Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not Features, Benefits

While at a client going over some sales and marketing stuff, we were working on the USP (unique sales proposition, the Compelling Offer, the Differentiator). the service offering has great features, no doubt, but they were Features. Clients need Benefits, like cost or time savings. The Compelling Offer has to be able to crack the ice.

All too often in telecom, the marketing folks think that the Features are All. The features are the ammunition used by sales folks to put band-aids on client pain. That's what sales is after all: Uncovering the Pain. Once you uncover the pain, you can prescribe the medicine: your service.

Features are also used to handle Objections.

All of this, precluded your sales folks getting an appointment or getting an audience with a prospective decision maker. Getting by the Gatekeeper. That's the tough part. (Many books have been written about it by Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Keith Rosen, etc. In fact, this 90 second video on YouTube by Hopkins sums up sales). Then you have to have pre-prepared questions to ask the decision maker so that he can tell you his pain. (You should be doing twice as much listening as talking, that's why sales people have 2 ears and one mouth! Sales is not puking your brochure or marketing spiel or sales pitch at the guy. It's asking open ended questions, like How vital is Internet access to your business? Do you take orders by email, or efax or over the web? What would down time cost you? Have you experienced any down time with your current provider?

Now, sales is about waiting for him to answer then telling him everything about your company or service. At this point, the best you can do is say, You know, another client had similar concerns.... Tell a story. (Make sure it is real and authentic, not some BS you make up or your credibility is out the window along with the sale and the prospect).

So that's selling in a nutshell. The problem in our Industry is the lack of sales. Most folks are ORDER TAKERS. If you sell on PRICE, you are NOT selling, you are taking orders (like the guy at the Post Office or the kid at McD's). Here's Ike Elliot on telecom becoming a Commodity:

"The problem for most companies in the telecom industry is the second hurdle, the "Y axis" of Guy Kawasaki's chart. The first time a Harvard MBA asked me "What makes your product unique?", I wanted to hit him, because he had caught me being complacent about our business prospects..... I eventually admitted that our business plan might be a little bit flawed in that one little teensy-weensy area. The hard truth here is that if your product or service is not different from what everybody else is selling, then you are selling a commodity and you will eventually have to use price as a primary differentiator.
Now, I know what you are thinking. "Ike, it's not really that simple...I can think of all kinds of ways my service is different from my competitor's." The key thing, though, is that these differentiators need to matter to your customer. For example, if you are a national network operator and you are competing with a bunch of regional network operators, it might matter to some customers that they can do one-stop shopping with you versus buying from multiple regional guys. But be honest with many of your potential customers would skip the big price savings for the convenience of dealing with one carrier? And, for the ones who are willing to buy services piecemeal, you are right back to competeting on price.
Lots of carriers are scared out of their minds of the "C" word. They can't stomach being a commodity, and for good reason. To thrive in a commodity business, you have to have to be really big and really efficient and embrace those values above all others.

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