Godfather of Growth: Stop Telling and Start Selling – How to Get More Action in Your Turf

Delivering ValueCiao amici.  It’s good to see you again. For those of you who have joined us for the first time, organizations in the know call me The Godfather of Growth. Each month, I’ll be writing about experiences I am having with Silicon Bayou companies just like yours – how to grow sales, manage your people and take your business from a small operation into one that the other capos will look at with envy. So grab a double espresso and listen up.

This month we are going to talk about selling versus telling. I see too many companies who think they are doing a good job communicating what their products do. But here’s the rub, almost all of these companies aren’t being as effective as they could be when they get a chance to meet with a customer. They tell me that they are puzzled as to why they aren’t selling more. It is a common problem.

The reason it is such a common problem is that too many organizations think their product should be have the starring role. I hear something like this more often than I’d like: “Our product is built on the latest cloud-computing technology giving you access to a wide variety of applications that you can run from any browser anywhere – yadda, yadda, yadda.” Then the litany continues with a list of cool features.  Meanwhile the customer is thinking about the business problems that need to be solved and, unless they are technologically savvy, they are not connecting the dots as to how your products helps them so they are not compelled to act or even get excited about what you offer. This is a classic case of telling and not selling.

Here’s my first piece of advice: People don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. If you were paying attention last month, you probably remember that I quoted Paul Wiefels who wrote The Chasm Companion:  “Don’t confuse your compelling reason to sell with the customer’s compelling reason to buy.” You need to remember this which is why I’m telling you twice. Too many organizations focus on features and technology. Stop telling prospective customers about your product and technology. In the mind of your customers, they play a supporting role. Spend more understanding your customer’s business problems then sell impact not features. Sell them on how you can help them solve their problems, don’t tell them how great your product is technology is. For the technologically-minded business owner this can be difficult. When you’ve been invested heart and soul in your product and its functionality and seen it grow from an idea into reality, it can be hard to see what your product does from your customer’s perspective.  If you need help with this, let me know after this session and we can arrange for a more a private meeting.

So if people are buying solutions to problems, what is the best way to make them connect the dots and feel compelled to act? Sell business value to your ultimate buyer. This can be especially powerful if you can quantify the upside. Let me give you an example. I was providing assistance to a company who is taking speech recognition technology into healthcare. I got involved when they had only six customers. While the company had a compelling product, they weren’t selling much. When I looked at their presentations, web page and other sales materials, the messaging focused on technology: “our product is built on a mobile, cloud-based architecture” and features “our key-word speech recognition algorithm makes it easy to search a huge database of medical diagnoses.” Almost all of what they said focused on how the product worked and how a feature delivered a benefit.  They made two classic mistakes. The first was that they were talking about things that the users would experience when using their product. Users can provide influence but, more times than not, they aren’t making the buying decision. The second mistake was this – since the system they sold was expensive, no deal went forward without senior executive involvement. Here, my friends, was the disconnect.  The organization was selling features and benefits to users but their ultimate buyers wanted to buy improvements to revenue and profit.  We changed their approach to focus on how their system could deliver more revenue and profit. This approach got the executives attention and gave the users that supported the use of the product justification for a purchase.

So as we wrap up, here are a few things to think about.  Are you clearly articulating the value gained by solving the ultimate buyer’s problems? As we’ve discussed, too many organizations are telling the users about their product and instead of selling business impact to the ultimate buyer. Is it easy for the ultimate buyer to connect the dots between your product and what it means to them quantifiably? When I ask my clients this question, practically all of them say, “Yes”. The problem is most are stopping short of what the real value to the customer is and are often selling benefits but not value.

That’s all we have time for this month. Remember if you need my help in a situation, you can find me at dlazzari@deliveringvalue.com. You can also call me at 412-973-8909 but be careful what you say because you never know who’s listening.

Ciao for now my friends.