In last week’s blog “What type of Pencil do you use”, we mentioned the sales process. To refresh your memory, we wrote:
“Sales come to those that have something someone needed when they needed it. They offered value, a solution to a problem, a service that was missing. Success comes when you rinse and repeat.”
Today let’s look at the actual formula you can use for any type of selling process. These are the 3 factors or variables in the formula. It does not matter if this is a simple consumer product or a complex custom engineering solution. Remember these 3 steps, fine-tune them, and you can ‘rinse and repeat your way to success.
Problem + Promise + Path = Sale
If you are offering a new product or service to the market, it must answer a problem that the buyer is having. In some cases, the buyer might not even know they have a problem until you point it out. Convenience products, things that make a process easier, come to mind for such new products. We didn’t know we had a music problem until MP3 players (iPods) came out. We would simply put the CDs in the player, and we had music, but when we had all of our CDs that fit in our pocket - that was a game-changer. We also didn’t know we had a problem carrying a phone and an iPod in 2 different pockets until BAM - the iPhone combined them.
In the industrial sales process the problems might be a little bit harder to define. If your product or service does the same thing as your competition, where is your advantage? Can you make them faster, solve logistics issues, package them more conveniently, extend different payment options, or provide longer-lasting tooling? Where can you add value to the buyer? Can you identify a problem that they don’t know they have?
We can wash our clothes in the sink, or we can set the timer on the new front-loading washer and it can run while we are out to dinner. By the way, when they develop a dryer that can fold and put them away, I am all in!
As an entrepreneur look here first. What problems exist in the marketplace, and how can you develop something that solves it. Not only do you need to identify that there is a problem, but you must also convince the buyer that they have it - that is Step 1. How do you do that? Through your marketing, communications, messaging, and advertising. This is the first step in demand creation.
Between steps one and two you have your operation. R&D, product development, prototype, test, and manufacturing. The purpose of all these departments is to develop the ‘answer’ to the problem. This is the promise you are going to make to the customer.
Some of our seasoned sales professionals reading this will remember the term “selling the sizzle”. That is the promise. When GE or Whirlpool announce that they have a new dryer/robot that will remove my clothes from the washer, dry, hang, and put all my clean stuff away - that is the promise! The promise is the sizzle.
Apple promised we could carry our entire music library in our pocket. And we could. Chrysler promised we could take our entire family comfortably on a trip, and the Caravan did that. Elon Musk promised we could drive without gas - and that was when gas was $2.00 a gallon - the problem is bigger now.
Look at the products you purchase. Why do you buy them? What made you purchase them the first time? You had a need (or want). There was something that you had to have. Even if it was your first car that you bought for $500 to get you back and forth to work and school - your problem was cheap transportation - the promise was filled when you saw that advertisement that met your budget.
What is the promise that you are making to the buyer? What problem is being solved? Why are they coming to you instead of your competitor, or why is your competitor getting more business than you? Promise not only includes features and benefits of how they fix problems but also trust and integrity that your company’s brand is stronger than the others.
Quick side story. Right after my wife and I got married, she asked that I go up to the corner store and get some medicine for her headache. I came back with Tylenol, and she quickly informed me that I could save a lot of money by purchasing the generic. Fast forward 2-years and our daughter had a tooth coming in and the Doctor said it was okay to use some type of pain med. I came home with the generic (as I had been trained to do) and immediately got an earful about buying nothing but the best and got back to the store to get Tylenol. Same problem, but a different promise. The generic is okay for me, but we really should only trust the name brand for our daughter.
What promises can you make about your product or service? Do you have any intangibles that add value to your promise?
Now that you have problems and promises defined the final step is the path to the purchase. This is the step that many companies underestimate. As a business coach, I have heard many business leaders say something like; “I’ve built the best mousetrap, the buyer will find us”.
The path is more than your distribution system. It is the buy-in phase of the consumer. They have agreed that they have a problem, and they also know that your product promises to remove that problem. What needs to be done from this point on is the path.
- Click here before the end of the month to get 10% off
- Go to this brick and mortar
- Place a 25% deposit
- Apply for this credit amount
- Call the 800 number
This is where we objectively identify what needs to be done, and by whom, to implement this process. You and your client must agree on an implementation program. Each task of the process must be identified, and an owner assigned. That owner needs to commit that it will be done on time. This is the buy-in phase. It is here that your client takes ownership of the solution.
If that new fold my clothes dryer requires me to add 500 square feet to handle the conveyor belt, it is asking even too much from me. If that new Electric Vehicle that you want to plug in at night requires a $2,500 configuration and an electrician to install it, the path might be an obstacle course.
In the industrial sales world, the path may be more complex, but it is still a path. Provide engineering drawings, agree to the product specifications, design freeze dates, lead times, validation plans, performance agreements, and a host of other commitments both sides need to make. The path must not only be agreed upon, but we also need to consider the amount of effort we are asking of the purchaser. Is your sizzle worth extra effort? Are your terms and conditions so strict that it makes the path unbearable?
Apple is often given kudos for the user-friendly nature of its products. They come to you without instructions. Open the box, plug them in, and they are ready to go. That is the path of least resistance.
I am looking at purchasing a new grill. Will I buy one for $50 less that I have to assemble on my own? Or will I go to the store that offers assembly and delivery? Which path will be the one I choose? Agreed - my path is different than my neighbors (if you haven’t figured it out, I’m paying the extra $50). Apple products are more expensive than their competition - but their promise is worth it according to me and millions of others.
If your sales are not where they should be, please begin by reviewing these 3 steps. Do a deep dive to find out which step you are not meeting. Where are you falling short?
It can be a simple 1-2-3, or a complex multi-year sales process. If you are having a tough time identifying where the problem is, give us a call at Kole Performance Group. It’s hard work today, but it will lead to a better tomorrow.