As I mentioned in my last blog that although product knowledge is very important it sometimes is overemphasized while salespeople procrastinate in completing the difficult work of identifying people who have a need for what we are selling.
I tell my clients sometimes that my job is to find the companies and the people in those companies who are buying what we are selling, get them all in a room, and have them clearly articulate exactly what they are looking for. It is my client’s job at this point to sell them on why they can meet their needs and be an excellent supplier. Now a few things have become evident to me about this approach.
- First of all it works. I do very little selling as I figure out which companies are buying and who the people are inside these companies who are making these decisions. People who are busy and are making key decisions in an organization appreciate simplicity and initially are not interested in getting caught up in details. They want a general overview and the basics to determine whether they have any interest in meeting with you. Your enthusiasm, clarity, and directness
will sell these people on meeting with you.
- In the initial conversations with the buyers, a good salesperson has to qualify the company. We do not want to spend a lot of time developing a relationship with a company/buyer who does not buy enough of what we are selling. Sellers have to ask tough questions.
- When meeting with companies identifying a need is a lot more important than telling people about your company. People reveal their expertise by asking good and insightful questions not by telling people how smart they are.
- When you have the key decision makers in the room asking tough questions and challenging people’s assumptions is a lot more effective than trying to get people to like you.
- Sellers need to have realistic expectations. Overt interest may not be expressed initially. Sellers need to identify where they can help the buyer. When the seller does this and can make a good business argument for addressing this area of need, it is just a matter of time before the buyer becomes interested.
- Sellers need to be patient. Well run companies already have a solid vendor base. It takes time to nurture interest.
Product knowledge is important but it only becomes important after the companies/buyers have been identified, qualified, and thoroughly questioned. Now no buyer is just going to sit and answer someone’s questions. There is a give and take while doing this where a good salesperson is revealing the basics of his/her offering and a background of their company while they are qualifying the buyers and understanding what some of their needs are or could be. Specific product knowledge and expertise in the industry becomes important at this point.
Again product knowledge is important but not until a good foundation has been put in place. Putting this foundation in place is what many salespeople/companies avoid doing when they set out to grow their customer base or move into new markets.