The lights come up and the presentation ends. The client asks a few questions. There is some back and forth between the SME and the client’s tech folks. There might even be some heavy technology debate and a request to go back to a particular slide in the deck. You’re especially excited because the client is engaged. You get to the end of the allotted hour and like a good salesperson, you ask, “So – what about next steps?” The senior person on the client side looks at you and says, “Why don’t you send my tech folks a couple of use cases?”
A couple of days later you follow-up with your contact but they’re unavailable and they aren’t returning your calls. If you are able to reach them, they haven’t gotten around to reading the use cases but they tell you to “touch base with them in a couple of weeks.” At this point, it dawns on you that your idea, your presentation, and your potential deal are dead. You ask yourself, “What happened here?”
One of my favorite business phrases of all time is, “When you’re up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that your original objective was to drain the swamp.” Every one of your clients are up to their necks in alligators every day. There’s a security breach. There’s a hardware problem. A software patch didn’t get done. There’s an incompatibility with the latest application. Whatever it is, there is always something. And your client needs it done or else. In short, they need to get these alligators off of their necks. Against that backdrop, you showed up with more technology. Another presentation, another PowerPoint, another meeting.
What happened is that you made one of the oldest mistakes in the book – you were more focused on your technology than on the client’s priorities and in doing so, you became another alligator. More importantly, you didn’t answer the age old client question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)
As salespeople, we have got to be focused on the client’s problem because truthfully, that’s all he or she cares about. Instead of thinking of how cool your technology is, think of what problem it will solve. Instead of focusing on speeds and feeds, focus on your client’s wants and needs. The client doesn’t care about how fast it goes or what Gartner says about it. The client does care about how much money it will save, how much more secure it will make their environment, or how much more effective it will make their department.
This is not rocket science – it’s something we all know how to do or else we wouldn’t be in sales. We know how to focus on benefits and advantages rather than features. We know how to research client pain points and speak to them. We’ve heard it, we’ve done it, and we’ve lived it. The problem is that in the excitement of the great new technology, putting the client first is so easy to forget.
The most successful salespeople never forget that it’s about the client. It’s about understanding their business, addressing their concerns, and solving their problems. This is where the hard work and the true art of selling come in. Making the linkages between our cool technology and its ability to solve our client’s problems is where we earn the client’s attention and trust. In short, we are at our best when we remember that our job is not to push technology but to show the client the WIIFM.