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Product, Solution or Value – You Decide!

By December 19, 2011Article

Let me tell you a story. A sales team has learned that three prospects are in immediate need of tools for a critical building project. It’s been some time since such an opportunity has been available, and the sales team springs into action.
Joe, one of the more forward sales reps is able to quickly get a meeting with the first prospect. After nice introductions, knowing the prospect needs tools for his building project, Joe doesn’t waste time and immediately takes the tools from his sample bag and, with a cacophony of action, begins demonstrating how his hammer is superior at hammering nails, his saw at cutting wood, his wire cutter at cutting wire, and his trowel at spreading concrete.
The prospect likes the demonstration, and immediately wants to purchase the wire cutters, but demands a discount, as wire cutters can certainly be purchased for less at the hardware store. Salesperson Joe doesn’t have much argument for that, so he acquiesces, providing a 20 percent discount to get the deal. Without haste, the customer gets to building and Joe returns to the office to do the “touchdown dance.
Sally, the next salesperson, gets an appointment with the second prospect soon after. Rather than jumping right into the demonstration, Sally knows she needs more information about the building project in order to recommend the right set of tools. She asks the prospect what they need to build, and the prospect describes their need for shelter.
Instead of just selling one tool, Sally follows marketing’s advice and bundles the tools together into a building solution so that the prospect has all of what they need. The buyer sees the benefit of not having to piece together the toolkit to serve their needs. Sally gets the deal for the solution, and hardly has to discount to get there. The customer gets busy with building their shelter.
Upon Sally’s return to the office, Joe is rather cold, knowing he has been bested by Sally and her solutions approach.
Gary, the last salesperson, meets with the final prospect. Like Sally, Gary is eager to learn about the prospect’s building project. Upon hearing they need to build a shelter, however, Gary doesn’t stop there with his questions. He doesn’t just want to know what the buyer wants to build, but also why he wants to build it. Does he need shelter from the rain, from the cold, or something more?
Gary knows that sometimes buyers might have issues but don’t understand the priority or urgency of various factors, or worse, have not realized they have other issues that might be even more urgent to address.
The prospect tells Gary that, indeed, he needs to build a sturdy structure to protect from the cold temps just around the corner.
But Gary, with provocative research facts from marketing, presents that a house often means much more. Gary communicates the latest security figures and how building a lesser home might leave the buyer vulnerable. Gary compares and contrasts the costs of various shelters and how often the more expensive approach yields lower total cost of ownership and better value in the long term.
And the story Gary weaves is not all facts and figures, because he knows buyers use their entire minds to make a purchase, relying not just on the logical, but also the emotional aspects. Tugging on the buyer’s heartstrings, Gary implores that this house must be built right, for it will remain in the family now and for generations to come.
The prospect lights up with the vision Gary paints, the fiscal sense it all makes, and the urgency that the better alternative commands. Gary is not just able to sell the tools, but also much-needed design-build services. So the prospect is not just enabled to address the shelter opportunity but, on a turnkey basis, can get the house he really needs.
Gary returns to the office with a deal 30 times larger than Sally and Joe and a trip to winner’s circle in the bag. Better yet, the customer gets just the right house to provide the protection he needs.
The bottom line
Grabbing coffee in the office a month later, the sales team is startled by the front page of the local paper. There on the cover are the three customers. A picture of the first in front of a house of straw, a picture of the second with a house of sticks, and a picture of the third, with his design-build house of bricks. The headline: “Big Bad Wolf Rampage Destroys Two Homes; Two Pigs Narrowly Escape Death.”
A product, solution or value-selling approach – the three little pigs teach us that the latter is not only better for your sales revenue but better for your customers as well!
Tom Pisello is chairman and founder of Alinean.

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