April 26th, 2009
Words — love, hate, lawsuit, bailout, bankruptcy — elicit strong emotions and behaviors in and from us. Selling is no exception: it leads to defensiveness, where a purchaser feels that an unneeded or unwanted product will be pushed on him. This dynamic is both a mood killer and a sales killer.
There often is a huge disconnect between vendor and customer — originating with words. As I illustrated in “Your Product Is Not a Market,” vendors falsely equate markets with products. Wireless market? No such thing. Markets contain purchasers, not products. Misusing these words, consequently, causes branding dissonance.
By the same token, the words “selling” and “sales” cause branding disconnect and dissonance. Any user of these words tends to focus inward — on the vendor-centric agenda: product, quota, bonus, commission, output, inventory, profit, and stock price.
Guess what? Purchasers don’t think or care about your vendor-centric agenda. They have an agenda to acquire value — employing metrics like ROI, security, cost of ownership, and ease of use. Therein lies the conflict: one party is selling, the other seeking value.
Each vendor strives to create a unique selling proposition, or USP, a simple phrase designed to capture the essence of its product. Notice how many USPs — We run the tightest ship in the shipping business (an old USP of United Parcel Service) — are product-centric, devoid of the customer.
A few years back, I was consulting for a producer of trader turrets used on the massive trading floors of investment banks. I visited several of my client’s customers and asked each (typically a VP of trading administration) to articulate the biggest problem he faced every day — not necessarily related to technology or my client’s product. Surprise: No one had ever asked such a question! Why? Vendors tend to focus on products and selling.
The complaint: my client’s salespeople were constantly bypassing these decisionmakers, selling directly to “star” traders. Back in the heyday of Wall Street, star traders were untouchable and incorrigible, wreaking budgetary havoc on their employers, and my client was totally unaware of it. Why? Focused on selling.
Because I brought back new information about nonproduct problems, my client resolved the issue and increased customer satisfaction. Focus on value increases sales.
Rx from The WhiteNoise Doctor™
Customers seek value, not products. CEOs, therefore, must become value executives, not sales executives. And, by the way, customers know the difference.
As long as your company exhibits a palpable “selling” orientation, while your customers have a value agenda, the result will be branding disconnect and dissonance. This is how selling kills your sales.
I’m not suggesting that you eliminate your sales organization — just all evidence of a selling orientation: product/vendor focus and branding. While you’re at it, replace your unique selling proposition with a unique value proposition, and your customers will respond accordingly — as will your sales.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2009 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.