It is universally recognized that sales professionals should never enter a sales call spewing the features and advantages of their products or services. That “spray ‘n pray” sales mode was (rightfully) cast out long ago. And yet, it still happens every single day. If we are honest, we can all recall a recent occasion when we launched too quickly into product-presentation mode, without completing a thorough exploratory process or understanding the customer’s need.
Maybe if we fully understood the price associated with premature product talk, we would show better restraint. The most widely recognized risk of leading with product info is that, without insight from the customer, we have no idea if our solution will have value or not. In other words, it’s a risky approach because we don’t know if our solution hits the mark for the customer. But the damage is much broader than selling with a blind spot. Consider these costs of leading with products/solutions:
- We immediately position ourselves as self-focused versus customer-focused, making us much less likeable and making it much more difficult to establish trust in the relationship with the customer.
- With so much attention on our solution, we minimize the value we add to the equation. Product information can be obtained online. If we are simply reciting product brochures, the customer doesn’t need us in the equation and is less likely to respect our input later.
- The less value added by the sales professional, the more focus is placed on price.
- It is much more difficult to connect product features to customer benefits, and the connection is more appropriately attributed to coincidence than any expertise the sales professional brings to the table. After all, when solutions are “pitched” before the customer has shared his/her needs, how can we claim a role in the alignment?
All of these costs culminate in a climate not at all conducive to a productive, long-term customer relationship or to establishing ourselves as trusted and valued advisors. And this gets to the heart of the issue. The sales professional who leads with products/services is focused on making a sale that day rather than on cultivating a long-term relationship and becoming an invaluable asset to the customer. If we keep our focus where it should be, our actions will naturally follow a better path.