Successful Sales: Presenting Your Company and Products

August 8, 2003 - 09:23

Part six in an eight-part series about sales strategies that improve profit.

Previous articles in this series have discussed the steps
that make up the initial phases of the sales process. They have explained the
sales theory of planning the commitment you will ask of your customer;
developing a relationship with the customer; asking the customer good questions
(about both personal and business related topics); and identifying your
customer's needs. All of these steps are important, and all have led you here
-- to the point of actually presenting your products and services.

This is where you get the opportunity to present to your
(potential) customer the reasons why it would be beneficial for them to
purchase your product or service. However, there is a critical part of this
phase that, if not done properly, can thwart all of the hard work you did in
getting to this point. That being: You must always be sure to link the product
or service you are presenting to specific customer needs that you have come to
understand through the previous questioning phase.

In our last article, which appeared in the May 2003 issue of
GPN, we covered the importance of understanding customer needs through asking
good questions -- questions that relate to the benefits of your products or
services. Further, it was established that it is important to give the customer
an opportunity to acknowledge that the needs you uncovered were indeed valid
and of interest to them. It is with this in mind that an effective presentation
can be made. This understanding sets the stage for a presentation that has
meaning and relevance to your customer and will ultimately be successful in
selling your product or service.

Demonstrate the Need

The best way to link your presentation with the customers'
needs is by acknowledging what you heard them tell you during questioning. As
an example, let's say that during the questioning process, your customer (a
garden retailer) expressed a need for store merchandising. The questions you
asked led you to this need, and you now want to let the customer know how you
can provide services or products to fill their need for store merchandising.
The easiest way to link what your customer has told you to your presentation is
to acknowledge what you heard. You might say, "you told me that you needed
improved merchandising in your stores." Other segues might be, "you
mentioned that. . ." or "you told me you were interested in. .
." There are other statements that can also be used to acknowledge that
you understood what your customer expressed and are trying to solve their
needs. You should feel free to use any statement you think accomplishes the
goal. The key is to just simply state one of these linking phrases to the need
you heard and to do this in your own natural way.

This act of linking what your customer told you to points in
your presentation is a very powerful sales technique. It immediately tells the
customer that you listened to them, and that you understood what they said. In
turn, it shows a sincerity on your part to sell not just what you want to sell
or have available, but rather, to sell the customer what they need.

Features and Benefits

Another critical part of product presentation is the need to
present your product or service in terms of features and benefits. Á
Doing this will allow you to make a strong connection with the customer's
stated need and how your specific product or service will address that need.

Features and benefits must always be stated as an
inseparable couple. One cannot exist without the other. State only a feature,
and your customer may not understand exactly what your product can do for them.
Stating only a benefit, while perhaps a little better, still leaves some
customers guessing about what part of your product or service you are referring
and how your product can achieve that benefit.

Features and benefits are quite different, and each must be
understood in order to make an effective product presentation. Features simply
make a statement about a characteristic of your product (e.g., all of my company's
4-inch geraniums come with full color, oversized signage.), while a benefit
describes what this characteristic will do for your customer (e.g., colorful
signage helps to differentiate a product, 
rescue it from commodity status and demand a higher price.).

The following is an example using the kinds of linking
statements discussed above to connect the features and benefits of your product
or service with the customer's stated needs:

Linking Statement. When
we talked last time, you told me that you needed improved merchandising in your
stores. Is this still the case?

Feature. Our company
has a team of 20 merchandisers, each assigned to a specific store location and
each having three scheduled store visits at that location each week.

Benefit. This means
that your displays will always be fresh and well stocked. Further, an
individual who has a personal knowledge of a specific store will organize it
more appropriately, take more pride in the store and its success, and will come
to have an understanding of the store's needs and its customer's habits.

This approach to product presentation will always be more
effective than one that only focuses on product features and has no relevance
to a need specifically stated by the customer. This is the kind of approach
that will fit most completely with the months of preparation leading up to the
production presentation.

Features and benefits will best be referenced if they are
thought out in advance of your presentation. Think about them ahead of time,
and write them down. Even put them into a sell sheet to be distributed and
referenced during the presentation. The result will make the extra effort
worthwhile.

Next month, we will discuss the most important part of the
sales process, achieving a commitment from your customer to actually purchase
your product or service.

About The Author

You must always be sure to link the product or service you are presenting to specific customer needs that you have come to understand through the previous questioning phase.

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