Having spent my career in sales, management, and training I am often asked this question. In this article I will discuss one important aspect of sales skills. Instead of asking how people sell, let’s look at how people buy. Understanding how customers buy translates into a selling style tailored to the customer’s need.
I was in the market for a new TV. We have had good luck with a certain brand, so I was looking at the various sizes and models. I knew the size I wanted, but the nomenclature for model names were confusing and the prices varied, so off to the store I went. I talked to a salesperson who described the models in technical terms, none of which I understood. How was I going to decide? Well, price was a factor but even in the ideal range there were several choices. I decided to give them the eye test. I looked at the pictures and determined which one, in my opinion was the sharpest, had the best color and was smart.
I did not choose the model because it was LED, or had a certain number of pixels, or a high degree of resolution. I chose this model because of the way it made me feel. Most of us do not understand the electronics of television. What we do understand is the picture. We also understand how easily it connects to other devices like Alexa and streaming services. I bought this TV because of the benefits rather than the features.
All products have features, these are technical specifications like material used, method of manufacture, weight and number of pixels. All too often salespeople focus on product features. What salespeople should be focusing on are the benefits of the product.
“This car is equipped with all-wheel drive, which means you will have great traction and control in all driving conditions; an important safety feature.”
“These knives are titanium, which means they will not scratch, bend, or break; they will always stay sharp.”
Of course, features are important, so a good salesperson should know the features so they can explain why the knife never needs sharpening or why a car has good traction. A feature becomes important only when the customer understands what that feature means to them. In other words, we buy benefits. We buy products because of how they make us feel or how they solve a problem.
It doesn’t matter what you are selling, know your product’s benefits. In a sales situation you ask your customer what they are trying to do. What problem are they looking to solve? For example, a customer walks into your store and says they need a new vacuum cleaner. Your task is to discover what they are seeking. They may say they want a cordless vacuum that picks up everything and works on all surfaces. This information is what you need to guide them to the solution – your product. Note they did not ask about horsepower, battery life, or other feature-related questions. They are interested in benefits.
For more information or to improve your selling skills contact SCORE Bucks County for free, confidential mentoring on all areas of business.
David Boster is Chairman of SCORE Bucks County and is a volunteer and certified mentor. In his professional career, he worked as the Director of Marketing and Sales for laboratory equipment companies. For 30 years he trained and managed sales associates.