Why You Need To Start Selling The Transition
It’s just so frustrating. You know that you have a better product, a superior product, a tastier product, it smells better, works harder, is better integrated, is more efficient, has more features and to top it all off it makes life easier for your customer’s customers. It just doesn’t get any better.
So why is your prospect stalling? Why are they not committing to sign on the dotted line? They’ve indicated that price isn’t an issue, however they’re still not willing to move ahead.
It’s at this point that most companies and sales teams rely on the ‘numbers game’ approach and back away, making a note to follow up with the prospect at a later date. When they do follow up the conversation is likely to revolve around whether the prospect has changed their mind or needs further information. This cycle will continue until a different approach is taken.
Stop What You’re Doing
Even if we choose not to admit it, price remains a central focus in the sales process. It’s how we’ve learnt to gauge value, so naturally when we are selling, price can become the biggest obstacle, often creating more stress for ourselves than it does our customer.
The other reason price becomes a linchpin is that it’s one of the most modifiable aspects of our product or service. Unless you’ve learnt to counter an objection with a strong value proposition, the easiest response is to reduce price.
Anyway, my point here is that we all spend a great deal of time and care in designing and building our products and services. We take them to market and expect that decision makers will see that what they currently use is not good enough and implement our solution immediately.
The truth of the matter is that often the prospect does quickly recognise that what you are offering is superior. They know they’d be better off utilising your features, it’s simply that the status quo is much easier to live with.
They know a grand piano is better, they just can’t see how it will fit through the door.
Sell the Move, Not The House
The revelation you need to have is to appreciate that nothing is new. The entrepreneurial landscape is littered with revolutionary products and services that failed not because they didn’t solve a worthwhile problem or cost more, but because the market was hesitant to change.
Business owners and entrepreneurs often fall in love with their product or service, which is only natural as a great deal of time, money, sweat and tears go into developing them. These efforts often result in products and approaches that will greatly serve their intended markets. But, with all the focus and energy going into the product, little attention has been paid to the sales process. Research into what the target market is currently using, and getting to the bottom of what will make them want to change - and implement your solution is essential.
With great change comes an even greater fear of change. Today, implementation is far more critical than features. If you don’t know how to properly fight the status quo, you’ll be consigned to the ‘too hard basket’.
The Rules of Transition Selling
Rule #1 Reposition The Competition
The art of repositioning requires that you bring to your markets attention the weaknesses and pitfalls of your competitors offering, without directly bagging them and without banging on about your own features.
Instead of making arrogant statements such as ‘don’t use Acme widgets because they have a 75% chance of failure after 12 months’, you would pose a question along the lines of ‘what would the cost-benefit be if you could install a widget that was guaranteed to operate for 3 years without failure?’
Here’s a case in point:
Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ marketing campaign that ran between 2006 and 2009 resulted in a sales increase of 39% for the period.* Although the focus of the campaign was to reposition the opposition (PC’s), the success of the campaign was not simply about repositioning.
It showed people how easy it was to move to the Apple platform. Apple sold the transition first and the features second.
Rule #2 Identify The Transition Barriers
The barriers that can stall your efforts to make a sale are generally related to the following three areas:
Time relates to issues such as speed, access and convenience. Often your prospect will think they don’t have the time to devote to implementing something new. Time is an ever diminishing resource for many decision makers. The only way to combat this problem is to offer options on how you can assist them. Can you work after trading hours or during scheduled downtime? The solutions are usually fairly simple, but you’d be surprised how many sellers don’t consider it up-front.
Familiarity with existing systems are a massive barrier to change. This is especially critical with software, even when an inferior product is more complex or slower to use. I have seen 20-year-old point-of-sale software still in use simply because the business was unsure how to upgrade to newer more efficient systems. I’ve witnessed a sizable hardware business operate with pen and paper. Everything from product inventory to invoicing was done by hand.
Things inevitably got confusing. The reason they didn’t want to go digital? Where would they find the time to transfer all the data (i.e. 1000’s of products) into electronic format? They investigated electronic point of sale systems, but no one had bothered to investigate the real barrier to a sale - time. If it’s perceived to be working, then it’s reasonable to maintain the status quo, even if that comes at a higher cost.
Examine all angles of the financial considerations at play. Think carefully about price vs. costs. Remember it’s seldom your price that’s the problem, it’s the cost of disruption in implementing something new. Plant shutdowns can cost a fortune, to the point where cost can be calculated in the thousands of dollars per minute. Your price is one thing, the costs to implement are another, so it’s best to do your homework and be armed with implementation options.
Rule #3 Determine Options & Change Mindsets
Pounding the pavement and handing out brochures doesn’t cut it anymore. This ‘benefit selling’ approach will fall on deaf ears with today’s savvy buyers.
Ensure the mindset of your sales team is to work with customers to identify the barriers to sale and find solutions to them. Dedicate time in the discovery process to uncover all the barriers to implementation.
Anyone can list benefits and provide a quote. Effective sales people are the ones who can rapidly identify how the customer can implement a product or service with minimal stress and disruption.
Proposals should clearly outline options as to how the customer can transition to your offering from what they are currently doing or using.
Lock Them In
I’m not suggesting you engage in anti-competitive behaviour. We all know of horror stories where people have been ‘locked in’ to contracts where the fine print would have been hard to read under an electron microscope. These sorts of practices, while unethical, will quickly unravel your reputation and wreck your brand.
Smart companies make it an easier option for customers to stay put and not to move, rather than constantly trying to impress them with new features that may or may not be needed. Features are easily copied. Systems and strategy that become embedded can be worth millions.
Is there an opportunity to embed yourself with your customer? I worked with an organisation that had to ship hundreds of parts to their customers around the world each week. Delivering on time was critical to maintaining their brand image.
The courier firm they used recognised this and embedded their own team member in the client's workplace. This person had their own office and would work there from 9 to 5, so it was never a question of which courier firm to use, you just knocked on the door.
Using Apple again as an example, they do sometimes appear to operate on the fringes of anti competitive behaviour, in particular with their lightning power connectors for charging iPhones and iPads etc. Apple stops some third party manufactured examples from working. When you plug it in a message will appear on the screen warning you that if used, your warranty may be voided.
Capsule coffee machines are another example. The battle is first fought with brand image, because once you’ve bought the machine, the real profit for the manufacturer lies in the consumables.
Although Mr. Clooney’s patent for his pod design has expired, Nespresso works hard at ensuring their pods are stocked at the right height on the best shelves in all the major retailers.
Don’t confuse loyalty with convenience and habit. The more convenient you make yourself, the more you can lock yourself in.
Don’t Get Lazy
When you get to the point where customers are ‘locked in’ you still need to maintain relationships and continue to innovate. Remember that people are willing to move away when there’s a better option that’s easy to move to.
You don’t plead for loyalty, you create mechanisms that make it the default state.
© Hamish Chadwick 2016. All Rights Reserved.