Real USPs mean real sales

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

I was working with a client recently and he was telling me that he was unhappy with the performance of a new salesperson.  She was new to sales and he was coaching her as she moved from inside selling to accompanied appointments.

I asked him about his sales technique – what was he actually teaching her?  Bear in mind he has been running his business for years and been a salesman in the industry for decades.  His response was essentially “We demo the product and ask them what they are looking for and then focus in on those modules.”   Make no mistake, he can sell – he just can’t explain it to his salespeople.  As a result he is still the only one selling and has a succession of demoralising (and expensive) experiences with failed salespeople – including people with previously successful track records.

I suggested this simple approach:

  1. Write down your USPs (and they must be real, relevant and provable – not feeble platitudes like “customer service” or “quality”);
  2. Write down the customer pains or desires that your product or service addresses better than anyone else’s.  Check that these match the USPs in step 1.  If they don’t, go back to step 1;
  3. Write down three questions for each USP that are designed to lead in to the problem that the USP addresses.  For instance, if your USP is a 24/7 helpdesk, one question might be “What hours does your business operate?”
  4. Write down three questions that are designed to surface the problem you solve.  For the above example one could be “Do you ever have problems getting support for the system outside office hours?”
  5. Write down three questions that are designed to escalate that problem in the prospects mind.  For the same example “What is the impact on your customers when that happens?”.  If you are stuck you can’t go wrong if you ask about the impact on customers, employees, profits or your interlocutor’s career;
  6. In the meeting, after working through these questions, you should have a list of the things that your prospect desires most in the world when it comes to your product or service;
  7. Ask them how things would be better if these problems could be solved;
  8. Now do the demo (or produce the brochure, or explain your service) showing how your solution will help the prospect achieve this state of nirvana;
  9. Close;
  10. Repeat

Obviously real meetings aren’t linear and predictable like this but you get the picture.This approach is a hugely simplified version of Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling.  Get the book, read, digest, apply.

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