Sell what they Need
In the last issue, we discussed how Guerrilla Selling maps the steps customers take when making a purchase decision. In the next six installments, we’ll use the consonants in the words “NaB & CaPTuRe” to help you remember those steps: Need, Budget, Conviction, Presentation, Transaction, Reward.
By understanding the psychology of this process, then matching your strategy to each customer, you can make your offering practically irresistible.
The NEED Step
The first, and most often overlooked, is the Need Step. Find people who need your product and they’ll be easy to sell. Selling something they don’t need is much harder. So understanding each prospect’s individual needs is the most critical step.
Instead of selling features-and-benefits, position your offering as the solution to a problem. It’s easier to sell the solution to a problem than it is to sell an advantage or a benefit. You can discover new sales opportunities by asking, “What PROBLEM does my offering solve?” Write a simple elevator pitch by completing the sentence, “We solve the problem of _______.” For example, at The Guerrilla Group, “we solve the problem of selling against low-priced competition.”
Look for prospects who are likely to experience that problem. When a stranger who asks, “What do you do?” you can answer, “We solve the problem of:
- “. . .giving your products a lift to market,” (air freight), or
- “. . .employees who call in sick (temporary help services), or
- ” . . .tire-busting potholes (off-road tires designed specifically for matatus).
Anyone who says, “That’s interesting, tell me more?” is a hot prospect.
Things Every Customer Needs
Sometimes the problem you can solve has nothing to do with your product. Think about some of the basic things that every buyer needs from their supply chain:
- Two or more vendors. Offer to be their second choice. Even if you’re more expensive, when their primary supplier can’t deliver, you can step in.
- Technical and engineering help. Offer advice on how they can improve. Do on-site training for end-users on how to get the most benefit from your offering.
- On-time delivery. Manufacturers want vendors to reduce stocking and inventory costs by delivering just-in-time.
- Minimize downtime. Shutting down a single machine can cost thousands of dollars an hour. If your offering helps them keep their systems up and running, you have an edge.
- Reduce service and repair costs. Can you offer longer product life-cycles, faster, easier repairs, or place a stock of replacement parts on-site.
- Avoid over-engineering the solution. Sometimes a less-expensive, lower-quality product is actually a better option.
- Buy what they’ve been told to buy. If engineering has specified a particular component or part number, ask them to certify yours as an equivalent.
- Timely and accurate billing. Nobody wants to argue with accounting.
- Predictability and consistency. Even minor variations can wreak havoc in their assembly line, computer systems, or testing equipment.
- Responsive, courteous and timely action by vendors when they have questions or problems. Give them your personal mobile number. Gain a competitive edge by being available, 24/7.
- They need to look good to their boss. Help your customers document the savings, the increase in productivity, the boost in their sales, or other metrics that they can brag about.
Ask, “What have you used in the past?” and, “What problems have you experienced with that?” Then look for ways to solve those problems.
Another very powerful weapon for determining customer needs is Criteria Words. Your customer is going to base their decision on a specific set of criteria, and if you can determine what those criteria are, and then match those to your offering, they will buy from you every time.
The difficulty is this; I’m sure you have 100 good reasons why they should buy from you, but your customer’s decision will be based on the three or four factors that they feel are most important. If you get three of them right, but miss just one, it will kill the deal. Making this even more difficult, the decision criteria will vary from one account to another.
The good news is that the customer will always tell you exactly which criteria are most important, if you ask the right questions, listen carefully to the answers, and then use those exact words in your presentation.
Effective questions include:
- “What are you using now?”
- “What do you like most about it?” and
- “What do you like least about it?”
Listen carefully, and write down their answers, verbatim. Then adjust your presentation to cover those particular criteria. If you can deliver the things they liked most, while fixing the things they liked least, then it’s easy for your prospect to switch vendors.
To use criteria words with even greater precision and impact, ask the question, “What are you looking for in a _________?” or “What do you want ________ to do for you?”
They’ve given you three criteria words: “easy,” “vibrant color” and “fade.” The guerrilla strategy is to use those same words when describing your product.
You might say, “We can make this really easy for you. Crown-Berger makes the most vibrant line of paints that you can buy. And while any color will eventually fade over time, our exterior formulation contains special UV filters, so those colors will stay vibrant for years, even under intense African sun.
Notice that I did NOT talk about “long-lasting” or “weather proof” or even mention that “Crown-Berger is Africa’s leading paint manufacturer.” These may all be important features, but not for this customer. On the other hand, if you simply address their criteria, and ignore everything else, you’ve made it much easier for the customer to accept, understand, and buy your proposition. (BTW, you can also incorporate these keywords into your web site to improve your findability on the Internet.)
But beware! If you use your own words to describe your product, the customer may, or may not, equate those words with their criteria. Notice that I said “any color will eventually fade,” not “any paint will eventually fade.” When your customer hears their exact criteria words, they automatically attach their intended meaning. So while it’s not important how you incorporate them into your presentation, it is important that you use their exact words.
Also notice that we didn’t promise the color would last forever. That would be unethical. But by including this customer’s criteria word, we’ve per-empted this potential objection by promising that the color will remain vibrant.
The beauty of using criteria words is that, no matter how the motivations may vary from customer to customer, you can always adapt easily and instantly to give them exactly what they NEED from you.
In future installments of this series, we’ll explore each of these steps in more detail, and perhaps double or even quadruple your sales.
(This article is part of a series published by Marketing Africa magazine.)