Ten years ago, asking a customer (or potential customer) the question, ‘what’s important to you?’, was perhaps the most commonly taught and often used question of the sales professional.
The origin and reason for that question was in the possible link that could be made between the unique features and benefits of the product (or service) and a customer need. At a time when technology was advancing at varying rates and with often wide-ranging differences between one product and the next, selecting a possible need and linking your point of differentiation to it seemed like the answer. And perhaps it was.
But now, when many providers can meet the needs of a customer, then in the absence of the sales professional provoking the thought of the customer, then the customer will almost certainly default to either to price or the product or service that they know. Clearly, if there’s no discernible difference between the options available, one may as well choose the least expensive or most comfortable.
So that question is now redundant.
Because at a time when there is often little to choose from between the features and benefits of one product versus the next; at a point when the customer is as well informed on the relative merits of Product A versus Product B as anyone, and when there is a multitude of choices available to them, asking ‘what’s important to you?’ isn’t going to provide the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
But this is still a contact sport.
And it’s people who make the difference.
So the alternative lies in identifying themes of possible interest to the customer, researching those themes linked to relevant market and industry information related to your product or service, offering up those insights, relating this to their world and then linking to possible opportunities.
In reality, the change is from asking ‘what’s important to you?’ to providing insights as to ‘what’s important to you’ and then exploring and creating opportunities.
And it’s not to say that a deep understanding of the product or service isn’t critical – its is. It’s just that in-depth product knowledge is table stakes.
What is likely to set you apart requires creativity, thinking in terms of possibilities, creating opportunities and taking ownership of the business.