Four Ways to Redefine Sales
By Daniel Burrus
salesperson, you’re trained to ask customers what they want in terms
of your product offerings. That’s wise advice. However, if you only
ask customers what they want and then give it to them, you’re
missing the biggest opportunity that has ever come in front of you.
that clients will always under-ask because they don’t know what is
possible. Think about it…No customer ever asked for a fax machine.
They didn’t know it was possible to send printed communication via a
phone line. No customer ever asked for an iPod. They didn’t know it
was possible to listen to music without some sort of CD or spinning
device. People don’t ask for things that they don’t know exist.
Technology allows us to do things that were once thought
impossible. So for salespeople, while it is important to ask
customers what they want and then to give it to them, realize that
by doing so you’re merely competing with your competitors. Chances
are your competitors are asking customers the same questions,
they’re getting the same answers, and they’re providing the same
solutions. When that happens, you end up competing on price and not
Therefore, the Golden Rule of sales is to give people the ability to
do what they currently can’t do but would really want to do if they
only knew they could have done it. That’s so much more profitable
than simply giving clients what they ask for. The key is that you
have to look a little bit further into your customers’ predictable
needs based on where they’re going. Only then you can see unmet
needs and new opportunities. At this point many salespeople might
say, “But I don’t create the products; I just sell them. How can I
deliver what customers don’t know is possible?” The answer lies in
how you can redefine various aspects of your offering. Consider the
Redefine the Product: Today, it’s not about high-tech; it’s
about higher-tech. In other words, it’s not about your product; it’s
about how your clients use it. For example, currently several
hospitals are using the Wii video game system to do rehabilitation
for people who have been injured in war. Why? Because with a Wii,
you hold the controller and make life-like movements to control the
game. So these hospitals have taken a kid’s game and redefined how
it’s used. That’s an example of using an existing product in a new
about the products you sell. Sure, your customers are probably using
the product for what it was intended to do. But could the same
product help in another department? Could it impact the
effectiveness of the company in some other way? Could it do
something else or more for your customers? Analyze how people have
always used your product and think of other creative applications.
That’s how you redefine your product so it adds more value and does
what no one ever thought to ask.
Redefine the Customer: If you sell your product to a specific
market segment, can another type of customer use it as well? For
example, let’s say you sell software to independent insurance
agents, and your software helps them run their office, track their
clients, and calculate their commissions. Could that same software
work for another industry, such as real estate agents? It probably
could, and with minor modifications, if any. That’s because
insurance agents and real estate agents have similar functions and
business, we have what’s called the “bleeding edge” and the “leading
edge.” The bleeding edge is when customers buy something new and
then have to “bleed” in terms of trying to get the product to work
for them. You can help your customers lead without bleeding by
looking outside of your industry to other industries that aren’t
related and that have already used the product in higher-tech ways.
These other industries did the bleeding already and are now getting
great returns. You can then apply that knowledge to an industry that
never thought of using your product. Now some other industry did the
bleeding so your customers can focus on the leading.
Redefine the Value You Deliver: Always remember that you’re not
simply selling a thing; you’re selling the competitive advantage of
the product. In other words, part of your job is to help your
customers use the product you sell to gain competitive advantage.
When asked, most salespeople say that few of their customers are
fully using all of the features of their product in the most
efficient manner. In fact, most customers only use between ten and
fifty percent of the product’s full functionality. They’re
underutilizing the very product that is supposed to make their
business run smoother and more efficient. No wonder so many
companies are competing on price. No wonder margins are slim. All
the salespeople are doing is selling a “thing.” They’re not selling
a competitive advantage. They’re not truly differentiating the
products they’re selling.
Therefore, create some guidelines that will help your customers
maximize the use of the product you’re selling. Most companies
simply sell the product, deliver it, and then leave. It’s then up to
the customer to figure out specific guidelines for maximizing the
use of the product organizationally. No wonder so many customers
underutilize their purchases.
don’t stop there. Go beyond the guidelines and actually help
customers figure out how to get a competitive advantage by using the
product. Obviously you can’t share secrets or proprietary
information you learn about any of your other customers. But you can
help all your customers learn, understand, and implement all the
functionality of their purchase so they can be more competitive in
today’s market. By offering that kind of knowledge, you could
possibly even charge more for your product because now you’re giving
business value that far exceeds the value of the individual product.
Redefine the Perception of the Salesperson: Finally, you need to
shift from being a vendor to being a trusted advisor. There’s a big
difference between the two. A vendor simply supplies a product. A
trusted advisor supplies true advantage. For example, a trusted
advisor will recommend what is best for the customer, not best for
the salesperson. In some cases that might mean telling the customer
that your company is not the best fit for the customer’s needs, and
then recommending one of your competitors. When you seek that higher
ground and become a trusted advisor, your clients trust you more.
that the future is all about relationships. As we get more technical
and more global, the relationships you build with your customers are
what will keep your company profitable. Relationships are all about
trust, and you gain trust by earning it. So never teach people to
distrust you by stretching the truth or hiding some pertinent
information. To differentiate, you need to raise the bar on trust.
Redefine Your Level of Sales Success: When you focus on
redefining what you already have you can take your current offering
and leverage it to new levels. That’s when you become a sales
leader, not because of some fast-talking sales pitch, but because of
your commitment to your customers and their true needs. So focus on
these four elements of redefining today and you’ll be able to give
your customers tools and solutions they never dreamed possible. As a
result, both you and your company will attain new levels of success
and realize the profit potential you always knew existed.
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