Want a competitive advantage? Meet your customers where they are…

Went to lunch last week, here’s the powerful and likely profitable moment I watched as I ate.

Two food counters sat next to each other. Both were mid tier, one step above fast food with average orders around $12-15 per person, who would order and then sit in the food court area to eat. Both had similar food, sandwiches, salads, hot and cold food options. both had the same size locations and both were staffed with approximately the same number of people. I also have to say that both places seemed to have very friendly, outgoing employees.

I made my choice of restaurant, ordered my food, and sat down waiting for my number to be called. Then I watched.

Restaurant A had a person positioned out front offering samples of food and handing a coupon to anyone he engaged. He was fun to watch- he was friendly without invading personal space, greeted everyone who walked by, and would occasionally would call out that he had delicious samples to offer.

Restaurant B had a guy behind the counter that also was offering samples. He was very friendly, made good eye contact, had good food to offer, he moved around a lot, and even sang a few bars to accompany the overhead mall music.

Now- here’s the deal- I was eating a late lunch, about 2:15. So, the place wasn’t exactly bustling. I sat there for about 25 minutes from order to finishing my food.

Restaurant A had 9 people order. Restaurant B had 2 people order. Now it’s fair to say that preference of brand may have played a role here. However, I watched it…Restaurant A won because they were where their prospects were. Restaurant B never came out from behind the counter. B needed to have customers come to him before he could really engage. Guy A met them where they were, gave them a sample, then said something like “not sure what your food plans were, but we’re offering a coupon for the sandwich you just tried and a couple others….here, let me show what’s available…” It was so simple and brilliant and more importantly, it got results.

So, here’s the food for thought….Get out from behind the barrier and go to where your prospects are.

Now, Im not suggesting a total reboot of your marketing strategy here. I would not condone you hitting the bricks all over your market, passing out samples and just hoping for the best. That’s reckless. However, if there is a time that’s appropriate for you to give out samples, for you to do face to face marketing, or for you to really try and engage a prospect make sure you have removed any barriers before you do it.

This week, look for chances to step out from behind your desk, your counter, your social media feed, or your marketing automation plan and make a connection. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.

If you’d like to see the rest of the series or read more blog posts from The WinSource, you can find them here.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!

Know Your Business So You Can Help Theirs. Here’s How:

Blog 5 of 7. 

Over the last few weeks we have been discussing the six sales imperatives- Things that simply don’t change because in sales because they are so important to customers. The rapidly changing business world and the swirl of technology can distract us and make us forget about these imperatives. Letting that happen will have consequences.  Here’s how to prevent it:

Imperative number 4: Know your own business so you can help their business.

Why do buyers buy? It’s an age-old question with a surprisingly simple answer. They believe that what they are buying will help their business. While there are many personal motivations that can contribute to why someone makes a buying decision, that one essential reason, helping their business, is almost always present. There are different ways to help a business and is it your job as a salesperson to determine which reason is most important to the buyer. In order to help their business, however, you need to know your business. Specifically, in what ways your product or service can help a business. 

The primary goal of all for-profit business is exactly that, to make a profit. There are four fundamental ways, however, to increase profits: Increase revenue, reduce cost, increase quality or reduce effort. Depending on the role and responsibilities of the person or people making the buying decision, one of the four ways may be most important to them. If your buyer is in sales they may be most concerned about revenue, if your buyer is in purchasing they may be most concerned about cost, if your buyer is in marketing they be most concerned about quality, if your buyer is in production they may be most concerned about reducing effort, or if your buyer is the CEO/CFO/Business Owner they may not have a preference on how and just care about increasing the overall profit of the business.

In order to make a sale you will need to demonstrate how your product or service aligns with what is important to the buyer. In order to do this, you must understand how your product/service impacts the overall profitability of the business through each of the four profit components. 

Increase Revenue– How does your product or service help a company make more sales? Does it increase the effectiveness of their sales efforts? Does it increase awareness of their product or service? Does it add a feature/benefit that is more attractive to their customers? 

Reduce Cost– How does your product or service help a company reduce their cost of doing business? Does it reduce the cost of materials? Does it reduce headcount/overtime? Does it reduce distribution costs? Does it reduce maintenance costs? 

Increase Quality– How does your product or service increase the quality of the company’s product or service? Does it provide them with better materials? Does it help them provide better service? Does it help them find better people? Does it provide better education/training?

Reduce Effort– How does your product or service help a company be more productive? Does it help them reduce downtime? Does it help increase output? Does it help reduce waste? Does it eliminate procedures/steps? Does it help make them faster?

Increase Profit– Which of the above components does your product/service impact the most? What delivers the most positive impact to their bottom line? 

Most likely your product/service does not impact all four profit components equally. You need to understand how your product or service impacts each profit component so you can show value to prospective buyers. For example: let’s say you sell high-end copiers and you’re dealing directly with a prospect’s purchasing department. You discover through conversation that their primary motivation is to reduce costs. So, while your copiers are better quality and easier to use, with this buyer you need to be able to demonstrate how you can reduce cost. Because you understand your business, you explain that while your copiers are more expensive upfront than the competition, they break less and the reduction in maintenance costs means the prospect will actually save money in the long run.  

Again, by knowing your business you will know how you can help a customer’s business.

If you’d like to see the rest of the series or read more blog posts from The WinSource, you can find them here.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!

Selling Wisdom From Maine- Two Bits Of Advice You Need

There’s an old Maine story that goes like this….

A city dweller pulls up to a rural Maine country store in his fancy sports car. He sees an old fella sitting in a rocker on the stoop of the store, whittling wood, rocking back and forth, and smoking a pipe. At his feet was a big brown dog. City dweller puts down his window and yells out…”hey there, your dog bite?” The old guy replies “nope”. So, city dweller confidently opens the door and heads to the store. He no sooner takes one step up onto the stoop when the big brown dog lunges forward and bites his leg, shredding his pants. Panicked and bloodied he rushes back to the car, slamming the door. Angrily he rolls down the window and shouts “Hey man, what the heck? I thought you said your dog don’t bite.” Old man replies “Whelp, mine don’t…, but that one does.”

Two lessons I will always remember from this story. I have applied both to my sales career and they have both served me well. I will now give them to you. First, make no assumptions. Second, ask the question you really want the answer to.

Make no assumptions: People make assumptions because they create a story in their head of the situation and they apply their own bias or frame of reference to the current situation. This is a rookie mistake and it can bite you later (sorry, I had to). It doesn’t matter what you thought, what you would have done, or what you have seen in your career. It’s about your prospect or customer. It’s about what they are experiencing, it’s their frame of reference, their situation. It is your job as a salesperson to get them to say it and tell you about it. If you try to propose a solution without knowing your customers reality, you run huge risk. Assume nothing. Validate assumptions. In fact, this is one of the best ways to prepare for an appointment. Write down a list of things you think you know and then use the list to generate a conversation with your prospect or customer.

Ask the questions you really want the answer to:  Salespeople sometimes waste a tremendous amount of time (and prospect patience) by asking time wasting questions that will have zero relevance to the actual outcome or solution. Particularly, questions around the competition come to mind. I have heard many salespeople ask “Tell me a little about what your current provider does well” or “If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the product/service you’re getting now?” Completely unproductive! These questions only help you position yourself against a competitor, they will not help you get a deal. Knowing what your competition provides and knowing what they charge is only relevant if you are selling a commodity or aspire to be the low price provider. Asking stuff like this can actually bring your margins down because once the client figures out you think you’re competing, they will try to differentiate by price. What you really want to know is ‘how to help your client’, isn’t it? Then ask questions that get to that. ‘Tell me about your current process.” “Does it work the way you want?” “How would you change it?” “What happens when it works well or when it doesn’t?” “What is the impact to your business?” “What is the impact to you and your team?” Questions like these will help you uncover real business issues and will help you identify a solution that will actually help your client.

Being able to do thorough discovery with a client is a gift. It is time that should not be wasted. It is not your story to tell. It is an opportunity for your customer/prospect to tell their story to someone that can help solve real business issues.

Be that person.

If you’d like to read more blog posts from The Win Source, you can find them here.

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Ideas, comments, and questions are always welcomed! Happy Selling!