Commerce: Does your story sell?
Who are you? What do you want to sell me? Why should I buy from you? These are all questions your prospects have all asked about you at some point before they became customers. Somehow, you or someone before you managed to answer their questions in a way that caused them to change their behavior so they decided to buy from your company.
People usually change their behavior for one of two reasons. Either they want to avoid pain or they seek some sort of gain. If your customer’s arm is on fire and you have a fire extinguisher, it is probably not too difficult to get them to buy from you. They probably won’t even quibble about price. If you are poor and you want to date a hot, young model, you probably have a more difficult sales task in front of you. The secret to making the sale is your story and how you position yourself in the eyes of your target customer.
A positioning story should sum up in one statement the single most compelling benefit of your product or service in a headline format. Usually, this headline statement is followed by three or four key support points that provide reasons to believe your positioning is the answer to their problem. Just like when you are reading a newspaper, if you are not interested in the headline you may not read the article. Your positioning story headline should answer what problem your product or service solves, how it does it and why it is better than what your target customer is using today.
Sales people often get frustrated by the story that their marketing department wants them to tell. A common complaint of sales people is that marketers don’t really understand the pressures that sales people have to deal with in the marketplace and that marketers often emphasize features and benefits that may be unique but really don’t mean anything to the customer. Often, this is due to marketing trying too hard to find something unique and distinctive just so they have something to say. Marketers love to be creative but their creativity should be channeled by what the marketplace needs and values, not just what the research department is proud of.
To create a believable story that is compelling, a marketer needs to get out of his or her office and walk in the salesperson’s shoes (or spend time on their phone). Really listening to sales people and customers will allow a marketer to zero in on what is giving customers pain and what they hope to gain. Incorporating how you will solve their pain and uniquely deliver a gain in your positioning story will capture the attention of your customers. Supporting your statement with a couple of reasons why your solution is better and giving reasons to believe what you claim will help close the deal.
Your story should not be developed in a vacuum. You need to work with your sales people and customers to learn all you can about your competition. Your story has to be about features and benefits that are really important to your customer, but your uniqueness will come from the way you describe how your offering is better, faster, cheaper or smarter than your competition’s.
The process of marketing working hand in hand with your customers and sales people is critically important to the generation of the best possible product positioning and helps greatly to get sales buy-in for the story. If your sales force doesn’t believe in your story or can’t understand it themselves, they won’t use it and the customer will not understand the value of your offering.
Working with your sales people and customers to refine your story so it tells the problem your product solves, why your offering is a better solution than what they are using today, and why you are uniquely qualified to deliver the solution to them in a simple, easy-to-understand story will make your sales efforts dramatically more effective and consistent.
About the author: Scott Francis is president of Topline Development LLC, a strategic marketing consulting group that provides “go to market strategies,” new product identification, advertising plan development and sales support programs. To learn more about Topline Development LLC, visit www.ToplineDevelopment.com or contact Scott directly at Scott@ToplineDevelopment.com.