Stop Pitching Products and Features

A couple of co-workers from my company’s Sales Development team asked me what they should be talking about when they reach out to a potential customer to try and get a meeting. I asked about their current talk track and listened as they told me about the latest feature. I winced at hearing about the bells and whistles, the knobs and the dials.

They were a bit stunned when I said, “I wouldn’t talk about any of that.”

This is a team with some pretty amazing stats in terms of booking meetings with potential customers. Still, I’d listened in on some calls and thought I might be able to offer a technique to increase their success rate.

“If it’s me, I’m not talking about the product at all. Follow the script, for now, and we’ll work on it over time. Just know I wouldn’t be talking at all about the product.”

One of them asked, “Really?”

“Really. I’d call, introduce myself, and launch into how I’m calling to see if you’ve got 20 minutes in the next week or so to meet with Jim Bob Sales Rep to discuss the 3 biggest challenges their peers are facing today. No products, no slides, Jim will just share some of the major pains your peers are facing. If you’re facing even 1 of them, like some of our customers were before signing up, then Jim can set a follow-up meeting to discuss our solution. Then I’d ask for a day and time. Like, ‘How’s Thursday at 2pm look for you?’ Don’t ask for a meeting, just assume there’s going to be one.”

Another moment passed by as they contemplated the strategy.

“What if I don’t know the customer’s problem?” one of them replied.

“What do you mean you d… of course you know their problems!” I shot back. “We hear the same problems from our customers all the time! The same problems are why they buy. What do you hear in healthcare? Write it down. What do you hear in finance? Write it down. Same for everyone. Put it all down. There’s your cheat sheet for the next customer in the same industry. In any industry.”

“Look, I was a customer once, right? So pretend I’m your potential customer. I’m busy solving a hundred other problems. Why would I talk to you if you have nothing to offer? You’re asking for 5 or 10 minutes to bombard me with questions about my current approach or just pitch some features? I’d hang up on you.”

They nodded in agreement.

“Shouldn’t you just assume that since I’m not yet a customer I must have the same or similar problems as others in the same industry have had?”

And just like that, lightbulbs.

Your customer has a pain point that your product addresses. You know what those pain points are and how to overcome them because you’ve done it dozens or hundreds of times. Don’t sell products. Don’t sell features. Don’t pitch bells and whistles. Sell on being knowledgeable in your customer’s industry and having experience with overcoming those problems.

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