How are some companies able to generate consistently higher margins than their competitors? Take an organization like Tiffany & Co. jewelers. The silver, gold, platinum and diamonds are the same as the next jeweler’s… right?
Tiffany & Co. has a “story” that eclipses the product inside. This story which is based on tradition, quality, workmanship and a superior customer experience is responsible for a premium margin, the highest industry averages of return customer purchases and salespeople that earn more than their peers. Many other factors contribute to Tiffany & Co.’s success… but the Tiffany & Co. story, represented by that little pale blue box is iconic. It “is” the brand.
As we have discussed previously, selling based on product capabilities and features is rarely successful in the business-to-business environment. If you or your organization fit into any of the following groups, read on:
- Salespersons striving for excellence and a bigger paycheck
- Sales organizations striving for improved margins
- Companies that desire to reach “key supplier” status with their customers
Examining your own product or service… what is it’s story?
Let’s first examine the key elements of a powerful story and what having a story can earn the salesperson.
Every product or service has a set of basic attributes, many of which your competitors have as well. Beyond these basic attributes is where every organization’s unique story begins to take shape. Customers purchase products and services to “do things” with them. They have a goal to change their business for the better.
How is your company helping customers change their business?
If you don’t have the answers, your current customers probably do. Sometimes a customer’s words can provide a more real / believable story about how your company is helping them than your marketing department can. This customer content may have usefulness beyond a white paper or blog post. Consider using the customer statements frequently in cold calling opening statements, voicemails and elevator speeches and measure your response rates for improvement.
Another source of content / inspiration are your organization’s existing case studies that should have some rich info to pull from. Consider bringing this information (or snippets of the results) into the selling process early on. The goal is to help the prospect quickly understand how your organization has helped other companies (like his/hers) improve their business… getting you onto the buyer’s shortlist and making the cut.
Let’s next examine what having a powerful story can do for the salesperson.
“Results” stories and customer references do the following:
- Differentiate you from weaker “features and capabilities” sellers
- Build credibility and trust with buyers – you are talking about what they are most concerned about (i.e. not you or your product)
- Earn you the right to further explore how you might achieve similar results for their company
Check out this example of an opening statement from a recent ShadeTree telesales calling campaign:
“Hello Mr. Prospect, this is Cameron Randolph with ShadeTree Technology….
Statement 1 – used with sales executives:
“We are helping customers such as Innotas decrease their sales cycle and achieve more accurate sales forecasts through better sales conversations. I’d like to discuss how ShadeTree might help (prospect company) achieve similar results.”
Statement 2 – used with telesales / business development managers:
We are helping customers such as GeoLearing increase telesales outbound calling performance by 40%… resulting in significantly increased initial presentations scheduled with new prospects. I’d like to discuss how ShadeTree might help (prospect company) achieve similar results.”
Examine your selling approach and messaging. Do you lead the conversation with product features and capabilities or customer results?
Create language that can be used in cold calling opening statements, voicemails and emails that tell a simple, direct and results-oriented story.
Measure your response percentages to determine the impact of this more powerful approach.