the fact and the feature to the benefit.
- B-The Benefit explains what the product will do for the customer. For example, “27 percent increase in printer output.” While benefits stem from facts and features, facts and features are not in themselves benefits. A fact or a feature becomes a benefit only if it addresses a customer’s needs.
- T-The Tie-Down should reiterate an important need that your prospect identified. You attempt to show you understand what is important to the customer. But you should not corner the customer.
PREPARE TO PRESENT
Begin to rehearse this process on your own so you can feel both confident and comfortable when presenting to your customer. You want to be smooth, somewhat relaxed, sincere and confident in your product’s or service’s ability to meet your customer’s specific needs. See yourself as a true problem-solver and your customers will begin to see you as one, too.
As you prepare your presentation, keep the following points in mind:
- Make a list of benefits in advance and memorize them
- The benefits should answer “WII-FM” (What’s in it for me?)
- Pick and choose only those benefits that will fulfill your prospect’s needs.
- Partner benefits are dynamic.
To summarize, learning how to see your product or service from the customer’s point of view is crucial to your selling success. Learn to develop keen listening skills and become perceptive in truly understanding where they are coming from. Learn how to communicate with them in a style that they will feel comfortable with as they meet with you. Above all, be honest and sincere in your approach! Here is a recap of the important points we’ve discussed:
- Identify the importance of selling benefits over features.
- Learn to tailor benefits to specific customer needs.
- Apply the FFBBT formula for developing complete benefit statements.
- Identify the importance of developing new benefits.
- Match benefits to needs to create solutions and add value for their customers.
- When you establish rapport with customers, you are basically asking them to believe in you, to trust you.
- When you listen to their needs and develop benefits to solve their problems, you give them a reason to believe in you and trust you.
We’re confident that you will become a successful partner in selling if you follow these guidelines and build trust with your customers. Mastering this sales process will be your key to successful selling.