Buyers have more choices available to them now than ever before and that complicates the buying process. But if you become a product expert, it will simplify and shorten the buying process for your customers.
In the eyes of your customers, you represent the business and they expect you to be knowledgeable. They’ll want to know more about you as a person. What’s your background? What do you bring to the table? You are the one with whom customers will expect to share the history and mission of your organisation. What’s your company’s brand story?
With so many choices available to customers today, quite often a decision to buy comes down to the relationship that a customer has with you. Once a customer does buy, keep in touch by providing after-sales service.
Features and benefits
Features answer the question, “What is it?” Benefits answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” People don’t buy features, they buy benefits. Focus on benefits that directly relate to specific buyer needs.
One of my clients selling digital signage struggled with this issue. He found himself using technical language like resolution, pixels, dots-per-inch, servers and VGA over CAT5 extender sets. Customers are less interested in all the bells and whistles than they are in how a product can improve their lives.
My client’s customers were more interested in how they could use his screens to promote their products and services to customers within their stores. That is the benefit they really wanted. That is all they cared about.
The importance of having solid product knowledge cannot be overstated. Again, customers want to know how your product is tested, modified and retested. They want performance data and specifications. Customers expect you to be the product expert. So be sure to do your homework so that you can answer any questions they have.
Many of my clients have noticed that customers are looking more and more for customised solutions, as opposed to off-the-shelf generic solutions. With so many solution providers offering similar products and services, becoming a product expert should be one of your priority goals.
Customers are full of information, but they are starving for knowledge. One of the best ways you can assist customers is by helping them to make sense of all the information that’s available to them.
When you are selling to organisations, you will frequently need to include written proposals in your overall product strategy. This is where you lay out your specific game plan for helping your customer.
Done well, your written proposal can actually set you apart from the competition because it allows your customer to see everything laid out in detail: the features, the benefits and the value that you will be adding.
When writing proposals for organisations, outline the long-term objective the company is looking to achieve and the key medium- and short-term goals they are hoping to accomplish as a result of your product or service.
Then present the solution that you will be offering them to help them reach their goals. This solution lays out in detail the solution you will deliver, the duration and the company’s investment. Also include supporting information outlining the benefits to their organisation, how you have helped companies like theirs in the past, what clients say about your business, a brief biography and examples of media exposure.
Become an expert
So how do you become a product expert? Start by reading your product literature. Read your brochures, pamphlets, catalogues and advertisements.
Go on a plant tour to see for yourself how your products are manufactured. Not only will this enhance your product knowledge, it will also help increase your enthusiasm for the products you sell because you will have seen them being made.
Talk to other people in your organisation: salesmen or customer service people or delivery people. Learn from them. Talk to your customers.
Who knows more about your products and services than your customers? They have used your product under normal working conditions, in everyday situations.
Your customers can give you a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your products or services. Listen to them. Have you tried your own products or service? Using them and carefully evaluating them will improve your product knowledge and confidence.
When I’m delivering sales coaching and training to SMEs and MNCs, I always offer one final word of caution: Now that you are a product expert, resist the temptation to share all your knowledge with every customer who walks in the door.
You need to know everything about your products and services, but your customer doesn’t. Keep the conversation focused on the benefits they receive by purchasing your product and how your product helps them. At the end of the day, people care about what’s in it for them.