One of my sales reps had a pretty bad 2009. It was perplexing because he clearly had the sales skills necessary and our service was miles ahead of the competition. He "got lost in the facts" (which we'll discuss below) and fell short of his goals most months.
2010 has been a different story. The products are better now, but so are our competitors. Still, he went from the bottom of the list to become our strongest salesperson so far this year because of one element: passion.
Others know the product better. Others have a stronger overall grasp of the features and benefits our products offer. Others are more skilled at delivering a perfect pitch to their prospects.
Nobody is more passionate.
As a result, he is so far ahead on the board that he could take a couple of months off and still be on top. Luckily, he won't be taking time off. His passion won't allow it.
The most important part of breathing life into your product or service is making sure your sales team loves it. They have to believe in it with zero doubt in their minds that their potential customers or clients would be making the biggest mistake of their lives if they chose a competitor over you.
Being technically correct is important. Being absolutely head-over-heels in love with your product or service is paramount.
Lost in the Facts
Nothing makes a product more mundane than facts. That's not to say that case studies, comparisons, and statistics do not have a place in the sales process. In the 80s and 90s, facts sold. Today, facts are simply an entry point.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, opinions are more important today than facts when it comes to buying a product. It's amazing that so many companies lean on the facts to prove their product or service is the best when they already have, within their own customer base, the real thing that potential buyers want to hear.
Testimonials and references are the most important bits of information that one can impart on a potential customer. Facts are more difficult to believe nowadays because people understand that facts can be manipulated. They know that if you torture the data enough, you can make it say anything.
People want to hear what others are saying about you. They want to know what their peers, friends, family, and other people like them have to say about whatever it is that you're selling.
Facts are static. They are emotionless, without passion, and cold.
On the other hand, opinions are human. They give a compelling reason for someone to buy your product or service because they are real words from real people just like them. Testimonials help your product or service to live. References give your product or service the blood it needs to be real.
Features that Breath
During the sales process, many use hypothetical examples. They talk in terms of "you could..." and "with our product, you will...". This is a technique that many teach because for a long time it actually worked.
It doesn't work as well today.
Remove hypothetical from the equation. While it was originally designed to put the potential customer into the mindset of imagining what they could do, it lacks the life that only comes with reality.
Replace hypothetical with anecdotal.
Instead of "you could" and "with our product, you will..." with "Bob Smith used our service last month to" and "with our product, a company in Toledo used the _____ feature to...". It seems like a small distinction, but the simple fact is that most everyone has pictured themselves using something in the past during the sales process only to find out that it didn't work out the way they imagined once they started to use it.
Even if your product doesn't normally fall short of expectations, people are still skeptical. They want to know what people before them facing the same challenges were able to accomplish. They want real life examples, practical applications, and verifiable references that say, "Yes, we used the _______ feature to..."
It's challenging to get the customer to picture themselves behind the wheel of your product or service today because they have likely been burnt. Instead, show them what others have done. That's breathing life into your product.
It's really that simple.
Benefits that Bleed
The hardest aspect of adjusting to today's informed and knowledgeable customer is making the benefits of your product or service bleed. It goes against our very nature in the sales field to point out flaws, imperfections, and drawbacks to our products.
It's also the easiest way to make your product or service live. Nothing lives that doesn't bleed in some fashion.
Nobody believes in Superman. Nobody believes in the perfect product or service. If you don't point out the flaws and imperfections, the challenges and drawbacks, you lose the immediate credibility builder that comes with vulnerability.
Customers expect imperfections. If there are none (according to you), then they're not getting the full picture (in their mind).
You know the weaknesses of your product or service. Instead of hiding them, point them out. Let the customer know that your product or service can bleed and they will trust it more than they trust your competitors. Why? Because they likely will not point out flaws, and therefore, in the customers' minds, they aren't being completely transparent.
Telling the potential customer the drawback of your product or service will make the benefits you're telling them all about more believable. With that said, you don't want to go too far. You want your product to trickle a little blood to make it realistic and alive. You don't want it to hemorrhage.
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