Selling the benefits

A sales assistant explains the benefits offered by a specific piece of tech.

Successful selling requires you showing your customers how your product meets their needs. Highlighting your product's benefits in quantifiable terms is more likely to result in a sale than simply describing its features

"A feature is simply a characteristic of your product or service, such as a kettle with a 2000-watt heating ring," explains Guy Aston, SME director at sales training company Huthwaite International.

"A feature should offer benefits - a true solution to a specific need," he continues. "In this case, the kettle can boil water in less than 60 seconds. So if a cafe owner can't make tea fast enough, your rapid-boiling kettle will solve their need."

How can you work out your product's key benefits? First, identify the customers' needs. "Look at your product as a solution and understand what issues it addresses," Aston explains. "If you're selling aspirin, you need to find people with headaches and talk to them."

Bryan McCrae, director at consultancy firm Cognitive Sales Consulting, agrees. "Carry out market research and seek to understand your customers. What are their top three problems? What is the effect of these problems on their business or life? Once you understand these you can position your product or service."

To understand how to exploit these benefits as a sales tool, McCrae recommends putting yourself into your customers' shoes. "Ask 'so what?' to each benefit and then make sure that the answer illustrates how your product's benefits can help solve a problem."

Sales techniques

Before you start talking about your own product, it is crucial to ensure that the customer understands all of their needs and what would best solve them. "Make your customer verbalise their needs" advises Aston. "You know what problems your product will solve, so ask if they are experiencing these problems. Then explore the solutions that your product offers and how fixing problems would help their business. Only at that point can you get them to see, very clearly, that you have the solution."

Another important factor is to quantify the benefits you are offering, especially if you can tie this in with testimonials from satisfied customers. "Money talks," says Aston. "Quantifying the benefits of your service by using a satisfied-customer case study as evidence is incredibly powerful."

For example, if you can prove that your roof insulation materials have saved a customer £600 on heating bills over two years, and they only cost them £200 to buy and fit, then potential customers are much more likely to listen to you.

In addition, it is important to differentiate yourself from your competitors. As McCrae explains: "You must be ready to answer the question 'why should I buy your product rather than your competitor's product?'. If you don't have at least three reasons, based on quantifiable benefits your product offers, then why on earth should they buy from you?" he concludes.

Five tips for making more sales

Do you sometimes feel that you have let a sale slip through your fingers? If so, you are not alone. Sometimes it's a simple as re-framing the sales proposition.

1. Everyone wins

A better deal for you doesn't have to mean a worse deal for the other party. Work on the basis that there is a deal to be done that is better for both parties - an 'I win, you win' deal. For example, you might be able to clear older stock to a customer who doesn't have sufficient budget for the latest model. You clear your old stock and the client gets a product that still satisfies their requirements - without blowing their budget.

2. Be flexible

Make sure you understand and explore your client's problems, situation and pressures. Once you know this, you will have a better understanding of the benefits or add-ons that will be of most value to the customer and which can help convert an interested party into a sale. Does it help if you offer express delivery, extend payment terms or create a custom option for the client? Explore all the options that you can think of.

3. Make a trade off

Develop concessions you can trade. Work out in advance what aspects of the deal are essential for you and where there is room for manoeuvre, together with the value of those concessions. Can you lower the unit price in exchange for bulk orders? The perceived value of your concession may be higher to the other party.

4. Draw a line

Know your bottom line. You MUST work out in advance where your bottom line is and be prepared to walk away from the deal if it doesn't at least meet it - just knowing this yourself will give you the confidence, body language and tone of voice that will in itself translate into better deals.

5. Think long term

You will find that applying these ideas will improve your deals and both parties walk away happier - which is of course the best basis for building long lasting business relationships.

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