Maybe I’m getting old and grumpy, but I find myself getting tired of listening to salespeople who don’t know what they’re selling. Oh, they know their product or service alright – it’s just that I’m not buying a product or a service. I’m buying the product of the product: BENEFITS. And too many salespeople are forgetting this.
Recently my partner Lorraine and I were cornered by a salesman at a car dealership where we were looking for a van. After taking virtually no time to qualify us, he showered us with a series of facts about the van that we had been looking at but had no interest in. I was interested, however, in his selling techniques, such as they were.
At one point during his one-sided dissertation, he stated that the van had seven coats of paint. Lorraine, who can sometimes be the “customer from hell,” pleasantly asked, “What does that mean to us?” The salesman paused and said, “I don’t know, but they told us to say that.”
I don’t know who should be shot first – the salesman, his sales manager, or the sales trainer who left this gem with the fellow.
It turns out the benefit is that if you get some scratches on your vehicle, they won’t show as much. So, the salesman could have said something like, “This van has seven coats of paint which means that minor scratches and stone damage won’t be as visible and your van’s going to stay looking good.”
I wish that this was an isolated incident, but it isn’t. Too many salespeople aren’t in tune with their prospects. They forget that everyone listens to radio station WIFM-FM – “What’s In it For Me – FOR ME!”
So how can you avoid this trap? By asking yourself the same question your prospect is silently asking after you’ve given a fact about your product or service: “So what?”
Think about it for a minute. How often have you, as a buyer, found yourself working to turn a fact that a salesperson just gave you into a personal benefit?
The salesperson says, “This stove has a self-clean oven.” Now you have to provide the “so what” which is probably that it will eliminate valuable time being spent cleaning a messy oven. Then there’s the real estate agent who tells you that the house has two bathrooms without pointing out that it will minimize morning line-ups. Or the clothing salesperson who tells you that the suit is 100% wool without pointing out the wrinkle resistant properties and the benefits to you when traveling.
Many salespeople feel that the benefits are obvious, and they would be insulting the prospect by pointing them out. While the benefits might be obvious to you, they aren’t always to the prospect. So, don’t make your prospect work for it.
Always Sell the Benefit
As a sales professional, you have to make sure that you are always selling the BENEFIT. After giving a fact about your product/service, immediately ask yourself “so what?” and then answer that question, out loud, for your prospect. If you can’t think of a response to “so what,” you probably shouldn’t have brought up that fact in the first place.
One way to train yourself to sell benefits is to use bridges. Bridges are transitional phrases such as “which means… therefore… so that.” They bridge from the fact to the benefit. For example, if you add the bridge “which means” to the fact “This car has air conditioning,” you are forced to add a benefit. If you don’t, you end up saying, “This car has air conditioning which means…” and you look a bit dumb. So what should come out is something like this: “This car has air conditioning which means that on those hot, humid summer days you’ll arrive at your sales calls looking good and feeling good!” Makes sense doesn’t it.
Unfortunately, not enough salespeople are making sense to their prospects. Like the van salesman mentioned earlier, too many salespeople don’t really understand the benefits of their products or service.
Here’s a good exercise to do. On a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle, write “facts” at the top of one column and “benefits” on the other. Now jot down a basic fact about your product/service and write down as many benefits as you can think of for that one fact. A tip: Despite what you may think, “it will save money” is NOT a benefit. What the prospect can do with the saved money is the benefit.
This exercise is not as easy as it looks. When we do this as a group exercise with our clients, it often takes a fair amount of time until the staff understands what it is they are really selling. Too often they confuse benefits with facts and end up giving the prospect a fact followed by another fact instead of a benefit.
You can enhance your professionalism as a salesperson and increase your sales by doing three things:
(1) make sure you are really familiar with the benefits of your product or service,
(2) after every fact you give your prospect, add a verbal bridge and,
(3) answer the question: “SO WHAT?”