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People buy what they want not what they need!

A notably successful ad shows a hung over man who takes an ALKA-Seltzer and walks away looking refreshed and invigorated. For salespeople the question should be "what did the man buy". An ALKA-Seltzer many will reply. Those with a little better understanding may realize he bought the product of the product, relief from discomfort. This product of the product or principle buying motive is often referred to as the buying need. There is however a more powerful buying motive, even deeper than the need, that is the all-important...

Secret Buying Motive

This 'secret' is what the customer really wants. The man in the ALKA-Seltzer needed relief however he wanted to be able to feel good and get on with what he wanted to do or achieve.

Many will still argue that people only buy what they need... a question, how many TV's do you have in your house? or how many pairs of shoes do you own? If shoes were invented for foot protection and we can only wear one pair at a time why do we all have so many pairs? Because we WANT... cool feet, fashionable feet, sporty feet, smart feet, corporate feet, golfing feet, formal feet, outfit coordinated feet, or in other words we are really buying social acceptance. In the case of TV's, we may need to occupy the children or get away from the 'what we watch argument' with our spouse. Many will still say I need a second TV, however what they really want is the ability to take control of what they watch.

When salespeople understand that customer's inner wants are far more powerful motivators than their perceived needs its "yes sir, press hard, the third copy's yours". Again, if we bought motor vehicles only because we needed transport, no one would ever buy a Mercedes Benz. Important point - BUYERS CAN BE LIARS. Often buyers will give false reasons for buying and if sales staff cannot get to the real buying motive they may miss the sale. Mercedes Benz buyers may say, 'the only reason I buy a Mercedes is to keep the family', however if this were true why not a four wheel drive or a Volvo, both of which are cheaper and arguably safer.

People by nature will not come straight out and tell salespeople what they want from the product or service, salespeople need to develop a technique to uncover the truth. Perhaps they could carry a gun or bottle of truth serum however this could hamper the sale at the closing stage. What can salespeople do to find out what the potential customer (or prospect) really wants? There is only one way...

Ask Questions!

Good questioning technique is important (and powerful), as people are usually sceptical about what they are told but generally believe what they say. So if salespeople ask the right questions they increase their chances of uncovering the prospects real desires or wants plus have the prospect believe that they are credible and that the salespersons product information or sales claims are truthful.

Do your sales staff know how to ask a customer questions to find a mutually beneficial deal or do they just pitch, pitch, pitch?

Okay Richard you say as questions however how do I do that?

TIP 1: Asking permission to ask questions will work 99% of the time. A good start is to say... "In order to save you time and to ensure I fully understand your requirements, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

TIP 2: As a sales contact cannot be an interrogation, some polite a relationship building questions based on what you know about the prospect and his or her company are a wise start. How are you? How many people on your staff? How was your weekend? How long have you worked for XYZ? How's your whatever is appropriate.

TIP 3: Effective salespeople do their best (through research) to know what to ask to ensure that their questions will get the answers they want. Example - Don't ask about the last dealing the prospect had with your company without checking on the success or difficulties that have gone before.

TIP 4: Try to only ask questions that will get yes responses!!!!! For example If you were in the training business and you asked a prospective participant of a training course... 'have you filled out the nomination form I sent you yet' (and they were not intending to come)? You will evoke a NO response. Then if you follow with, 'is the reason you're not coming because you think the price is too expensive?' You will most likely get another NO as few people will admit they cannot afford something. Then you might ask... 'if we offer a special discount...' NO, 'will you change your mind if...' NO and on it goes. A more positive line of questioning would be... "Do you see improved effectiveness of your company as a key management responsibility?" The person you are talking to would have to be a very hard nosed individual to say anything other than YES (or a total idiot). Then perhaps, "do you, like most of us have a desire to get improved work results..." YES. "Are you as is the case with most successful managers often hampered by a lot to do and limited time"... YES. "Do you think that a four hour time saving per week would benefit to you in your business?" Obviously... YES. The follow with... "Then if I could show you how this course can save you four hours a week or one day a fortnight, would you be interested in talking to me further?" Once again you have a better chance for a YES and so it goes. If you start with a YES, you have more chance you have of finishing with a YES.

Product Knowledge is very Important... Product of the Product Knowledge, is CRUCIAL

People buy benefits not products!

Okay so how do I discover the real benefits of my product or service? The best way is to have sales staff complete a FEATURES/ADVANTAGES/BENEFITS analysis. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a feature as a - "distinctive or characteristic part of a thing" and an advantage as a - "better position, superiority, favorable circumstances". A benefit is defined as "do good to, receive benefit (by thing)".

Product features should be fairly obvious to anyone selling their product for more than a few weeks. If you have staff that has been selling a product for some time and they don't know its features you really should (no offence intended) advise them to change their profession. Acknowledging that some products are more complicated than others the fact remains we can't sell what we don't understand. Try to get some sense out of the average computer sales person and you will see what I mean.

Can your sales staff list down six to ten of the most important features of your best-understood product or service? Why not ask them just for fun? Then check that they only have features listed buy checking if what they have written qualifies under the Concise Oxford definition, i.e. is it a real product feature. Examples may be, it has two handles, it is conducted over 3 days, it has a 3-litre engine, it has river views, or it has a 800-megahertz Pentium II chip. Then have them give each of the features at least two advantages.  In the Pentium chip example the advantages could be, faster processing, quicker programme loading, superior movie viewing or quicker web browsing. The final step is to have them review the features and advantages in light of the definitions, think about what the benefit is and turn the advantages into real product/customer benefits. To do this it is best to line the three headings up side by side and turn the three categories into a sentence joining them with the words (feature) which means (advantage) which gives you (benefit). An example is... 'this computer has a 800-megahertz chip, which means, faster file processing, which gives you an increased work output over a shorter time period'. In the case of the two handled pot it could be 'this pot has two handles which means it is better balanced when being carried improving your chance of getting from A to B with out spilling the contents'. The three steps are essential to get to the real benefit.

People do things for their reasons not ours

If this is true (and it is), then it stands to reason that if we are going to make a sale to someone, we best find out his or her reasons for buying. One useful technique for doing this is to look at a useful motivation reference point that is common among many buyers.

Buying Criteria Guide:

                          S         -           Security/Safety
                             P         -           Performance/Power
                                  A         -           Availability/Appearance
                                      C         -           Comfort/Class
                                          E         -           Economy/Ecology
                                              D         -           Dependability/Durability 

These BENEFITS are often referred to as the SPACED benefits and with a little thought the criteria can be applied to all products and services.

*** Selling... we all do it... all of the time! ***

Nothing happens until somebody sells something

This is an often-overlooked fact of business life, or should I say all life. This important issue is particularly 'overlooked' & 'misunderstood', or at worst totally ignored by so called, 'non sales people'. To survive, let alone win in business it is important for all sections our organizations to understand that "selling is the key to all human activity and progress". The greatest idea, the best system improvement or even the technically superior product is of no value unless somebody buys it. Someone once said 'necessity is the mother of invention'... maybe, however with the ever-quickening pace of change and the globalisation of modern business, it is more important perhaps to understand that, "passion is the pusher of progress" and "desire is the deliverer of destiny". Whereas the necessity approach proposes that we only do what we have to do, the more important reality is that by nature, we constantly strive to do what we want to do. Unless we can convince all sections of our organization to passionately want to satisfy our customers and strengthen their desire to become the best in their field, someone else is likely to fulfil 'our destiny'.

All staff need to understand and subscribe to the notion that human progress... and of course personal progress, is directly related to our ability to sell. To illustrate... what would happen if we could not sell the busy shopkeeper on the idea of serving us next?... we could well starve to death, or if we could not sell the idea to other motorists of allowing us to join the traffic flow when merging on the highway?... we would be late for work so often we would lose our job. What if we could not sell the attractive person next door, or the next city, or even the next country on the idea of marrying us?... there would be no children to look after us in our old age. Selling is with us all... all of the time, in every move we make.

When was the last time you could not sell an idea to your staff, the boss or the board? How much time is devoted to teaching your staff to sell? When was the last time your sales staff read a book on selling? Did you know that a major motor company dramatically increased its sales of aftermarket add-ons and service products by teaching its mechanics how to sell? Particularly in these less certain times of rapidly shifting fortunes, maybe the old adage "the sales department is not the whole company but the whole company had better be the sales department", is more appropriate than ever!

Copyright Orglearn - Richard Townsend 2008-2014