The sales process is not complicated. In my opinion, what separates the good sales execs from the great ones is the ability to translate their product or service to real value. And what do I mean by real value? Money.

At the end of the day, business success is all about making money. It’s that simple. So the ability to demonstrate that your product or service will help make your prospect money or save your prospect money is the critical component to making the sale.

We all tend to lose focus on this sales truth, myself certainly included.

Corporate sales training, at least the ones I attended, focused on product features, benefits, etc. Additionally, a large portion of the time was spent on the competition and how we stacked up in a competitive situation. While it is certainly important to understand your competitive advantage and be able to react to your competitor in a positive way, without slinging mud, the ability to differentiate your product in terms of real business value is the key factor. Again, what is business value? I’ll say it again: Money. The ability of your product to increase revenue or reduce cost is what matters to senior management. While it is certainly true that some products offer very unique and sexy features that are intriguing, if they don’t contribute to the bottom line, then they are not providing business value.

Let me be clear. This discussion on following the money is directed to business-to-business professional sales execs. This is not the case with numerous consumer items. Certainly automobiles, motorcycles, jewelry, boats, etc., are purchased for other reasons. At UST, our focus is B2B corporate sales.

In the technology field, where I spent my career, sometimes a competitor would have a particular feature that the company I represented didn’t offer. It might have been a “cool” feature that impressed a technical person who was involved in the evaluation and decision-making process, but if it didn’t provide business value, I could typically have it removed from the decision-making criteria.

Technical folks, at times, tend to get caught up in new and exciting features. Left unchecked, they might be able to slant the decision towards a vendor that has a lot of leading–edge features that don’t affect the bottom line. In other words, they don’t help the company make or save money! That is why it is critical to develop relationships at all levels of the organization. Specifically, at the level where product features and benefits get translated to legitimate business value.

Especially in the high-tech field, there will always be companies with new products that are aggressively attempting to gain access to your client base. Many have unrealistic claims of how they can make a huge impact on profits. Be mindful of this sales strategy and always challenge senior management on the real business impact that is being forecasted by your competitor. Remember, talk is cheap!

On the other hand, if you do have a unique feature that has demonstrated the capability to have legitimate business impact, make sure you take the necessary time to sell at all levels so both senior management and the technical evaluation folks are on the same page.

If you agree with me that following the money is critical to presenting a winning proposal, then why don’t we, as professional sales execs, always do it? I believe it is because we get lazy, and don’t take the necessary time to truly understand how our prospects and clients make money. We make assumptions, jump to conclusions, and sometimes get so product-focused that we forget the fundamentals. We need to take the necessary time to ask compelling business questions that help us uncover the business flow, which will ultimately lead us to understand how our clients make money. Then we can translate our product to legitimate business value. We do this by doing more listening than talking. I wrote a blog on this topic on Jan 28: “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” In addition, I wrote an entire chapter on the subject in my book: “The Art of Listening.”

It is one of the most important attributes of a successful sales exec.


Universal Sales Truth #3

Do more listening than talking

Proverbs 18:13

Answering before listening

Is both stupid and rude