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How To Differentiate Between What The Customer Wants & Needs

Posted on Have Your Say: Leave a comment?

business man writing concept of customerIn conversations with salespeople, we sometimes ask if they know the differences between prospects’ needs and prospects’ wants.

It may sound pedantic, but it can make a real difference in presenting solutions.

Oftentimes, prospects will confuse their wants with their needs and vice versa. Their needs often revolve around the business; their wants often revolve around their personal gains.

For example, they may say that they want a bigger discount from you.

You need to determine the reason for this. Just because your competitor is offering a higher discount, or is cheaper than you’re offering, is not a valid reason, or a need. You need to be absolutely clear on what the rationale is they are using to request this.

It could be they are simply being greedy. Or they have to justify the price they are paying to your boss. Or (and this could be the main need) they have to make more revenue and think that getting a bigger discount from you will help them achieve that.

So, here you have recognised that the real need is to increase revenue, and they want you to increase discounts in order to achieve that end goal, or need.

It may be possible, then, for them to increase their revenue by selling more of your products, and identifying how their business operations can be adjusted to accomplish this could be a way forward.

It entails being a consultant to their business, rather than a salesperson of goods and services. But it offers a level of service that other competitors may not have offered before.

A need, then, outweighs a want in its achieving of business goals. Determining how you can uncover those needs creates a closer relationship and identifies a stronger force in the decision-making process.

Some people have fears about what will happen in their business if they don’t achieve their goals. By helping them move away from those situations, you lessen the fears and help them build confidence.

Others have opportunities to achieve goals and they need help to move towards them. This is a chance for you to discuss the gains they would get from your products and services.

Either way, by uncovering a real need, the door starts to open toward making a decision that will ultimately help them attain their needs and their wants. That will help them improve their businesses and they’ll thank you for supporting them in that achievement.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Sales Interactions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How To Avoid The Awkward Question Of Budget

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Business man with suitcase full of moneyHow many times have you been in conversation with a prospect and the question of budget comes up?

You want to know if you’re pitching in the right ball-park, so you go right out and ask what budget they were thinking of spending.

You then sigh in disappointment as you realise the solution you’re selling is well out of reach of the figure they have quoted. You then adjust your presentation and switch to the basic model because, as you assume, that’s all they can afford.

The problem is the basic model won’t solve their problems. It might help them achieve some of their goals, but not all of them.

It might save them a little money but won’t make the big savings they are seeking. If only they had a bigger budget, then all would be solved. They would get the results they want and their success would be guaranteed.

Instead, why not leave the budget question out of the conversation altogether?

Actually, the last thing you should be talking about is money, budgets and finance. The subject you should focus on is either their problem or their opportunity, the pain or the gain.

The budget is not the prime issue at this stage; their problem is. If they don’t have a problem, there isn’t going to be a sale anyway.

So ask yourself: What problem does my prospect have? How is this situation affecting their business success? What are they losing by not having my solution? What’s the monetary impact of the problems he is experiencing?

You then determine if these are problems that need to be solved. If they are, you can assimilate the value of solving the problems. If the value of the solutions outweighs the current situation they are in, then (and only then) does money become an issue.

The prospect may have determined a budget based on spending levels, not on value levels. This may mean they have thought about spending rather than the returns they would get on their spending. The returns can be considered an investment for them, rather than a cost.

Any person would go above their budget if the value of the solution outweighed the problems they were facing at the moment and they could see that value monetised as an investment.

So, rather than ask what budget the prospect has set aside, talk about the value of your solution and get the prospect to agree about the  results those solutions will bring him. Then the issue of budget is really about how much they are willing to invest, rather than how much they are willing to spend.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Buyer Types, Pricing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

4 Simple Steps To Build A Strong & Loyal Customer Base

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Loyalty red arrowMost of us would agree that it costs considerably more to get a new customer than to maintain a loyal one.

So, it follows that customer retention must be a major component of an effective marketing strategy and that’s especially true for your business. From least desirable to most desirable on the customer-relationship continuum, the sequence is: “new” to “repeat” to “loyal.”

The key to long-term customer retention is loyalty and the key to loyalty is in understanding the “perceived value” the customer gets from doing business with you. Then it’s as simple as delivering that value 100% of the time, in a manner that is “easy” on the customer.

The process of converting an existing customer to “loyal” status isn’t quite so simple and may take years to accomplish.

The customer experience typically evolves through four levels:

Satisfaction with price and availability. There has to be level of understanding of why your price points are what they are. By being open and honest with customers as to your pricing policies, you create a level of trust and understanding that is consistent and builds reasons for future loyalty.

Recognition of superior service levels. There is something special about getting superior service. Whether it’s the individual attention we get at a restaurant or the personal touch that is given to us when we check in at a hotel, the more special we feel, the greater the ‘stroking’ of out ego is received.

Appreciation of the value of your knowledge and experience. Customers value your expertise in areas that are important to them and their business. If you are able to make them see how running the various aspects of their business could be improved, they cease to see you as a supplier of goods and services, and start viewing you as a partner that is increasing in asset value to them.

Connection on values, mission and vision. This is the deepest level of relationship you can have with a customer, where your purposes and missions meld into a continuous, harmonious journey that can last a long time. By sharing the same goals and building the road towards achieving those goals, both of your companies create experiences that bond you together beyond partnership level. They depend on you for their profitability, productivity and future success.

One way to determine loyalty is to remember that a repeat customer must successfully answer the question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”

before attaining the “loyal” status. Companies that focus on loyalty lead their industries in profitability. Loyal customers have the potential to be your best salespeople, because they will find opportunities for you that would otherwise never appear on your radar screen.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Customer/Client Retention, Sales Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What Is The Most Influential Skill You Can Have As A Salesperson?

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8b2f6a80-5b13-4bcd-84ba-8518b419a9ceWe often get asked on our sales programmes how salespeople can improve their sales. They want the golden ticket, the one thing that will mean the million pound deal, the loyal customer, the added business.

Naturally, there isn’t just one skill that will be the ‘holy grail’; various things make up the top salesperson’s abilities to get results.

If there was one thing, though, that would make the biggest difference in the skills armoury of the salesperson, it would probably be the ability to listen effectively.

Listening is a vastly under-rated skill, one that is bypassed in many sales programmes, or glossed over as one part of the overall communication skills we all have to adopt.

However, for many reasons, it is the key to opening the door to sales, as it can set you apart from the plethora of salespeople who concentrate more on their product push than on actively getting the knowledge they require to know exactly what to push!

The way to become a better listener is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.

In order to do this you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counter arguments that you’ll make when the other person stops speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying. All of these contribute to a lack of listening and understanding.

If you’re finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words mentally as they say them – this will reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

To enhance your listening skills, you need to let the other person know that you are listening to what he or she is saying.

To understand the importance of this, ask yourself if you’ve ever been engaged in a conversation when you wondered if the other person was listening to what you were saying.

You wonder if your message is getting across, or if it’s even worthwhile continuing to speak. It feels like talking to a brick wall and it’s something you want to avoid.

You should also try to respond to the speaker in a way that will both encourage him or her to continue speaking, so that you can get the information if you need. While nodding and “uh huhing” says you’re interested, an occasional question or comment to recap what has been said communicates that you understand the message.

What makes a great listener?

- They practice listening skills

- They keep an open, curious mind

- They link what they listen to with what they already know

- They find areas of common interest

- They resist external distractions

- They ask questions to clarify understanding

- They summarise often

- They analyse non-verbal signals

- They listen to content and emotion

I would say the most important item in that list is to ‘practice’ the skill of listening. The truth is you will never become perfect, but you can always improve and get better at this fundamental but vastly important skill that will make you so different to your competitor who is more interested in pitching than learning!

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Communication Skills | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How To Deal With The “Lowest Price Wins” Prospect

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Poor businessman with empty pocketsYou know the situation. You’ve highlighted the value of your products and services and done everything possible to help the prospect see the benefits of dealing with you. And yet you still get the response that you’ll have to do something with your price.

Even though there’s no doubt that your product or service is worth every penny you’re asking, you also know that there are competitors out there ready to sell their grandmothers at a discount to get the sale.

Winning the sale at any cost may be appealing, but you know the results of playing the price game: you’ll eat into profits, your margins will be chomped away and you will set a precedent with this customer that says you’re willing to lay down, roll over and well and truly fleeced. And whenever a lower offer comes along, where’s this loyal customer going to go? Over the nearest hill faster than you can say ‘what-did-I-do-wrong?’.

To solve discounting at any cost you need an integrated, cross-functional approach to develop and deliver compelling whole solutions for your prospect’s business. Think in terms of being a solution provider rather than a product provider. You’ll win some and you’ll lose some, but you will have kept the integrity of your services without being slapped down on price.

Here are three ways to deal with the price-sensitive decision-maker:

Make sure you know the value of your products and services and how it links to the customer’s business situation.

Many salespeople we work with know the first part of this equation but fall short when we ask about the second part.

You must understand the departments that are most affected by your solution, and the financial impact of your solution on the various decision-makers and key affected areas of the business.

This takes time, energy and research, but the hard work will pay off big time, because you’ll be speaking the language that the buyer understands: the effects on the business strategies and results.

Make sure you can help the customer calculate the cost of not using your solution.

Before you can offer a remedy, you must be able to firmly establish the costs of not using you and your solution. You must help the customer identify business symptoms of his problem and show him the long-term results of not changing. This will automatically increase the value of your solution, as there will be a measure of ‘pain’ associated with the current situation.

All people make decisions for one of two reasons; either to resist or avoid pain, or to achieve gain. Change will not occur until an individual or company recognises that the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.

Make sure you can explain the impact of your solution over those of your closest competitors.

Here, you have to be specific. If you can explain or prove how you have saved money for another company or made someone else’s life better with your solution, you start to nullify the impact of the competitors’ offers.

This is where the customer/prospect’s thoughts of price will be overshadowed by the residual benefits to the business of choosing your solution. You highlight the advantages of longer-term costs over initial, up-front price. The specific financial impact that your solution will offer has to outweigh the price to make business sense to them. When it does, the concept of going for the cheapest price starts to look a little shaky.

These three ideas won’t work every time; there will still be the minority who will always choose the cheapest option. However, they have to also accept the consequences attached with taking this risk. And all you can do is to be there when they have to pick up the pieces.

Happy selling!

Sean McPheat

Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

(Image courtesy of dollarphotoclub)

Posted in Prospecting | Tagged , | Leave a comment