Excerpt from "5 Skills of Master Salespeople" by Michael D. Maginn (Singularity Group, 2009)
Every customer has problems to be solved. The point is that the salesperson has to go beyond the product need and into the wider array of needs customers have in buying, in making the buying decision, in using the product effectively, as well as in the future of the business.
To do that successfully, the salesperson has to see what he or she is selling in a different way. The salesperson's offering is not a product or service or even a family of products or services. Rather, the offering is the total package of benefits associated with doing business with the salesperson's company. This extended concept of the offering—including the deal itself, the efforts of the vendor to make the product work, and the customer's business success now and in the future—gives the salesperson more solutions to apply to customer problems. The more solutions the salesperson brings, the more value the customer feels. When the salesperson brings a lot of value, the total offering—the full package of solutions to the broader array of customer needs—starts to outweigh price objections or price-only advantages the competition may have.
What is the total package of benefits?
Consider what a salesperson brings to the table. Typically, in the eyes of the customer, it's a product or service. The cost of entry into the sales relationship is that a salesperson must know and be able to explain the features and benefits of the product or service and how they are different from the competitions'. Presumably, a good salesperson should be able to relate these features and benefits directly to customer needs. But, clearly, products and services are not the only things a salesperson brings in.
Because of their company knowledge, industry expertise, and exposure to a range of customers, the salesperson also has ideas and information about payment terms, availability, delivery, installation, support and application concepts, and even credit and billing options.
A salesperson also brings ideas about customization, about how the basic product can be modified or configured for a specific customer use. Customization may be related to the actual product itself, the financial relationship, or any other aspect of doing business with the vendor company. When the salesperson searches for and finds a need for adapting the product to make it fit more effectively, then he or she can explain how the vendor does that or how he or she can do it for the customer. Once again, the broader capabilities of the vendor company are on the table.
Even intangibles can fill a customer's needs. Consider a new buyer of complicated products or services. The salesperson's ability to relate past success stories about smoothly run installations and operations may be just what an uncertain customer needs. The salesperson is selling reassurance by citing specific related experiences.
Finally, part of the package is the salesperson. The old adage about people buying the salesperson is true. Customers see an effective salesperson and sales process that yield the best possible solution as a benefit. Salespeople can provide access to expertise, industry gossip, and networking contacts. The salesperson is the initial interface to the vendor organization; he or she can get things done, especially when other channels don't work.
Michael D. Maginn has been working with and studying selling for more than 25 years. As vice president, Research and Development, for The Forum Corporation, he completed one of several landmark sales competency studies and subsequent best-selling sales programs. Since then, as the president of Singularity Group (www.singularitygroup.com), Hamilton, MA, he has worked with many sales organizations in defining how the sales process can add value to the customer's experience. He is the author of "5 Skills of Salespeople" (Singularity Group, June 2009).