The Selling Newsletter
A free monthly newsletter of ideas to help make your selling easier.
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»The Selling Quote for the Month
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»About Maura Schreier-Fleming
1. The Selling Quote for the Month
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” – Aristotle
Are you selling products and services? Or are you selling how your products and services help your customers make better business decisions? If you sell the former you’re very vulnerable to your competition. If you want to sell the latter and keep your customers, you have to think and sell strategically. Here’s how.
Who’s on first? Jim Webb is currently a Partner with The Galt Group (https://cl.exct.net/?ffcd16-fe56157473650d747012-fe2610707066037a721174). Webb’s past consulting experience included leadership roles with the strategy consulting practices of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and EDS AT Kearney. Webb says to help your customers make better business decisions you have to first understand their long term objectives and their strategies for getting there. He adds, “Understand that the term “strategy” means different things to different people. It’s important to determine if a department’s strategy is aligned with the company strategy. What you’re looking for is congruence or conflict between departments. Ask questions like â€˜How does your department contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the company?’ or â€˜How effective are you in your current programs?’ or â€˜Do you conflict with other departments?'”
Webb has found that in some companies the marketing department has one strategy while the engineering department has another. Functional strategies (such as marketing, production, or even technology) can sometimes work at cross purposes. For example, marketing departments want to maximize sales by keeping the price down while the engineering department wants to add costly features. Webb advises when you hear this dichotomy on the department level to address it there. If you wait until you present your idea on improvement at the executive level, your idea may get shot down amongst all of the infighting.
What’s on the horizon? Adding value is the next step to sell strategically. You’ll need to know the company’s strategic horizon. The strategic horizon is the answer to the question â€˜How far in the future are you making plans?’ Strategic horizons vary by industry. The high-tech industry could have a 6 month to 18 month strategic horizon. The automobile industry has a 5 year strategic horizon; consumer products less than a year to 2 to 3 years; electronic consumer goods 2-3 years. Your job is to see how your products and services improve your customer’s business in the strategic horizon.
One way to determine the strategic business issues, trends and problems that will impact your customer’s business is to read industry trade journals and The Wall Street Journal. You can also go to local trade association meetings where you can meet industry members. Business professionals will talk more openly when they’re in a comfortable setting. Webb recommends also calling your customers’ suppliers and customers to get their perspective of your customer. That information is invaluable as you may be able to feed your prospect valuable information he can use to both look good as an individual and also improve business.
Once you determine the strategic issues, you can also ask your customer, “How is this (trend) going to impact your business? How can I help you?” Your research might show that competition is going in one direction and your customer is going in a different direction. By pointing this out to your customer you are now a business advisor, not a salesman. With the information you gather, your job is to show your customer how your product or service will help get them where they want to be. You have shifted from selling products and services to being viewed as a person who improves their business.
Tell the whole story. Webb advises to gather both facts and emotions when you present your solution,. Depending on your audience, they might be more comfortable with facts or feelings when you present your proposal. A fact is that your product will save $X. An emotion is that Joe in scheduling is so stressed out and your product will help make his job easier.
To sell on a strategic level you must understand your customer’s business, know where it’s going and advise how to help get there. It’s hard work. It will pay off when you and your products are no longer perceived as a commodity. You’ve accomplished this when purchasing can only substitute you and your products with a supplier who is a trusted advisor. How many of your competitors could respond to that request for proposal?
What do you do that makes you successful? What advice would you give another salesperson? Send me your tip and I’ll share it with everyone who responds.
I’m always looking for success stories and other tips from sales professionals. Please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas that have worked for you. To thank you, you’ll receive a free subscription to The Selling E-Letter™, a bi-monthly selling newsletter. ($50 value)
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Maura Schreier-Fleming works with business and sales professionals to make it easier to sell more and be more productive at work. Her [email protected] clients want to create long-term client relationships. They include Fujitsu, Fannie Mae and Dr Pepper/7UP. She has an M.S. in Textile Engineering from Georgia Tech and was Mobil Oil’s first female lubrication engineer in the U.S. With over 20 years of sales experience, she teaches the art and science of selling with a unique hands-on perspective and a great deal of real-life insight. She is the author of Real-World Selling for Out-of-this-World Results (a book filled with ideas to make selling easier and more productive. Her business column ‘Selling Strategies’ appears in theInsurance Record magazine and her column ‘Street Talk’ appears in Jobbers World. You can contact her for seminars at company or trade association meetings at 972 380 0200 orinfo@BestatSelling.com
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