There is a difference between selling something and helping someone buy what they want or need. Frankly, I don’t like to be sold to . . . but I love it when people help me buy. What’s the difference? To me, it’s a matter of perspective.
Selling usually means that the sales person is pushing their own agenda first. He or she is more intent on showing you features and supposed benefits of the product or service that they put that effort front and center. The product or service or perhaps even the sales person themselves are the central point of the conversation. The conversation is about the product with the hope that the features and benefits meet the customer’s needs.
On the other hand, when someone is helping me buy, my needs as a customer are the central point of the conversation. The benefits of the product or service are discussed only in relation to how they might meet my needs. There are questions about what I, as the customer, am looking for and what is important to me.
Is this selfish on my part? Maybe, but since I’m the one spending the money then perhaps it is justified selfishness.
I recently ordered a new chair for my office and the “product specialist” (which is the title on his business card) that I dealt with was simply excellent. His focus was on meeting my needs and why the superior quality of the product he offered was important to doing so. As I tried several models, he adjusted each so that I got the best feel for that particular one. When I said that I preferred one over another he asked why and made some observations about the reasons one felt better to me.
When offered the option of picking it up at the store or having it delivered, I chose to pick it up because I wanted his personal attention in making sure that it was fully adjusted and fit perfectly when I got it home. His personal attention and knowledge were part of the value proposition he offered and were important to me as I made a decision.
If someone truly has a need that your product or service can fill, the process should be about helping them understand how your offering meets their needs not just random facts about the product or service hoping that one or more hit the mark. Seek to understand their issues, needs and desires.
If I think back about any reasonably significant purchase I’ve ever made, the person who ultimately ended up with the deal provided valuable information that gave me sufficient confidence that my selection was a good one.
When I purchased a new car last year, I bought it from a dealer who went out of his way to find exactly what I wanted. He said, “We know you’ll hold onto your next car for a while and that you don’t trade them every two years, so we want to find you the exact car that you want”. Others had tried to sell me what was on their lot that day.
But even small items can benefit from this approach. In the middle of writing this I ran out to a local wine shop because I was out of coffee (yes, the wine shop carries my favorite coffee). The sales person suggested I might like another blend in the same brand so I walked out with two bags instead of one. He had taken a moment to ask me about my preferences so it was easy for him to make a suggestion. I drove past a few stores on my way to this one due to their service. I can pick up that bag of coffee in multiple places, but the service in this store is go great I go out of my way to buy from them.
Think about the approach in your organization. Is it your product or service at the center of the discussion or the customer’s needs? I know which approach I prefer!
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
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