"I’m going to try my best to do a great benefits statement so the customers know exactly what we do."
We put so much time and energy into coming up with this big introduction/benefit statement, but, honestly, it’s not as important as any of the other things that we do. This thought is on the mind of most salespeople. They feel that they have to have some great, two-sentence explanation of what they do, and that will help sell it.
Now, it is important to summarize what you do, but that is not what sells. Let me illustrate this point. Think about the last time you read a book, and then saw the movie. Which is typically better? Well, almost everyone I talk to says the book is better. Why is that?
When you read a book, you have the ability to create what the scene looks like, what the characters look like, even the voices and sounds therefore the story becomes yours. When you put something in your own brain, you are able to create what it looks like, and what it sounds like, and what it feels like to you. You attach more directly to the story because it becomes your interpretation of the events as opposed to some producer and director’s interpretation. This is the same reason why telling someone what you do and the “features and benefits” of your product or service is much less powerful then asking great questions and getting them to see how it can help through their own eyes.
When you tell someone why they should work with you, what the benefits are, what the advantages are, those are your interpretations of the benefits or the advantages that you offer. When you ask really good questions to get people to think about what is important to them, it is their idea.
Ask if they had success in a particular area, or how you can change things. It is this kind of thought-provoking questions that allows a prospect to see the advantage, on their own, your product is supposed to bring. So, asking questions is really much more important than coming up with an important benefit statement.
There are a couple different types of questions. Big picture questions are thought-provoking questions that get the customer talking about the overall situation. For example, talk about the goals they set for the organization, and where they are along the line of those goals. “Right now, it is (plug in the date) and if it were one year from today and you were to look back and say, it has been a very successful year, what would have to have happened?”
Another might be: “What are the things that you fear the most over the next 12 months, and what are you doing to avoid them?”
The key is to ask big picture questions and get people to think. The successful questions ask people to think about the answer and put themselves in that place before they do. Big picture questions are typically used at the beginning of the conversation to get a prospect to open up sooner. You listen to the answers carefully and move through the conversation successfully.
The second type of question are what I call advantage questions. They come directly from what you believe are the advantages of your product or service. For example, if you sell advertising in a very high end magazine, you might say “Talk to me about how you get in front of high-income individuals now.” Then a follow-up question like “If you had the ability to get in front of more of them, what would you say?” Again it forces them to think about not only being in front of potential clients that they’re trying to get in front of, but it has them think about what the message would be. It begins to develop where you’re going to go with your recommendations or proposal in the end.
So, rather than you telling them what they can do with your product or service, this allows them to come up with their own picture of how they might use your product.
Remember, when you go to the movies, it is purely the director and the producer’s interpretation. When you read a book, it’s your interpretation of those words, and you have the ability to create your own picture. It’s much more effective when it’s yours.
Greta Schulz is president of Schulz Business SELLutions in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of "To Sell is Not to Sell" and a columnist for business journals around the country. Greta does corporate training for Fortune 1000 companies and she has an on-line training course for entrepreneurs.
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