Sales Blunder #1: Selling Features Not Value

In the early days of my sales career, I was taught to sell features and benefits. Later, Solution Selling, Consultative Selling, Precision Questions, Spin Selling and other sales methodologies like them espoused the importance of red number one sign isolated on white backgroundasking the right questions to understand buyer pain in order to sell your solution.

For there to be pain, a problem had to be identified. Once identified, you then draw the correlation between the buyer’s pain and how your product or service is the buyer’s cure. Taking it further, if you are doing your job well, you also have to break through the inertia of what is likely your toughest competitor – the status quo. Your prospect may have identified a problem that is causing them business pain, but is the pain acute or chronic? In other words, is the pain something that they’ve lived with long enough that they will continue to allow it to go on, OR has the problem become so acutely painful that they absolutely must make a change?

Recently, I’ve had conversations with Judy Mod and Matt Rosenhaft, Principals at Social Gastronomy. They work with technology companies to overcome what they call the “buyer adoption” problem. Turns out that companies are getting in their own way. They very often hinder the buying process rather than further it along. In an April 2014 blog post, Chuck Carey had this to say, “Buyers measure success based on how well you resolved their problem, not how well you met their expectations.”

When it comes to problems, there are two things happening.

1. Your prospect thinks they have identified a business problem that they need to fix. Is it the right problem? Are you sure?

Doubtful that your buyer is sure. According to Matt and Judy, the challenge sellers (and marketers) face is that it is darn difficult for internal teams to all agree on what the acute problem is much less agree on how to fix it. As with so many things in life, most folks simply focus their attention on symptoms without delving deeper into the root cause of the pain the organization suffers from.

I think of countless sales situations I’ve found myself in where the buyer tells me the problem is X, and after I ask more questions, I find out that on surface X looks to be correct, but the deeper digging uncovered something more revealing.

In one sales meeting, the buyer tells me that the “problem” is that their salespeople are having trouble getting access to decision makers. They reached out to me thinking that social selling was the way to go. Maybe.  During the conversation, the buyer assured me that once a salesperson secured the meeting, they “always closed the deal”. When I hear that, I’m suspicious. I don’t care how good a salesperson you are, you never win them all. Curious, I ask them to tell me the percentage ratio of meetings to closed deals. Guess what. They can’t. Why? Because by their own admission, their salespeople are notoriously bad about entering sales opportunities and communication into their CRM system. They just don’t do it most of the time. If there is very little data regarding the sales pipeline and funnel progression stages, how do they know salespeople always close the deal? The discussion went on from there but you get the idea. They were not close to being clear about the real problem.

2. Do you know what problem your solution solves and can you clearly articulate that message?

Given how many sales presentations I’ve listened to, I’d say that the answer is no. If you, as the salesperson, don’t know what problem your solution solves, do you really think your prospect can simply connect the random dots and figure it out on their own? When it comes to marketing and selling your products and services, your potential customers DO NOT CARE about the process of how you get things done. Nor do they really care about the technical details. Sure, if it is a technology solution the IT guys might, but that comes later. In the initial stages of determining what product or service to purchase, your prospect cares about one thing – finding the right solution to solve their problem.

Forget the Features

I cannot say this enough. Though I know this is sooooo difficult for sellers to hear. They’ve been brainwashed to think that buyers make decisions based on features. They don’t.

Consider this basic recipe:

1. Understand the problem your solution solves. If you can’t speak to that, you’re sunk.

2. Get to the core of the problem that the buyer you are talking with needs to solve.

3. Determine if there is a match.

4. If so, help the buyer connect the dots by mapping your solution to their problem. Again, it isn’t the features that will win the deal!

The feature dance leads nowhere, and if you keep selling that way, you’ll be dancing all alone! That sounds kinda lonely to me.

Salesconx Fails to Connect

CB058292So I just partially listened to about the most boring presentation EVER from Evan over at Salesconx. If the meat came after the self-serving preening then I missed it. The call wasn’t boring because Evan isn’t talented or because he cannot communicate his message well, but boring because it was nothing more than a pitch – a feature dump – offering pretty much no value to me. The buyer. Ah, the wasted potential.

Maybe Evan didn’t realize that the webinar came off sounding like the cheezy sales pitch that it was. Thing is that Evan is the real deal. I love the concept of his business model. It’s a referral driven marketplace that has big potential. I enjoyed his interview with Fast Company Magazine and think you might too.

But back to that darn webinar…

Driving Sales Revenue Using a Virtual Team was the topic that caught my eye. I signed up. I carved out 45 minutes of now non-billable time to listen in. The session didn’t live up to its name. A little creativity could have gone a long way.

I’m a small business owner. Educate me on industry best practices. Show me how using a virtual team actually drives the intended results. Give me some pointers on the questions I ask during the RFP process with a virtual sales company. Tell me how the right virtual team skyrockets my sales. Share a nugget with me that I can put into action now. Then you become my hero forever.

Capture my interest. Show me value. Then you have earned the right to talk about yourself.