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All sales people, today, sell solutions. At least
thats what most sales people say they are doing. If sales people are really acting
consultatively, selling solutions, why are so many customers sick of sales pitches? We
hear customers saying:
- "They (the sales people) always come in here pitching
their latest products and technologies without telling me how it solves our
- "They say they have solutions before they even know my
- "The sales person doesnt understand my
- "They tell me about the products, I have to figure out
whether it will solve my problems!"
- "They just want to push their products without
understanding our needs!"
Most sales people focus on their need
to sell, not their customers need to buy. Putting the customer first in the
selling process is simple, yet enables sales people to achieve real success. It enhances
the sales persons relationships with their customer. It enables them to clearly
demonstrate their value. Finally, it is key to competitive success!
What is the Sales Persons Need To Sell?
Sales people have a need to sell. We focus on sales targets
and commissions. We love our products and "gee-whiz" technologies. We want our
customers to be as excited about the latest widget our company has introduced as we are.
We want to please our managers and gain the approval of our peers. It could be the latest
in semiconductor, computer, software or communications technology, or the hottest new
fashions, or the best new consumer products, or the great new financial services products.
How many times have we gone to our customers to present
them our hot new products, only to find them not as excited as we are? How can that be?
Why wont they buy? Dont they really understand what these products can do?
Dont they understand we have quotas to meet and commission to earn!
What about the mid-year push for orders? Why dont
customers take advantage of our fantastic deals?
What about the retailer who wont give us that end-cap
for our latest merchandising scheme? Doesnt she know that our hot new advertising
programs will have the products flying off the shelves!
The answer to all these issues is simple. Customers
dont care about our need to sell; they are only worried about solving their business
problems! Focusing on the customer need to buy is critical understanding how we can help
solve our customers business problems.
What is the Customer Need To Buy?
All customers have goals and objectives. The customer need
to buy is the result of business problems, opportunities or "pain" influencing
their ability to achieve their goals or objectives. In any situation, these needs may be business
- Achieve X% revenue growth in the next 12 months.
- Increase market share to establish leadership within their
- Decrease costs by Y% in the next 12 months.
- Increase profitability in the next quarter.
- Improve the R-acronyms: ROI, ROA, ROE, ROS, ROCA.
- Decrease "design" cycle time - or whatever cycle
time they care about.
- Improve quality or customer service or satisfaction.
- Overcome a competitive threat.
and the list can go on!
The need to buy can be personally oriented
- Assure success of a project in which the individual has
committed a lot of personal time and energy.
- Achieve success on this project to get that next promotion.
- Reduce workload, hassle or stress on the job.
- Accomplish certain objectives so that I can maximize my
bonus or get a salary increase.
- Achieve goals to get a good performance review.
and, likewise, this list can go on!
Whatever the business or personal goals, these establish
the customer need to buy. Concentrating on these needs will shorten your selling cycle and
maximize your odds of success.
Determining The Customer Need To Buy
Lets take the mystery out of using these to determine
the customer need to buy. Following a few simple steps will help you improve your ability
to be customer focused:
Do your homework. Become a student on your
customers industry and markets. Learn what their customers are asking of them. Learn
what their competitors are doing. Understand important trends and directions driving the
industry. Understand their key measures of success. Try to anticipate the problems,
challenges, and opportunities they face. Consider the following:
- Read the customers annual and quarterly reports,
10Ks, 10Qs and proxy statements.
- Read their press releases. Read their product brochures and
sales literature. Read the speeches the CEO and other executives are making.
- Surf the Internet to find their web site and those of their
competitors. See how they present themselves to the world.
- Read the trade magazines and press representing their
- Read the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune and
other general business publications to "scan the environment."
- Do the same with their competitors.
- Use this knowledge to prepare your meetings with the
Determine the need to buy very early in the selling
cycle. In qualifying an opportunity, one of the first things you need to
understand is if the customer has a real problem. If the customer doesnt have a real
problem---one that you can solve---youre wasting your time! No need to buy equals no
How do we determine the need to buy: Ask the
customer, shut up, listen, then probe. Consider some of the following areas:
- Determine the customers overall business goals,
strategies and their customer and competitive environment. In addition to understanding
the business, try to understand how these impact the customer personally.
- Understand the problems, opportunities and challenges your
customer faces in achieving the business goals. Seek to quantify these to understand the
magnitude of the impact on the customer.
- Learn how the business problems affect the customers
job performance. Ask your customer how management will measure their performance. Attempt
to understand the personal stake the customer has in solving the problem.
- Prioritize and quantify each of the needs the customer has
identified. Understand those that are most important and separate those from those that
Write down the customer need to buy, validate it with
the customer. Develop a simple description of the problem or opportunity:
- Write their need to buy in clear sentences. Typically, they
have multiple needs. If you have done the right job, you can define these needs in a few
short sentences. Make sure that you have quantified the impact of each need.
- Beware of describing the problem in terms of your need to
sell! Customer needs to buy are rarely described in terms of your product and services. If
you are describing the need to buy in these terms, you are more likely describing your
need to sell.
- Verify what you have written down with the customer to make
sure you have understood and prioritized the needs to buy appropriately. Gain the
customers agreement on the problem.
- Gain their agreement that if you can present the solution
providing the greatest value in solving the problem, they will buy your solution.
- Before spending any more time on the opportunity, make sure
you have a solution that addresses their need to buy.
Focus your sales strategy on demonstrating how your
solution provides the greatest value in solving their problems. Clearly
understanding the customer need to buy enables you to concentrate your efforts. You
wont be sidetracked, you wont waste time. You can clearly and directly present
your solution to their problems in terms that are meaningful to them.
Understanding your customers need to buy is the
shortest path to satisfying your need to sell!
Partners In EXCELLENCE provides many
training programs addressing customer focus, value generation and related
areas. For information on the
Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE training programs, follow the
© 1997 Partners In EXCELLENCE. All rights reserved.
Dave Brock is President of Partners In EXCELLENCE, a
consulting and training firm. Partners In EXCELLENCE assists its clients in re-inventing
their sales and marketing organizations. Its mission is to have a profound impact in
improving the quality of its clients' sales and marketing processes.
Partners In EXCELLENCE supports a diverse clientele ranging from Fortune 50 through
start-up companies. These clients are in a variety of industries including: consumer
products, computer hardware and software, telecommunications, industrial controls,
scientific instrumentation, semiconductor and electronic components.
Information in this document is subject to change without
notice. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered
trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.
Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE, EXCELerator,
and EXCELerators are registered trademarks.
Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 1997
April 17, 2009
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