The Product We Sell

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If someone asked you what you sell, what would you say? Oil, chemicals, whatever product you sell, right? We really sell something so much bigger than the products and services our customers pay us for. In small dollar sales the customer is less conscious of value. With larger sales, the product and the resulting relationship with the buyer are harder to separate…so you are selling yourself.

What makes up a relationship that adds value to your products? Our credibility, reliability, and anticipation of customer needs are the keys to a successful relationship. Our credibility comes from every action a customer sees. We have the opportunity of gaining or losing credibility with each promise we make to a customer.

Our integrity is the most unique and valuable product we can offer. If you are in sales for the long haul (and why wouldn't you be?), this is the product that ALL customers WANT to buy. We all know examples of salespeople who over promise and under deliver. These people make it harder for us to do our jobs. It's sad when a salesperson fails to say, “I don't know” if that's the case, rather than pull a fast one on the customer. It's perfectly acceptable to say, “I don't know.” Then you follow up with, “but, I will find out.” When you do, you have enhanced your credibility.

Every customer values reliability. Nothing is worse to a customer than dealing with the unexpected. When you say you will find out, you earn more relationship value points. Tell your customer when you will get back with him, but do it faster than you promised! Know what's important to each one of your customers. Treat everything you say as a sacred promise to your customer. Returning phone calls, sending information, following up on details are all part of the promises you are obligated to keep.

Needs are different for each type of account. What is important to an end user might be different for a distributor. Do you know what is important to your customers? Have you asked them? You should understand the critical issues for each type of your customers. You must anticipate the needs of your customers and provide what they value. When you know what is important to them, you can help them meet their business needs. On time deliveries are especially critical for manufacturing facilities where downtime is expensive. However, a jobber might have more inventory on hand and can be more flexible. If the jobber's inventory is low, on time delivery becomes his critical issue very quickly!

If you believe your product is all you sell, then you're making it harder for yourself to get business. Your prospects can buy your product from many other suppliers. With specs being tougher to meet, more and more products are becoming harder for customers to distinguish. Understanding what you really sell will help you increase your sales while you create stronger business relationships. So what are you selling?

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Selling. Copyright Maura Schreier-Fleming

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