If you have heard it once, you have heard it a hundred times, “I really like your product, but the price is just a little out of my budget. Can you drop the price by 20 percent?” Because sales professionals get this request so often, they assume that the most important thing to customers is price.
If we've learned anything at CloudCoaching International (CCI) during our 35 years of collaborating with the world’s leading sales organizations to help them become more successful, it's that this assumption is wrong. We call this a “killer assumption,” because if you rely on it, you will end up killing your profit margins and maybe even your business.
The truth is, customers don’t start out shopping for price; they don’t even start out shopping for a specific product. Instead, customers want to buy solutions that will give them the outcomes to meet their needs. We have helped our clients achieve tremendous success in closing more business at higher margins while avoiding the discounting conversation altogether. We do this by giving our clients the skills and tools to “connect the dots” for their customers and help them see that the solution being presented offers real value because it's just what they are looking for. Once the customer is convinced they have found the right solution, the price conversation usually takes care of itself.
Connect the Dots for the Customer
Unfortunately, most sales professionals are not very effective in this area. If they attempt to discuss value with the customer at all, they tend to say things like:
- This product will help you stay on time and on budget
- This “feature” will do this, and that “feature” will do that
- This product or service will improve your process by doing X
As important as these points are to make, they don’t go far enough because they don’t clearly spell out the ultimate value of what is being offered. Selling value requires that salespeople have the ability to justify – in terms that the customer cares about – how the customer will benefit from their solution. Unless the sales professional can deliver this message and connect the dots very clearly, they leave the customer no choice but to view the solution as just another commodity where price becomes the only consideration.
Remember, the only reason a customer buys anything is because he has goals and problems that affect his business, and he needs solutions. Most concerns that become buying forces fall into three main categories, known as PPI:
- Productivity – expediency, efficiency, increased output
- Profitability – making money, return on investment, increased profit margin
- Image – style, reputation, public relations
Never forget: The customer is focused on one thing, his own priorities. The key question he wants answered is:
“WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?”
Now, if you have done an exceptional job earlier in the conversation of asking good questions and listening carefully to the answers, you should have a very good understanding of what the customer would buy if only he could find it. Now the real fun begins: you must help him see that your proposed solution is perfectly aligned to meet those explicit needs.
Feature – Advantage – Benefits (FABs) make all the difference
You can connect the dots for your customer by using Feature-Advantage-Benefit statements (FABs) that will help the customer see the whole picture.
FABs have three parts:
- A FEATURE is a particular design or performance enhancement. Features describe what the product does and define the characteristics that make it special. This is step one in explaining your product to a customer. Features are very important, but features alone won’t sell a product. Sales professionals too often get bogged down in explaining features and sometimes lose customers in the process, for the simple reason that a customer also needs to understand the advantage that a feature provides.
- An ADVANTAGE defines what the feature accomplishes, and why that is a good thing. However, not every feature and advantage will appeal to every customer, no matter how cool that feature may seem to the sales professional.
- That is why you must then clearly explain how the Advantage offers a BENEFIT that the customer identifies as valuable to him. At this point, you, as a sales professional, must be careful. Just because a benefit seems valuable to you is no guarantee that the customer will see it the same way. A huge part of sales success revolves around making sure you have clearly understood what the customer cares about. Then – and only then – can you connect your product’s FABs with those needs in a way that might interest your customer. Simply put: a BENEFIT states how the ADVANTAGES of a FEATURE relate to the customer’s concerns and expectations.
Understanding how to create FAB statements to sell value over price is just one component of the Sales Mastery processes and tools we have perfected. In future articles we will share additional strategies to help you differentiate your organization from your competitors by creating a strong brand based on collaborating with the customer to help them achieve their most important objectives.