Yesterday, I was watching again “The pursuit of Happiness” with Will smith and I was thinking that probably many technical sales are in a similar situation.
In the movie, Will Smith is a Salesman visiting hospitals to sell healthcare equipment. He visits a lot of hospitals but sales become scarcer and finally he run out of money, fight with his wife and is expelled from his apartment because he is unable to pay the rent.
Those machine he has to sell are very cumbersome and Will Smith has a hard time to transport them every day to visit hospitals.
The movie is about how he finds a way out by being persistent and hard-working and shows very well the difficulty to be a Salesman of technical equipment.
This movie is of course set in the past, and I am not sure many people are still living like that in the US, but what I thought when I saw that is that it must be really hard to be such a Salesman nowadays especially if you are selling cumbersome technical products or machinery.
I had a conversation with Tim Gingerich, a Technical Sales Representative from Schunk who was telling me that he had some similar problems:
One of the challenges I face when doing a technical demo is to scale down the demo small enough to allow me to bring it on site (some of our products are very large and very heavy) and still show the large scale benefits my solution will provide.
So when I saw his comment, I immediately started to think: “Is there a way to make the clients come to you instead of going to them??”
And I decided to write this article to share 🙂
Why do I need to make my technical product different or unique for my customers?
The direct approach is difficult
When everyone is selling similar products and using the same methods, that’s very difficult to sell anything.
If you think your product is a commodity, you are just looking at the price and the features and comparing that with competitors. Who have the better price and better features wins.
Most of the time, this is wrong and it doesn’t work like that
If the customer thinks your product is commodity, something he could get elsewhere with more or less the same features and capabilities, then you have no chance to convince him.
If you want to have some great results your company and your product have to be unique from other products.
- You need to get noticed
If you want to get sales, the first important thing is to get noticed. If your product is too common and the way you market it doesn’t make it different from others or unique, people looking at it will just not notice it.
Your product may be actually wonderful, but that’s because you know it and you worked with it for a long time. People who never saw it, will need to be “attracted” to it by some way.
- You need to create strong impression and curiosity that will cause people to come back regularly
No one will buy a technical product on the first glance, especially for a product very expensive. So what you need is to always put forward the remarkable points of your offer (product and service) to create the first impression, catch the attention and find a way to attract people to come back to read more. A blog with interesting articles or a video channel that is regularly updated is a great to make people come back.
Moreover, making people come to you is tremendously more powerful than going to them.
- Customers think in term of their problems and challenges and the results they want to get
Vendors tend to think in software features comparison and in benchmarks.
“Our software is better because we have this feature that other software doesn’t have” Or “Our software is faster than this software”
But, this is relevant only if the customer is already interested in this specific feature.
Customers think in term of their problems and challenges and the results they want to get.
The software is just a tool to do something, it is not the end result itself.
No one will be proud to possess a branded software just because it is 30% faster than another company if it doesn’t answer their current and most pressing problem.
The way to be unique is to solve your customer’s problem in an unique way.
A lot of people want to be unique, but at the same time follow exactly all what the competitors do and do the same. You cannot be unique be doing the same thing than others. To be unique, you have to do things differently first.
How do I make my technical product different or better for my customer?
I was reading recently the book “How to make friends and influence people” from Andrew Carnegie and I remember about an example he gives in his book that is quite similar to the situation I talked about previously (page 177)
In this story, an X-Ray manufacturer wanted to sell his equipment to one of the largest hospitals in Brooklyn. The doctor in charge of the X-Ray department received all the day some visit of salesmen presenting to him various types of X-Rays, each of them with various features and prices. The doctor didn’t know how to decide because all the products seemed the same to him.
Then a clever X-Ray manufacturer had the idea to ask to the doctor like that:
“Dear Doctor, you are much more experienced than us into what is important in X-Ray technology and we would like to receive your advice to improve our equipment as we are eager to create equipment which is 100% useful to doctors like you”
(Carnegie didn’t exactly write it like that, that’s only what I remember of the conversation…)
Then the doctor was so pleased to be recognized for his expertise and that a manufacturer was actually ready to listen to him to improve that he cancelled all his important meetings to visit the X-Ray manufacturer and see the equipment.
After he saw the machine, he studied it in details to be able to help the best he could and he discovered that this machine didn’t actually need much improvement and was doing everything he wanted… and the sale was closed for the X-Ray Manufacturer.
What I learnt from that is that:
- Attract and get attention from clients
Sometimes clients seem not interested by your product, but that’s only because they didn’t do the effort to look at it in details. Maybe your marketing wasn’t able to catch the attention of your prospect.
- Improve your product to match better client desires and needs
Getting feedback early from clients and prospects will avoid risks related to the inadequacy of the product to solve the real problems of your clients. If you know what your prospects are ready to buy, learn from it and improve your product to make it a better fit.
- Getting and implementing feedback from clients creates trust and long-term relationship
Ask your customers for improvements about your product or service is a great way not only to improve your product, but also to close more sales by getting the attention and the trust of prospects. It shows to them that you are open to hear from them and improve to make the product better according to their recommendations and that’s a proof that you have a brilliant future together.
- In some cases, clients are so happy to contribute that they will even visit you instead of you visiting them.
You avoid the heavy task to visit all your customers and prospects by yourself. If you are able to make them visit YOU instead, you will always receive the visit from your hottest prospects and you will never lose some time on cold prospects who will never buy.
Recently a new tendency in marketing called “Inbound Marketing” is applying this principle to create a wave of prospects coming to you as soon as they have a real need and they are ready to buy. I’ll talk about that in next posts.
How do I make my technical product different or better for my customer?
Being different or unique isn’t necessarily because of the product itself
A belief that a lot of engineers have is that being different or unique is totally related to the product but it’s not.
1) Making a product different or unique can be done using Marketing
A lot of products are made different by the way they are marketed for example. That is called Positioning in Marketing.
For example, Take a commodity product in the supermarket like a hygienic paper for example.
Every brand of hygienic paper is mostly the same thing, but why are you buying the one brand you are buying? Have you ever thought about that?
Marketers have some clever ways to change the package and to make one brand more “environmentally friendly” than another for example. Product is actually the same, but it looks different for the buyers.
It is the same for technical products: If you change the marketing image and message, you will attract totally different people
2) Making a product different or unique can be done by providing better service than everyone else
You can be different and unique if you have a different and unique approach to your customers.
I realized that early because so many of the sales I closed in my job were due to that. I didn’t have any special product which is thousand fold better than the competitors, so I was wondering and I decided to ask my clients: “Why did you actually purchased the product? What was the true reason behind your final decision?”
Many of those clients told me: “I was convinced by your exceptional team who was able to answer all of my questions much faster than anyone else, that something that I never saw somewhere else in this field. In big companies, no one seems to listen to prospects who are in a small business.”
I understood that the real factor that caused the final decision was not the product but the service.
OF COURSE, product is still important…If you have a bad product, you cannot save it with only a good service, but that shows that you have to consider much more parameters than just the product and its features.
A superior service and focus on the client needs and requests creates trust and constitutes a competitive advantage that makes you different than competitors.
How to have better service than others? Here’s a short list of recomandations from my experience:
- Get feedback from users AND implement them, then let them know you did it for them.
- Don’t be focus only on doing your job and only your job. If you are technical support and you receive a querry which is not 100% technical, do it and let your customer know you did it for them, even if you didn’t HAD to.
- Make all relations with your customers personal. We are all humans and everyone appreciate when you speak without any “seller-client” distance
- Surprise your customers. When they ask you something, answer the question at 120%. Give them something more that shows that you care for them
3) Making a product different or unique can be done by improving the product in a different or unique way
That’s actually the most obvious answer if you are an engineer, but I put it in the end because in my opinion it is a double edged blade.
Discovering an unique need and serving it in an unique way is probably the first reason explaining why some business succeed in the past.
That’s very hard to do now…technology became so incredible complex that innovating on the technology is very difficult.
Why am I saying that it is a double edged blade?
When companies are too focus on their product, they may miss what the client is actually thinking.
They may start the business with the interests and needs of the clients, but when the time passes and the company becomes bigger, it becomes more and more difficult to remain focus on the client’s needs.
It’s called design blindness–> When a company starts to think they have the best product in the world and that they don’t need prospect input, they stop to improve and the service starts to become less and less good. Beware of that and even if you have a great product, keep the focus on the prospects and customers, because they are the people for who you are creating value.
Ok, I’ll stop here… there is just A LOT of input..and I didn’t know I could write so much about this topic.
I hope I didn’t lost you 😉
If you read up to here, leave a comment to let me know what you liked in the article, that would be truly nice!
(and if it was useful..I need feedback to make the articles better 😉 )