Can your sales force explain to prospects how much power your gizmo has and how it works? Or do they have to hunt in the manuals to find obscure facts and figures too complex to memorize? In either case, the answer to technical questions may fail to communicate to customers the true benefits of a product. "People buy an experience, not a product," says John Diebel, founder, chairman, and CEO of Meade Instruments, a telescope manufacturer.

Diebel has been teaching people how to answer innocent but deadly questions about his telescopes for more than 30 years. "Nine times out of 10, when people walk into a store, they ask how much magnification power a telescope has, rather than how it performs," he says. He advises store clerks to delay questions about power until they discuss the product's advantages and the importance of the telescope's aperture. "We suggest saying, 'I'll be glad to answer your question about power, but let me assure you that it's not that important. Let me tell you what you'll be able to see with each of the telescopes." Then the salesclerk can easily explain how you'll see Saturn with the low-end model, but for an extra $100 you can see Saturn's rings, and if a customer splurges for the high-end instrument, the major divisions in Saturn's rings are visible. After that, if a customer is still interested in power questions, it's easier to focus on a specific model and the buyer's budgetary needs. This tactic has helped the company, located in Irvine, Calif., propel sales to more than $60 million.

Copyright 1999 G&J USA Publishing