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WIIFM: What’s in it for me?

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“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” ~~Clifford Stoll

This week we consider some fundamental communications skill in sales. That is, understanding and stating the difference between features and benefits. Features are simply facts. They neither engage nor inspire. They do not impel action or transfer an emotional connection. Features are a list of what that never considers why or, as the title notes, “What is in it for me?” Your prospect wonders, “Why should I care?”

Dr. Ivan Misner includes a good example of this in the 29% Solution, by listing the features of a car.

“V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof…heated seats, heated glass.”

As you can see, this is a list of features you may or may not entirely understand or appreciate.

What are some of the benefits of these features?

  • The V-6 engine helps you pull out into traffic quickly. It may impress your friends.
  • Dual exhaust improves fuel efficiency, provides more power when starting out, and adds a “throaty” sound to the engine (which may also impress your friends.)
  • Front-wheel drive provides more legroom, since the driveshaft tunnel is not needed.
  • The sunroof provides the open road feel of a convertible while retaining the added structural security of a hard-body sedan.
  • Heated seats provide a warmer environment on chilly mornings and better comfort on long road trips.
  • Heated glass allows the convenience of clearing the windows in winter without manually scraping them clean.

These benefits put the prospect “in the driver’s seat.” Some of those benefits appealed to you while others did not. The professional is aware of the benefits and can align them to the prospect. If the person you are talking to is most interested in fuel efficiency then you can recommend a good automotive choice and highlight the features that support fuel efficiency. In fact, the same vehicle may appeal to two very different buyers as long as the emphasis is on the areas of interest to them.

How does this apply to networking? Since we are meeting other business owners and sales representatives many networkers do not consider the benefits and only list features. Feature lists are certainly more precise and, when shared with a colleague, can be very effective. Network administrators, for instance, can share industrial terms with each other and successfully impress with their technical grasp and currency of knowledge. However, all that jargon leaves the rest of us out. In fact, it disenfranchises us from any ability to refer them or connect them to someone they could help since we are so clueless in that arena.

If instead they spoke in terms of response speed, data security, recovery time, and reliability we could recommend them to others with confidence.

My litmus test is to imagine sharing what I do, what my product or service does, and how this can help you by imagining I am explaining it to a twelve year old. I don’t want to wear out your attention span or go over your head.

Your action this week is to highlight the benefits you provide. Consider some of your favorite customers and remember what problems you solved for them. A simple (and highly effective) shortcut is to ask them. You have been meaning to call and say hello anyway. Here’s a good excuse.

Find out the main reason they chose to spend money with you? They sought a benefit, not a feature.

The second action is to list all the features of your product or service and identify as many benefits as possible for each one. I highly recommend that you complete this portion before proceeding to next week’s blog entry.

 

© 2017 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

 

Written by bniguy

July 23, 2017 at 8:49 am

Handling objections

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“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” ~~ Albert Einstein

How do you feel about customer objections?  Hopefully, it is the same way you feel about air or gravity since they are inevitable and just as valuable.

An objection is simply an expressed concern.  Some of these are deal-breakers to this particular person while they may be a minor detail to another.

By becoming a student of objections the sales professional can master the process.  I compare it to conquering a take-down maneuver in wrestling.  Once you grasp it you can take down fast opponents or slow, large or small, strong or weak.  Along the way you will find yourself taking an opponent to the mat and letting them back up so you can do it again.

Eventually, though, you will just take them down once since that is all you need.

The first step in your education is to begin capturing every objection and study them.  Depending on your product or service they might be grouped into a few categories—usually no more than four or five.  For this exercise we will list them as No Money, No Time, No Need, and No Authority.

The No Money objection is based around perceived value.  “Your price is too high.”  “I can get it at wholesale for less.”

The No Time is based around perceived timing.  “That would be wonderful if I could squeeze another minute in my jam-packed day.”

The No Need is based around perceived self-sufficiency.  “It sounds like you have a good solution for someone other than me.”  “That sounds great.  When I need to lose weight I’ll call you.”

The No Authority is based around who makes the decision.  “Let me ask my wife, husband, boss, partner, doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc.”

These are simple examples.  Your world is far more complex (and interesting.)  However, whatever objections you receive (or don’t) follow a predictable pattern you can master.  Tim Sales describes them in a way I really like.  Objections, to him, are like bugs splattered on your windshield.

That is, imagine you are driving down the highway and a bug suddenly gets splattered across the windshield right in your line of sight.  It startles you and takes your attention from where you are going.  If you spend too much time examining it you will crash.  If it really bothers you enough you will pull over to study it and get nowhere.

A successful driver pulls their attention away from the bug and back on the road.  A successful sales professional does the same for their clients and prospects.

Here’s another point about objections.  They are created in the mind of the prospect and are not real.  The key is perception.  People perceive problems (bugs) and only they can remove them.

Let’s say you quote signage for $75.  Certainly, the client can take out an old pizza box and magic marker and do it for a lot less.  In some environments, that handmade sign is exactly what they want.  It expresses their company perfectly.  “We are edgy and fun.”  For most others, though, it would denote poor quality and lack of ability.  “We’ll apply as much attention to your solution as we do to helping you find the conference room with this crummy sign.”

Also, some objections are really masking the real issue.  They may be objecting to delivery speed but the real issue is value.

The only way to solve this is to help them identify the bug and then guide them to look past it back onto the highway.

Your first area of study is to begin cataloging which bugs you see and equally as important when do they turn up.  In many cases you will find that what you say creates the bug’s appearance.  Answer the question before they ask it.  “You can drop the car off the night before and slip the key through our secure mail slot.  If we see that the repair will be more than $50 we’ll call you at 919-111-1234.”

Use a simple four-step process to deal with objections.

  1. Listen completely.  Many people do not have listening skills and they jump in before the other person has the chance to fully describe the issue.  Mentally count to five before you reply.  They feel listened to (and certainly deserve to be.)  This has the added benefit of giving them the chance to uncover another objection…which may be the real show-stopper.  Also, the more you hear (and the more completely you hear) the more chance you can guide them to the complete solution.
  2. Paraphrase what you heard.  Once they have fully described the issue, replay it back in your own words.  This lets them know they were heard.  Going back to the bug analogy, you can say, “I see it.  Big and slimy with lots of legs all over the place.”  Very few professionals take the short time to do these first two steps.  Train yourself to do them, though.  Instead, they rush right to step 3.
  3. Handle (or better yet, facilitate handling) the objection.  This is where patience and practice makes perfect.  You will want to speak in their language and use their terminology.  Think of this like a master violinist playing a familiar passage.  Eventually the music is flawless in pacing, tone, and delivery.
    1. I would like to make a point about facilitating their solution.  If you can walk them through why they want the sign, what they want it to accomplish and so on, they will come to the proper conclusion that the price is right.  If they say it then it is a fact.  If you say it then it has been ‘spun’ and is untrustworthy.
  4. Return to whatever you were doing before the objection.  If setting an appointment, go back to the calendar.  If demonstrating a feature go back to that.

Ultimately, until every bug is identified and cleared from the windshield, no one will go anywhere.

© 2013 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

February 24, 2013 at 9:10 am

Be Prepared

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“Adventure is just bad planning.” ~~Roald Amundsen

Professional athletes know the value of careful planning.  Pilots rely on the thoroughness of checklist actions.  Generals in battle and CEOs of the largest companies in the world all rely on solid plans.  Some teams believe that given enough time to plan—say two weeks in a football season—they can be invincibly prepared for any team.

On a personal level we all know that the more carefully we plan the more likelihood of success in almost any endeavor.

Why, then, do so few sales professionals preplan their sales calls?  Appointments with decision-makers are rare and failure to plan is like planning to fail.  When surveyed, the most common reasons are that they plan on the way to the appointment, relying on experience to guide them through.  Or, they either don’t know they should or don’t know how to preplan a customer contact.

There are three main sales calls you should prepare for.  Specifically, these are:

  • The first call you make.  This is essential under the heading of good first impressions.  Also, if you are lucky (and luck favors the well-prepared) the customer might buy on the very first call.
  • The last call you make.  This is when they buy, when you ask for the order, when you solicit a final decision.  Prepare fully for that one.
  • The next call.  Ultimately, this is the most important opportunity you will have to impact the process.

The bottom line is that you should prepare for every call.  Time invested here can save significantly more time than repairing damage or replacing prospects.

There are many great resources to help you define your pre-call routines.  Here are a few elements to consider:

  • Develop a written sales call objective.  Visualize the desired results all the way to the ticker-tape parade.
  • Take care of the nuts-and-bolts such as who will be there, where will you meet, what is the dress code, how much time will you have, if food is involved what is it, who pays for it, and so on.
  • Do your detective work by reviewing the company’s website, press releases, management team, investor packets (if publicly traded,) industry issues/trends, and current suppliers, to name a few.
  • Design your needs analysis questions.  What are their “hot buttons?”
  • What do you plan to “show” or share?  Do you have all the pieces you need?  Do they work?  Do you know how to repair/replace them?
  • Anticipate concerns and objections.  Strategize your responses.
  • Appreciate the differences between your solution and the competition’s answer.
  • Quantify meaningful benefits to this particular customer by dollarizing the return on investment.
  • Define your closing strategies and clear the path for the next steps.
  • Be prepared to handle surprises.

Military people often say that no plan survives engagement with the enemy.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower noted that, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

I remember doing a software demonstration at a trade show in London.  The whole morning I was able to demonstrate transactions that involved printing a bar code, scanning it in, and updating a database back in the United States.  Everything ran flawlessly.

My time on stage arrived mid-afternoon, though, and by then nothing worked.  The power differences in the UK had fried my little printer.  It was now morning in the USA and heavy intercontinental data traffic made bidirectional transactions impossible.

I had done the process so many times before, though, and successfully pantomimed every step.  The audience followed along and we signed three very important customers before the day was out.

Be flexible as well as prepared.  The decision-maker is not you.  If you wind up in a situation where they are ready to sign in the first sixty seconds, simply shut up and take the order.  Be a boy (or girl) scout and be prepared for your next call.

© 2013 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

February 17, 2013 at 2:43 am

WIIFM

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“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” ~~Clifford Stoll

One element that cannot be overstated is to understand the difference between features and benefits.  Features are simply facts.  They neither engage nor inspire and do not impel action or deliver an emotional connection.  Features are a list of what that never considers why or, as the title notes, “What is in it for me?”  Your prospect wonders, “Why should I care?”

That is a good question and one you should be able to answer.

Here’s an example of features you might see in the newspaper or on a showroom floor.

“V-6 engine, dual exhaust, front-wheel drive, sunroof…heated seats, heated glass.”

As you can see, this is a list of features you may or may not entirely understand or appreciate.  Now consider these same features from a BENEFITS perspective.

  • The V-6 engine helps you pull out into traffic quickly.
  • Dual exhaust improves fuel efficiency with more power when starting out
  • Dual exhaust also adds a “throaty” sound to the engine.
  • Front-wheel drive gives you more legroom.
  • The sunroof gives you the open road feel of a convertible while still having the added structural security of a hard-body sedan.
  • The sunroof is quieter than a convertible.
  • Heated seats make chilly mornings easier to take.
  • They also add comfort on long trips.
  • Heated glass lets you clear windows in winter without manually scraping them clean.

These benefits put the other person “in the driver’s seat.”  Some of them appealed to you specifically while others did not.  The better you know the product and the better you can assess your prospect’s needs the more connection you will make.

Ideally you want to lead with just a few that matter.  My list was long and is too much for everyone.  Three is a good number.

If it is winter or the person lives in wintry region, lead with the areas about that, such as heated seats and heated glass.  If it is summer then lead with the sunroof, instead.

Some people want fuel efficiency.  You can line the features up with that.

Some want power or to impress their friends.  You can align the features of the very same car for that.

You need to know what you have and, most importantly, what they want.

Also, we are not dealing with other experts.  That is important.  When addressing other colleagues and industry professionals they can live in the world of features and be right at home.  You tell a computer technician that this PC has a 2 Gigahertz processor with 4 Gigabits of RAM and they know what that means.  Everyday people try to translate that to speed and size and the effective computer salesperson knows how to do that.

My rule of thumb is to simplify things so that a twelve-year-old can understand it—at least enough to realize that they like it or not.

Go ahead and highlight the benefits you provide.  Consider some of your favorite customers and remember what problems you solved for them.  A simple (and highly effective) shortcut is to ask them.  You have been meaning to call and say hello anyway.  Here’s a good excuse.

Find out the main reason they chose to spend money with you.  They sought a benefit, not a feature.

After that list all the features of your product or service and identify as many benefits as possible for each one.  You will find yourself speaking in your customer’s language before you know it.

© 2013 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

February 10, 2013 at 5:12 am

Four on the Floor

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“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” ~~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you break a sale down to its essential components then you will find four parts.  These are:

  1. Receiving a referral and gaining an introduction to a decision-maker.
  2. Setting an appointment with the decision-maker.
  3. Meeting the decision-maker face-to-face.
  4. Making the sale.

If you simply assign one point per activity and make it a daily goal to attain four points or more, you are on the way to success.

A key is to do this every day, rather than bang out twenty points on Monday and coast the rest of the week, or the opposite and cram on Friday.  Steady activity is best.  Try to get three before lunch, too, so you have more time to prepare for the next day’s work.

Do this for three weeks and you may never abandon this simple process.

© 2013 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

February 3, 2013 at 8:29 am

Posted in HowTo, planning, sales

Tagged with ,

How am I doing?

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“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~~ Ken Blanchard

The winds of change are always blowing.  Most business owners are too busy delivering products and services to take much notice.  Ignore it long enough, though, and you won’t know what hit you until it is too late.

It is essential to develop a system that solicits and deals with feedback on a regular basis.  There are five main reasons that most small business owners do not engage in this arena.

The biggest reason is a fear of negative feedback.  Humans are wired for approval and have a huge fear of rejection.  It may be hard to believe but all feedback is valuable and constructive.  Often there are side benefits of our service we didn’t expect and do not appreciate without the positive feedback that identifies it.  Once known, we can strengthen and systematize it for greater effect.  The same is true of negative feedback.

Your customers can identify new strategies and products that enhance your current offer, if you ask and listen.  They may have developed workarounds that are unnecessary with training or are worth addressing with redesign.

It is important to listen completely.  You should not ask for comment unless you are willing to accept negative responses.

Another set of reluctance reasons revolve around who to ask, when to ask, how to ask, and so on.  Human resource professionals often employ a 360-degree review that includes supervisors, peers, cross-staff, customers, support personnel, and so on.  As a business owner, consider asking everyone.  That would include customers (of course) as well as vendors, staff, business advisors, and the like.

When to ask is initially tied to touch points in the process.  After initial delivery, for instance, or upon project completion.

It is always advisable to build the feedback loop into your delivery process.  Cleaning companies will often checklist what they accomplished and encourage feedback.  Ideally, the same format is used with every visit.  You can solicit feedback on portions of your process as they occur.  How easy was it to place an order?  How helpful was our sales rep?

One last reservation that holds business owners back is a concern that they do not want to waste anyone’s time.  I submit that this is a cop-out.  If you solicit feedback every time you won’t see 100% response.  Adults will choose to respond or ignore it if they truly are too busy.  Silence is not golden, though, and you should always work for a high response rate.  Simplify the questions, incentivize the response, and value the feedback to raise the rate.

Your action this week is to take three specific actions.  First, examine your sales process and identify feedback points you can use.  Once marked, develop a simple tool (survey, perhaps) and began to gather and track results.  Finally, seek out 360-degree systems in place with your business partners and model their effort as possible.

The underlying key is to incorporate this into daily activity.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

October 16, 2011 at 2:05 am

Facts Tell

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“If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.” ~~ Groucho Marx

We are a species that loves a good story and enjoy sharing it.  Some people I know always have a new joke and deliver it with enthusiasm, employing voices and gestures that accentuate the action.  Stories are the oldest communication format and were passed through generations before the advent of more permanent technology—like the written word.

Anecdotes are a powerful way to share your message and you can empower your network with memorable success stories, as well.

The best narrative is to consider one related to your best client (see week three for examples.)  Profile this client completely (see week 31) and develop a story that helps your network find other similar clients.

Let’s dissect a good story.

Who.  An engaging beginning defines who we want to meet and sets the stage for the pending action.  Use demographics to define this individual fully—including number of employees, years in business, etc.

What.  Why.  The action-packed middle of the story should introduce the problem your client experienced and some ineffective actions taken or consequences faced before you arrived on the scene.

How.  When.  Your success stories should always have a Happy Ending.  Describe how you solved the problem.  This is the part of the story that gets repeated the most often.  Include facts, figures, and statistics that matter.

Develop these stories and write them down so you can refer to them as needed.  Treat them like a key-ring, each designed to open a specific door.  Have a story or three for every target market you serve, every benefit you provide, and every objection you might face.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

September 25, 2011 at 2:08 am