Monday, December 21, 2015

What’s the story on your product lines?

Let’s start with two assumptions. First, your company sells solutions, not a hodge-podge pile of parts. Second, some of the products you sell fit together nicely to solve customer
issues. Some reasoning has been applied to the building of your product offering. As you set out to create solutions, you started assembling the right parts and pieces to address customer issues.

But I have a question. Are your customers connecting all the dots? Most of us assume our customers realize how all the stuff in those gigantic catalogs fit together. Experienced customers probably rely on you to carefully select just the right products for their particular applications and offer them up in a solution format. A few might bring you into the equation by sharing business concerns and problems before they have fully analyzed the whole situation.

Newer, and even some existing, customers are different. They may not fully understand your brand of solution selling. Some may not yet trust your suggestions. To these folks, it is important that you provide a story around your products and services.

What kind of a story? Let me give you a couple of examples.

Let’s say you are calling on a customer contact from a water treatment facility. Whenever showing off a new product, why not start off with details outlining a case study on how the products you are about to show make sense in the industry. How your Variable Frequency Drives are perfect for running pumps and how your flow products can be easily fed signal information to the aforementioned drives. Signals might be monitored remotely via SCADA products provided by another manufacturer and pull the data from the drives for easy monitoring. The product you sell are just “characters” in the full story of solving water treatment related problems.

Another example might apply to a safety distributor calling on a large end user facility where welding is a big part of the customer process. The story you weave outlines how an assortment of products from your line card all benefit workers in an environment filled with sharp objects, heat and hazardous gasses generated with welding. The “story” is we have more than just a collection of products, and we possess what you need to keep your work environment safe.

Your story has the power of connecting you with the customer; building rapport. When carefully constructed, the
process forces the seller to think more deeply into potential customer issues. Further, a well-told story places you in the position of being a specialist in the customer’s individual needs.

In the best of cases, distributors build a series of marketing materials matched against a half dozen customer types. One brochure showing a half dozen products focused against the backdrop of the customer environment goes a long way to illustrate precisely how much expertise the organization has developed in the customer’s domain.

But what if you don’t know much about the customer?
For some of the new folks reading this, you might find yourself scratching your head and thinking, “I don’t really know all that much about the operations of some of my customers.” Here is where research comes into play. The internet provides valuable insight into the issues faced by many industries. Going back to our example of water treatment, we discovered a wealth of information on our very first “Google search."  For instance, we found Treatment Plant Operator Magazine’s website and a quick review would provide dozens of applications to which you might match your product groups. While we are on the topic of trade publications, nothing creates a better story than an article which lists one of your products in action.

Combine stories with others on your team…
I believe it is a good use of time in a sales meeting to discuss the best “story” for various types of target accounts. What products work, which are viewed as likely solutions and how they interact with other product lines can become great fodder for future sales calls. And, in my opinion, this will produce greater results than mere product minutia.

Go forth and create a great story….


Steve Berke said...

I think this article will fully complement you article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from Always Open Commerce

Steve Berke said...

I think this article will fully complement you article. PLease continue publishing helpful topics like this. Regards, from Always Open Commerce