Too often we believe that customers are strictly price driven, but have we considered that they may not know what other factors to consider when making buying decisions on the products and services you sell? Do you strictly talk about your physical product/service, or do you create a visual of the IMPACT your product or service will have on their business today, 3 months from today and a year down the road? The truth is if you create an ongoing stream of business productivity knowledge for your customers and prospects, you will significantly increase sales, differentiate yourself from the competition, and create long-term loyal customers.
I have been hired to conduct sales training for a variety of industries, and here I’d like to share an example of what I’m talking about in regards to “Knowledge Centered Selling”. I had been asked to hold sales training sessions for a group of “copier” salesmen. We first tackled the best way to pick up more business from current clients, so I asked the question, “What are you really selling?” “The answer is NOT copies.”
What they are selling is increased productivity gains, leading to a more efficient and profitable business. Our goal was to make sure the client understood this. After a new copier was placed, the dealer sent a follow up letter explaining the finer tips of maintenance. A few weeks later a fax was sent with details on efficient methods of keeping files organized. A month later a CD was mailed on how to run an office by check list, with templates included. We sent information on how to go paperless overnight. Every 20 days some form of Knowledge Centered Selling on running a better business was sent to the customer. Most of the knowledge had very little to do with the copier, BUT, the company increased sales to existing customers by 56% over the next 12 months.
The salesmen realized that if their customers believe they are buying a “box”, they are going to try to buy that “box” as cheap as possible. On the other hand, if their customers perceive they are buying huge productivity gains, while gaining a valued business advisor, the next sale is a slam dunk and the relationship cemented.
Having completed our current client campaign, we moved on to the Knowledge Centered Selling concept for prospective customers. I explained that when a competitor is entrenched in a good account, there are two options available for getting the account to come your way. The most common is to cut prices to a point where profit margins are very slim. This is pretty short sighted for long term business health. Instead, I recommended the second method. Develop a series of informative letters similar to the ones going out to current buyers. I told them to limit the sales points about their equipment to one out of every three or four contacts. By teaching the prospect how to solve the office productivity problems in their company, the copier salesmen set themselves up as the “go to people” to solve office problems. They soon learned that even when a prospect did not buy, they received a much warmer reception and the prospect was a lot more forthcoming during the sales process. At the end of 12 months, the company experienced an increase in client base of 34%, not to mention the increased commissions paid out to the salesmen.
You may be asking, “But KC how can I create a pertinent information flow, when this is not my thing?” Creating the ongoing information flow can be accomplished two ways. First you can start clipping magazine articles, internet postings and excerpts from books that you personally found valuable. Have a staff member use these as guidelines for putting together helpful hints and tips. The second method is to call upon someone who has developed a complete Knowledge Centered Selling program in your industry and license the use of their program in your market. If you wish to create audio CDs (one of my favorite methods for touching customers) you can simply record productive ideas onto CD. Be sure to use a professional recording studio and put the knowledge in story format.
In summary, the more informed my customers are about my products and the impact they can produce in productivity gains, lifestyle, etc., the more likely they are to buy the real features they want and need. The more knowledgeable your prospect or client, the more they will buy from you.
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