Don’t Get Caught Selling “Duh”

by Chris Arlen on April 18, 2013

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Dont Get Caught Selling DuhDuh: interjection – used derisively to indicate that something just stated is all too obvious or self-evident.

Duh is what customers think as sales reps leave their office having told them their product or service will do what it’s supposed to do.

Now why would intelligent reps waste customers’ time selling duh factors?

Because reps have gained knowledge about what they’re selling. They’ve learned where competing products or services fall apart.

And they want to tell customers how their offers don’t come up short; that theirs have been re-engineered, or poka yoke  designed, or made of superior materials, and will live up to its promises.

If this is the main thrust of sales conversations, no wonder customers’ word choice drops to one: duh! Why would they want to learn their purchases likely won’t deliver?

Customers don’t think of themselves as stupid; they think of themselves as fairly smart. We all do: it’s called illusory superiority, where we overestimate our positives and underestimate our negatives relative to others.

So customers know that what others buy may fail; bad buys happen to the other guys; but not for them, they’re sharp.

Yet here’s another sales rep, standing in front of them, jawing on about their product or service doing what it’s supposed to do – duh!

How to Avoid Selling “Duh”

It’s simple: “Sell emotionally compelling benefits first, backed up with proof.”

This mouthful needs a little unraveling as experienced sales reps suffer the curse of knowledge: they know a lot and think customers have to know it all too.

But that’s not the case. Inexperienced, beginning reps often make large sales because they focus on the basics of selling benefits.

So, let’s break that mouthful down:

Sell BENEFITS first

Benefits are what customers want when they buy – not features. Customers buy the benefit of traveling in style when they buy a Rolls Royce – not the features of 3,500 kg of metal, glass, plastic, wood and leather.

Sell COMPELLING benefits first

Compelling is relative to customers’ business situations. Reps have to figure each one out.

Whether they’re selling to a first-time buyer, or presenting a solution to an experienced customer, or writing a proposal for a large complex deal – reps have to uncover the business case and present it in its dramatic context.

They must connect the surface level pains to how they impact customers’ businesses. Here’s an example selling janitorial service: “poor training of cleaning staff can lead to unscheduled downtime in a data center, losing customers and killing trust – yikes!

Heads-up: these aren’t the failures and moans painted with the duh brush. These are customer-specific analyses that connect the dots to a bigger business picture – one that is a compelling story for customers to buy now, or to make a change, or take a chance with a new supplier.

Sell EMOTIONALLY compelling benefits first

Customers buy on emotion and justify with facts. Reps must get them emotionally engaged so they buy, which is done by connecting customers personally to their businesses’ outcomes. Get customers to feel a few of these emotions and they’ll buy:

* Frightened of inaction
* Courageous to make a decision rather than status quo
* Ashamed to hide away from change or improvement
* Empowered to contribute to their company’s success
* Confident in their choice
* Powerful to deal with challenges
* Capable of overcoming obstacles
* Responsive to threats facing their business
* Amused at absurdity & silliness of life & work
* Safe & in control

Sell emotionally compelling benefits first, BACKED UP WITH PROOF

After reps have emotionally engaged customers and built a compelling business case – they next provide proof that customers can act on their emotions and buy.

Proof comes in a variety of forms, from references to case studies to 3rd-party certifications or awards (think ISO certification or J.D. Powers awards.

Proof by itself doesn’t work. It is the last part of the formula to avoid selling duh.

The Full Formula

“Selling emotionally compelling benefits first, backed up with proof” is a great way for sales reps to focus on, and engage customers. It takes all parts of the formula to avoid selling – duh!

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