What Business Are You Really In?

Do you know what business you’re really in? Do your salespeople? In this article, we’ll explore what your prospect really wants to purchase from you and you’ll discover why your answer to the question, “What business are you really in?” might be wrong.

In the face of tougher competition, more demanding customers, shrinking margins and diminishing customer loyalty, sales organizations now more than ever need a clear and compelling vision that defines their purpose.

The truth is that far too many people have no idea what business they’re in! It’s not unusual for salespeople to say, “I’m in the real estate business,” “I sell heavy equipment” or “I sell insurance.”

If you push a little further and ask a salesperson what they really sell, many will say, “I sell value.” If they provide a service, they may even say, “I sell myself.”

All of them are wrong!

Lots of salespeople have a surprisingly simplistic view that forces them to concentrate on their product or to focus on themselves.

Let’s look at it from the buyer’s point of view. Chances are, the customer who’s interested in buying heavy equipment, for example, doesn’t have a strong desire to own a piece of heavy equipment just for the sake of owning it.

In other words, your customer may not be focused on the actual product at all. Their chief concern might be something along the lines of, “Our construction project is running behind schedule. We need to increase our productivity by at least 15% or we won’t be able to meet the terms of our contract.”

Which salesperson is more likely to get this customer’s order?

The one who says, “Our equipment is safe, reliable, easy-to-operate and energy-efficient.”

Or the one who says, “I would recommend this particular piece of equipment for you because it will allow you to speed up your project by at least 25% so you won’t have to worry about failing to meet your deadline.”

The first salesperson presented benefits that are likely to be attractive to potential customers. Who doesn’t want something that’s safe, reliable, easy-to-operate and energy-efficient? That’s all very nice, but this particular customer will just tune it out. This customer is preoccupied entirely with speeding up the project. Nothing else matters.

Clearly, the second salesperson hit it right on the head for this customer. But what if that salesperson says the exact same thing to every single customer? Chances are that salesperson won’t get too many orders, either.

The next buyer that salesperson deals with may not care at all about speeding up a project. What if the buyer is just getting started in the construction business? For that customer, financing or the option to rent equipment might be the chief concern. Nothing else will matter if they can’t obtain the equipment.

But the next customer will probably be focused on yet another entirely different issue… So what do they all have in common? They’re all looking for solutions.

So what do you really sell?

That’s right, solutions.

Successful sales organizations are in the business of identifying and delivering specific solutions to each customer’s unique demands. And the most successful ones provide those solutions in a way that meets each customer’s expectations and increases their receptiveness toward purchasing them.

If more salespeople and sales organizations understood this, there would be more satisfied customers and fewer struggling salespeople.

So how can you get your sales team to stop obsessing over products, features and benefits and reach for the broader goal of identifying and delivering specific solutions?

You can start by making sure that your organization has a cohesive sales strategy that supports this goal. It may require a little organizational soul-searching, and you may discover that your company as a whole doesn’t always know what business it’s in.

10 Important Questions You Should Consider:

  1. How critical is your product or service to your customer’s core business strategy?
  2. Based on the importance of your product or service, are your salespeople calling on accounts at the right level?
  3. Is your sales team using a sales approach that is congruent with the expectations and demands of the level they are calling on regularly?
  4. Do your salespeople invest an adequate amount of time understanding the complexity of problems, solutions required and level of commitment your customers are seeking?
  5. Are your salespeople, your organization and your product positioned in a way that attracts favorable attention?
  6. Are you having difficulty getting the attention of the people you need to be in front of in order to sell your product?
  7. Do you have the appropriate sales tools, aids and resources that appeal to the correct level of prospect?
  8. Does your sales team have enough depth of understanding about each product to ensure the absolute best application?
  9. Is your sales team equipped to deliver the solutions appropriate to the demand and level of expertise your customers require?
  10. Does your sales team have the necessary support from your organization to deliver the most effective solutions your product promises?

Your next step is to teach your salespeople how to uncover what solution each buyer is after. It sounds simple, but for most salespeople the hardest part is unlearning their bad habits.

Most of the time, salespeople are so eager to launch into their “benefits pitch” that they never find out which benefit is most important to their customer. Instead of taking the time to carefully line up their shots to hit the target, they fire off hastily in every direction and hit nothing.

The most important piece of advice that you can offer your sales team in this area is to “shut up and listen!” Without listening skills, they’re never going to be able to learn a thing about their customers’ most pressing problems.

The next thing to tackle is improving their questioning skills. With the right questions and careful listening, your salespeople can begin to figure out what solution fits each customer.

Exercise for Your Next Sales Meeting

Below is a link to download a supplementary exercise you can take to your next sales meeting. This exercise is designed to introduce your team to a powerful questioning strategy that will help them uncover their prospects’ most pressing problems, then go one step further by showing them how to agitate those problems with what we call a “3-deep” approach.

To really get it right, your salespeople will probably have to practice these lines of questioning over and over again. The temptation to jump to the “pitch” is hard to overcome. But learning and adopting this strategy is well worth the effort. It’s a no-fail formula for hitting the right target every time.