By Bruce Wedderburn, EVP Sales, Huthwaite on April 25, 2014
They’re familiar requests that we are hearing more and more: How do we increase profitable revenue per account by leveraging our current relationships? And, how do we introduce additional solutions and redefine our brand beyond that product for which we have traditionally been known?
Here are some examples of companies successfully doing this:
One of the world’s largest ICT organizations that has achieved tremendous growth in the past being a Cisco equipment reseller with accompanying services sees its future growth being fueled by flipping that equation and becoming a services-led company.
A leading IT consulting firm is pioneering the use of Google Glass to redefine its value proposition to its insurance and financial services clients.
The world’s leading aircraft manufacturer, in response to intense competition for airplane sales, is further expanding its value proposition by providing cutting-edge software that allows airlines to better coordinate flights, personnel and other resources.
As margins are being driven out of traditional product lines through commoditization and cut-throat competition, organizations like those above are looking to creatively bundle services and products to expand their client footprint. At the same time, they’re driving greater differentiation and increased customer value, one customer and one conversation at a time.
However, there are hidden traps that your sales teams will face when attempting a similar strategy. The following tips will help you to avoid some longstanding traps that await you:
Listen, don’t describe. A common trap is to try and impress your customers with the full range of services or products that you can offer them. This approach is based on the flawed assumption that your customer is mentally at a place where they will see value in this product information. It’s OK to discuss your offerings, but do so in the context of what your customer is looking to fix, solve or achieve.
Deliver insights, not product information. Your customer may not yet see the potential challenges or opportunities that your solutions can address. This is where you can add tremendous value to your customer and differentiate yourself. Help them see unrecognized problems or unforeseen opportunities that can impact their division, their results or themselves personally. Help them see the downsides of inaction and the improved outcomes that can come from making a change. Once they internalize this they will see greater value in what you have to offer.
Master your questioning skills. Be a consultant, not a product pitcher. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to “teach” your customers about their business, which is a slippery slope to back to product description. You may be waiting for the chance to tell the VP of HR, “The complexity of the new health care regulations will result in your team being overwhelmed and having to neglect their other duties, which will increase costs due to delays in hiring and errors in benefit administration.” Instead, you will get a much more compelling outcome if you help your customer arrive at these conclusions through effective questioning such as, “What concerns do you have about the complexity of the new regulations and the impact on your team? How much additional time do you anticipate they will need to dedicate to administering the plan? Will that take them away from other duties? Which ones may be most affected? Do you foresee this having an impact on your hiring plans? What will that mean to the business in terms of potential lost productivity?” Don’t just present your ideas, but involve your customer in a conversation and she will be far more willing to see the points you would like to make.
Despite all of the advances in marketing and technology, successfully expanding your reach in your client base still happens one conversation at a time. Don’t waste these chances. Make sure you are maximizing every opportunity you have to make an impact.