I read an interesting New York Times article about sales challenges that Yesware was having throughout 2013. It seems that though the start-up had amassed some 100,000 free users, their newly hired, ten person sales team wasn’t successfully converting those users to paying customers. It is an intriguing story that I encourage you read. Also read what the CEO, Matthew Bellows did to solve the problem.
As I read the article, what got me thinking was – pardon the pun – a problem for most sellers today is that they’ve been trained to sell features, not sell the problem that their product or service solves. This is an issue for marketing teams also. Website copy is littered with features, benefits and buzz phrases. Rarely can you tell what problem is being solved.
I’m not suggesting that the inability to “sell the problem” was Yesware’s issue, because I don’t have that personal insight. It wouldn’t surprise me if this were part of the issue though. I see it as a common challenge among technology companies. They are so wrapped up in the lipstick and what’s under the hood, they cannot stop talking about what their product does. What they need to do is talk about the problem it solves!
In a recent blog post, I said that the number one sales blunder, I believe, is selling features not value. Value, from my perspective, is all about knowing two things about problems:
- That your buyer has clearly defined the problem they want to solve.
- That you can clearly connect the dots between the buyers’ problem and your offering.
So, first comes understanding what problem your product or service solves. Hint – it isn’t the features. Then the job is to clearly articulate your problem solving message in every communication. Given the common practice is to mass email people, the wise seller takes time to think about how the message is perceived by the person receiving it.
Try something new.
Stop right now.
- Think of three problems your product or service solves.
- Craft three email messages that speaks to each.
- Create three target lists with the type of buyer that might have one of those three problems.
- Send the right message to the right prospect.
- Measure and track results.
What have you got to lose? More spam isn’t the answer. Better sales messages focused on problem solving is the better way to go.
To illustrate my point, here is a snippet of another sales pitch I received through LinkedIn InMail.
“I understand that most groups already have their PPC handled in-house or through another agency. One area we’ve found a lot of groups like yourself don’t have time to focus is testing new landing pages.”
On top of being poorly written and unclear about the problem this salesperson…
- Uses buzz words. This assumes that your target buyer gets what you are talking about. I know what PPC means – pay per click – but don’t be quick to assume that will be the case for everyone.
- Calls me a group. I’m a person. Do I need to say more?
- OK, I don’t have time to focus on testing new landing pages. What problem do you solve for me beyond the obvious that you save me time?
The seller goes on to say…
“One of our core services is designing, building, and testing landing pages with dynamic features that for some clients has doubled their AdWords performance without spending a penny more.”
Now he gets closer to telling me what problem their service solves…my AdWords performance might – double. Let’s say for argument’s sake that they do double my AdWords performance, what problem is that solving for me? Will more eyeballs on my ads increase revenue? Frankly, I don’t care how many people see my ad, but if you tell me that your service helps convert views to paid customers, now I’m listening.
He doesn’t even know if I use AdWords, and if I don’t, maybe he should tell me what problem I’m creating for myself by not doing so.
Don’t make your job the buyer’s job.
My point is that – as the potential buyer – I’m left to figure it out. Do you really think prospects will take the time?
This is probably one of the biggest gripes I have about sales communication today. Broadcast emails that use a feature selling versus problem selling approach. Mass emails are easier to send. I get it. You might even have marginal success, but in general, this approach is such a waste of your precious selling time.
If you want different results, try something different. Then come back and tell me how you are doing!