Have you noticed something has changed in sales? Everyone now talks about every sale being price sensitive – is this true or is it just sales people making excuses? Firstly, when I do account/opportunity reviews, I am still amazed how many sales people really cannot articulate their value proposition and show a clear line of site from the customer’s business pain through their product/service/solution to a demonstrable return of investment. However, other things are also changing.
Take the IT industry, years ago it wasn’t uncommon for a company to have a product advantage over the competition for a number of years – the example that comes to mind is the DEC VAX, where they had 2/3 years of market dominance over all competitors. Today, I cannot think of any examples of such dominance unless the market is distorted by government regulation. I was interested to see that when Costa Coffee launched its new “flat white” premium coffee, Starbucks responded with their own product within 4 days!
The Smart phone market is also very competitive, not only between Blackberry and Apple iPhone, but with the phone industry giant Nokia with Symbian, Microsoft’s mobile Windows and now various versions of Google’s Android operating system. Any market where there is growth and money to be made is competitive. This means that your customers will probably always have good BATNAs (see previous article) and hence can squeeze your price due to a competitor offering a similar solution. Of course, if you have failed to link your unique value to the customer’s business drivers, then it will always become a price auction!
So what can sales people do – sell harder? Well, think about today’s buyer, they have more information than ever before literally at their fingertips, with the click of a mouse. Think about buying a laptop and search for comparison websites – how many do you want – every detail of every option is discussed, analysed and rated against all of the competition. So if you are a laptop sales person, what can you do?
The first thing is to embrace the new world order, it isn’t going to go away, and information that creates savvy buyers is here to stay. So treat buyers as intelligent, computer literate people who will have done their research.
Secondly, rather than selling laptops can you sell a service/relationship advantage – sales people repeating facts they have already pulled off the web won’t interest them – what can you offer that’s new and engaging? Having case studies of people similar to them – vertical market, business challenge, application – and showing how they successfully implemented the solution is a good place to start.
Additionally, if you can also advise of potential risks and issues they may face during the implementation then they will listen. One of the key complaints of buyers is that sales people only focus up to getting the order, whereas the customer is interested in a successful implementation and return on investment of the project. Demonstrate that you are a different type of sales person who is really interested in the success of the project (back to the business issues).
Remember, buyers will not let you into their buying cycle early if you cannot demonstrate that there is a value to them in doing this. And, as we all know, if you aren’t in early then someone else is setting the agenda and so you are likely to become a purely price discounted option.
Do you have any ideas about how you can change your selling approach to be more effective? Let me know, post a comment.