I've worked on strategy and tactics with well over a hundred sales and marketing organizations. In my experience, most of them neglect these five basic, proven, and powerful techniques for developing opportunities and closing more business.
1. Create a business case for buying.
Most companies provide potential customers with a list of features, followed by a price quote that compares favorably with what other companies charge for similar features.
This is crazy.
Selling the lowest "price per feature" propels you into a price war with your competitors. More important, customers don't care about features; they only care about what buying a product will mean to them.
Thus, rather than tout "price per feature," only discuss a feature in the context of how it either saves money or makes money, preferably in as specific a way as possible.
- Wrong: "We will sell you A, B, and C for 10% less than the competition."
- Right: "We can show you this module can reduce your operational costs by 10%."
2. Articulate the cost of not buying.
Numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings will do more to avoid pain than to acquire pleasure. Because of this, negative reasons to buy are more compelling than positive reasons to buy.
Therefore, rather than directing your customer's attention to the financial benefits of buying, direct your customer's attention to the amount of money that he or she is losing by not buying.
- Wrong: "You'll save $1 million in costs and make $1 million in revenue."
- Right: "If you don't buy immediately, you'll lose $2 million next year."
3. Raise your price to increase perceived value.
Conventional wisdom says that you'll win more customers if you lower your price. In reality, you often win more customers if you raise your price (provided you haven't made the mistakes described in the previous two strategies).
Numerous studies of buying behavior have shown that customers tend to assume that the lower-priced products are lower quality than higher-priced ones, even if those products are identical.
(The Onion--a frequent source of trenchant business wisdom--recently ran a "photo of the week" that encapsulates this concept: "Olive Oil in Skinny Bottle Obviously Better.")
For some reason, this concept is difficult for some businesspeople to comprehend, probably because they're convinced that they don't make that same mental error. Even though they do.
- Wrong: "To expand our market share, we are dropping our prices by 10%."
- Right: "Our product is in such high demand that we must raise our price by 10%."
4. Find customers for your customer.
This strategy is so powerful I'm consistently amazed at the very small number of sales and marketing groups that don't make it a regular habit.
Rather than pester your customer to help you grow your business, use your contacts and relationships to help your customer grow his or her business.
I can tell you from direct personal experience that once you've done this, you have a customer for life. People don't forget it when you help them become successful when there's no immediate benefit to you.
- Wrong: "Do you know anybody who could use our service? If so, could you set up a meeting?"
- Right: "Hey, I know a company that could really use your product. Shall I set up a meeting?"
5. Reposition your weaknesses as strengths.
Again, this is a difficult concept for some businesspeople to grasp, but here's the truth: What you perceive as a major weakness can always easily be restated so that it's a major strength. Always.
For example, if you're a small company competing against a big company, you say that you're "innovative" but the competitor is "hidebound." Similarly, if you're a big company competing against a small company, you say that you're "established" but the competitor is "high-risk."
There is literally no weakness that can't be repositioned as a strength. I remember having a conversation with a marketing manager at Computer Associates right after the entire senior management had resigned in the wake of a financial scandal. His brilliant reframe: "If we didn't treat our clients right, they wouldn't be sticking with us through all this turmoil!"
- Wrong: "We don't have any customers, but we hope you'll give us a chance."
- Right: "By becoming an early adopter, you'll leapfrog your competition."