I have a rule in my programs: if a participant disagrees with what I am saying and it makes their “blue-shirt” meter go off (I use a different term in the workshop), I tell them to speak up. In fact, I want everyone to share their concerns – especially since Upside-Down Selling may sound counterintuitive. If their meter is going off, I want them to say “that’s BS.”
When I asked a recent audience of CEOs of companies ranging from $1 to $100 million to describe what they hate about stereotypical sales people, the list was priceless: Pushy, untrustworthy, lying, self-centered, slimy, … and then there were some really negative ones we can’t print. Mike, a CEO from a mid-sized manufacturing company said “lack of product knowledge.” Mike explained that lack of product knowledge was why his team was not reaching its potential.
In order to grow, organizations often invest in “sales training” in the form of product and services knowledge. The premise is that if your team learns every last feature and benefit of your products and services, that they will impress the prospects and overpower the competition. But, this old method doesn’t work. I explained to Mike that product knowledge was over-rated. He immediately called BS and said “I’m not buying it.” I asked Mike if he would give me the benefit of the doubt for 30 minutes for him to get on board as I explained the concept:
- It’s all at their fingertips: Just about anything about your products and services is readily available on the Internet. More importantly, much of the information may not come from your website. As a result, your clients can get just about everything they need about your products, services, customer experiences, and issues without ever speaking with anyone in your company. They may even know more than your reps. Get over it;
- They need a tailor: What your clients can’t easily decipher on their own is how your products and services fit their needs. Unless you like giving away free consulting and advice, you are wise to ask questions about unique requirements associated with their specific situation. Focus on their challenges instead of your features and benefits. There is a secondary benefit to asking about their situation;
- Their most important factor is how well you understand them: If you don’t take the time to understand their situation, you might suggest a fantastic solution… to someone else’s problem. If you want to stand out from the competition, do so by being the best at understanding you client’s situation, not your own features.
About 15 minutes into the explanation, Mike said (paying homage to Jerry Maguire) “you had me at hello.” Mike and several of his colleagues have asked me to deliver a full-day workshop for their teams later in May.
If your BS meter is going off, let me leave you with an exercise: Read your website and that of your top competition. Better yet, copy and paste the text without including the company names. Mix up the content, and ask members of your team to match the description to the company. See how often they match the competition to your company. The tune you and your competitors are singing might sound quite similar. On the other hand, you’ll create a memorable experience if your prospect feels that you know them well enough that you are singing a song just for them.
How do you use questions to stand out with your potential clients?